It’s time to start thinking about your employees as consumers.
We’re deep in the information era. With endless information at our fingertips, we’ve become more savvy consumers. Poring over user-generated reviews is practically a national pastime. We favor product experts over pushy salespeople.
Think about the last time you planned to make even a small investment, like trying a new restaurant. You probably started with the restaurant menus, then read Yelp reviews, talked to friends who share your tastes, whittled down your options and chose the eatery that met your criteria and price range. Then you probably booked a reservation through an app.
Your employees approach their benefits the same way. Business leaders and influencers, like SHRM, have described the development as consumerization of employee benefits, and identified it as a trend to watch. In response, organizations are moving away from limited, strictly defined list of traditional benefits offerings and toward more of a Chinese menu approach where the employer provides a number of options from which employees choose the benefits that best meet their needs.
By adopting a consumerist method to employee benefits, organizations are able to provide an array of options that meet the needs of today’s workforce, which is far more diverse and far less tethered to corporate offices than in the past.
We've outlined a few strategies for making employees fall in love with their benefits ... and your brand.
- Ask What They Want … And Give It to Them
Surveys can be invaluable when it comes to designing and implementing a benefits package that employees will appreciate and utilize. Annual surveys are one option, but periodic pulse surveys and targeted NPS questions can be effective as well. Tapping into employee resource groups is another way to solicit feedback about coverage gaps, wants and needs. Try introducing their ideas as pilot programs to gauge the utilization and efficacy. If the cost and benefit (no pun intended) works out, announce that you’ll make the addition on a permanent basis. Involving employees in the process in this way gives them a measure of ownership over their benefits.
- Collect and Analyze Data
More and more employers are using analytics to help design their benefits packages. Anyone can do this -- you don’t need to have 1,000-plus employees to derive meaningful results. Organizations of all sizes can collect utilization data to spot trends and identify opportunities. For example, Care@Work clients have a customizable HR dashboard to track real-time data on when, where and how employees are using their care benefits.
- Help Them Make Educated Decisions
Transparency of information is a big part of adopting a consumerist approach to benefits. Employees are hungry for information about cost and other variables. They want to feel confident in their decisions, and it’s in your best interest that they feel well taken care of. Surveys have shown employees who are satisfied with their benefits are also more satisfied in their jobs. To help your people make educated decisions, anticipate their questions, share FAQs and tools that help them compare and evaluate which options are best suited to their needs.
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- Think Outside the Box … and the Office
When it comes to moving the needle on employee satisfaction, studies have shown core benefits still rule. But the war for talent has shown wellness and work-life benefits are effective in attracting talent. Those same benefits—the things a company can do to reduce stress and work-life conflict for its employees—can make a worker less likely to look for another job. They even have an impact on employee performance. An important variable to consider when weighing options for work-life and wellness benefits is how employees who don’t spend the bulk of their time at your office can utilize them.
- Leverage Technology
A new wave of app-enabled benefits and perks has been a game changer. From telemedicine to Care@Work, products originally made for a consumer audience have found widespread B2B applications in the benefits space. Because they’re digital native and delivered through technology, these are benefits employees can engage with whenever, wherever their needs arise. Smart companies also tap technology for benefits communication. Video tutorials, push notifications and social media are a few of the ways companies are driving benefits utilization through modern messaging.
- Crowdsource Testimonials
Today’s consumers are bombarded with information – they’ll see right through a sales pitch and never look back. That’s why peer reviews have become one of the most trusted endorsements for consumers. Your employees are no different. Find ways to crowdsource testimonials who’ve had great experiences with your benefits, perks and programs. Like a new mom able to find child care on a business trip, a dad with the flexibility to watch his little girl’s holiday chorus concert or a Millennial who was able to continue his education through tuition assistance. Promoting stories like these on your intranet, through newsletters or on the company website help humanize your employer brand and appeal to employees and job seekers alike.
- Tell Your Story, and Theirs
Promoting your benefits is a given. Whether you’re posting flyers around the office or posting bursts of information on social media, there’s a good chance that you’re already marketing your benefits to employees. And there’s a good chance your employees are bombarded with information, so it’s important for you to craft messages that cut through the clutter. To do this, start by remembering that your employees, like all consumers, respond best to campaigns and communications they relate to on a direct, personal level. Consider segmenting your audience, doing some life-stage marketing and focusing on the results. Use those testimonials we just talked about.
While not as sexy as high salaries or “making the world a better place through fill in the blank,” benefits engender loyalty by showing employees that they’re valued as people; they provide peace of mind by allowing workers to worry a little bit less about unexpected health scares or family issues. They’re the way companies show their people, “We’ve got your back.”
For those reasons, employee benefits are in position to play an important role in talent acquisition and performance management. They can help smart companies recruit, retain and engage employees.
But to achieve results, benefits need to be well designed and well administered. With apologies to the many, many songs we're paraphrasing here: Employees have to know their benefits to love them.
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- 9 Ways to Win Over Your Workforce