When two similar enterprises compete, the one with the most engaged employees emerges victorious. Yet, engagement is not a linear function of an employee’s take-home pay. Employee benefits experts have long known that the proper combination of benefits can make a tremendous impact on the workforce. The boost in engagement and morale often far exceeds what would be secured by paying out the same amount in cash.
And that fact is more important now than ever.
It seems like only yesterday Gallup was heralding a record rise in employee engagement. Those gains have been reversed as employees face all manner of uncertainty. Those who feel employers don’t do enough to ensure safety resent it, while the new remote worker community is untethered from familiar daily routines.
After soaring to the highest rates on record, engagement is now at the lowest level since 2000.
Employee benefits can function to spark fresh motivation within employees. Even as they navigate a labyrinth of new anxieties, employees remain open to re-engaging with their work. They simply need the right environment and incentives to do so. Employee benefits give leaders more levers to use in creating the ideal conditions.
Using Employee Benefits To Empower And Reward Your Best Personnel
As businesses look for cost-effective ways to raise engagement, the high-potential employee is a key audience.
High-potential employees are those who, because of their abilities, leadership talent, or soft skills, have greater than average likelihood of making an outsized impact on an organization’s future. This usually unfolds in the form of executive outcomes for these employees, though that result may take years.
This cohort of employees is unusual for a few reasons:
- They tend to have strong intrinsic motivation to succeed despite external circumstances
- They demonstrate an internal locus of control, feeling great agency over their decisions
- They weigh future growth as well as compensation and employee benefits in job choice
- They value reciprocal relationships and are not driven to resign by compensation alone
Many high-potential employees are willing to take on risks if it means opportunities for growth. Your employee benefits structure can provide avenues for budding leaders to seek challenging frontiers and stay engaged as a result.
Harvard Business Review research indicates 98% of businesses purposefully identify high-potential employees. Yet half of respondents also said that their top-performing teams spend less than 10% of their time actively developing high-potential leaders. This represents a glaring mismatch in priorities versus execution.
Several common and uncommon employee benefits can be of direct help in this situation:
1. Professional Certification Reimbursement
Many technical fields revolve around a small set of professional certifications that have been recognized for value and rigor. Although this is most common in industries like information technology, it is also pertinent in HR, operations, and logistics. As a general trend, standardization is on the rise.
Certifications are valuable in hiring because they quantify the competencies a candidate brings to the job. But they can also equip high-potential individuals to sharpen their skills and expand on their contributions. As you verify which certifications are truly useful to your organization, consider offering fee reimbursement.
2. Tuition Reimbursement
As employee benefits go, complete tuition reimbursement is rare. But it can create an indelible impression in employees’ minds, linking their personal and professional success to their status as part of your organization. This is especially valuable for those who need to complete an MBA for their next career step.
A variety of accelerated “executive MBA” programs now make a terminal degree accessible to mid-career professionals. However, students should still expect to pay a premium for the brand recognition of bigger B-schools. Reimbursing even a fraction of tuition each year helps keep your employees off the debt treadmill.
3. Employee Recognition Programs
Ideally, everyone in an organization should be able to give each other recognition. But recognition that comes from leadership goes beyond the basics of employee benefits and creates relationships the most extraordinary employees value. Top-down recognition means direct supervisors must witness and appreciate contributions.
Structured forms of peer recognition also validate employees’ hard work. Peers can be more immediate and more granular in the praise they give. Positive peer influence contributes to a more trusting and inclusive company culture. That turns employee benefits into a tool for lasting, strategic change.
4. Paid Time Off (PTO)
As they grow, businesses risk falling into the trap of developing a negative culture around time off. In 2017, the U.S. Travel Association found more than 25% of Americans avoided taking vacation for fear of being thought of as “a slacker.” By 2019, more than 50% were afraid to take time off for December holidays
This can have a devastating effect not only on morale, but on the way employees see themselves in relation to work. Those who are most motivated to excel may also be at greatest risk of overwork and burnout, a condition now recognized by WHO. Establishing – and using! – PTO is the bulwark against unhealthy, counterproductive expectations.
Because high-potential employees tend to be long-term planners, they can also be amenable to:
1. Childcare Benefits
With the precipitous decline of women in the workforce, it is more obvious than ever that working parents are stretched thin by a never-ending quest to do it all and be it all. Although most prevalent among women, men are also affected by time and resource constraints that can leave them missing out on a child’s irreplaceable early milestones.
Whether child care benefits take the form of discounts with partner organizations or on-site care, they provide parents with the freedom to focus their all on work without feeling they’ve lapsed in obligations to their family. This is one of the most direct ways employee benefits can change a family’s life for the better.
2. Retirement Benefits
In late 2019, 40 million Americans were without a workplace retirement plan. Among popular employee benefits, retirement was much more likely to be offered in companies with 5,000 employees or more (98%) compared to about 33% of those with 20 or fewer employees.
More recent statistics are not yet available, but it is easy to predict that surging unemployment rates will leave even fewer Americans prepared for retirement. While the most elite employees are sure to develop their own investments, retirement benefits provide a necessary safety net and fuel for life-long savings.
3. Health Insurance
Health insurance continues to top the list of employee benefits for staff at all levels of skill and achievement. Even those who have seen their career prospects soar understand that medical issues are involved in 66% of U.S. bankruptcies. Few people are wealthy enough to absorb a serious illness with their financial stability intact. Robust health insurance represents an employer’s commitment to stand by their valued employees.
Over the last few years, ACA health insurance has been on a roller-coaster. Successful entrepreneurs and SMB enterprise leaders deserve reliable, affordable alternatives, even if they cannot qualify for an ACA subsidy. To discover options that support your success, contact us today.