Establish Competitive Benefits to Attract and Retain Employees


Widespread employee attrition has affected companies big and small. The Great Resignation has been a catalyst for self-reflection – leading employees to ask themselves: “Am I satisfied with my job? What do I value? Does my job align with my goals, values and well-being?”

Employees have raised their expectations, and employers are taking action. This employee-centric market has led employers to increase their efforts to compete for top talent and keep their current employees.

This is particularly challenging for small and midsize businesses with limited budgets and resources. Expanding and tailoring benefits is one strategy for recruiting and retaining employees. Understanding that each individual employee differs in what they want and need from employer-provided benefits is critical for SMBs in competition with larger organizations for potential candidates.

In a PeopleKeep survey of more than 900 employees who work for small to midsize employers, 82 percent of employees said that the benefits package an employer offers is an important factor in whether or not applicants accept a job with an organization, while only 66 percent of employers surveyed think it’s important.

Proactive small to midsize employers are evolving their approach by not only providing health benefits but by also taking a genuine interest in the overall well-being of their employees. To offer an inclusive and robust benefits package, what follows are some ideas for SMBs to establish and maximize their benefits programs.

Survey employees

Start by learning what benefits align with employees’ values. This is especially critical for smaller organizations that need to make a limited benefits budget go far. Consider conducting an anonymous employee survey through email using a third-party survey platform, such as Google Forms, MailChimp or Qualtrics.

Surveys can reveal unexpected employee needs. Ask employees what they like about the current offerings and what benefits they’d want in the future. List types of benefits for employees to rank in order of importance, such as PTO, wellness programs, retirement, stock options or childcare. Ask various demographic questions to determine who benefits from the existing program – and who does not. Ask comprehension questions based on the current benefits program to gauge employees’ understanding of their current benefits; they may not be utilizing their benefits to the fullest. Leave a free response question for employees to communicate their opinions in long form.

An annual survey will indicate how employee needs change over time. Another option is to host a company meeting to get input on benefits.

Establish cornerstone benefits

After determining what employees want, establish a small and solid foundation of benefits. Most HR leaders advise that removing an existing benefit is more complicated than starting small and adding benefits over time.

Most employers start with health benefits. Recent healthcare law and regulation reform have made way for innovation and alternative health insurance and benefits options. Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) have emerged as a legitimate, affordable and inclusive health benefit tailored to employees’ individual needs. With an increasingly remote workforce, HRAs are easy to implement in any state in the country.

An HRA is an IRS-approved, employer-funded health benefit used to reimburse employees, tax-free, for their healthcare expenses. Employers set a benefit allowance, and employees use their allowance on the insurance and qualified medical expenses they choose. Employees submit their receipts to their employers, who reimburse them for expenses. 

Ximplifi, an accounting software provider, set up an HRA to establish an affordable yet flexible health benefit to accommodate their multi-state employee base. Since partnering with PeopleKeep for HRA administration, Ximplifi has saved $67,000 compared to what they would have spent on traditional group health insurance. The company has grown rapidly, and an attractive employee benefits package has helped.

Because HRAs are relatively new, employees may need time and guidance to fully understand and adopt this alternative to common traditional group health.

In addition to health benefits that cover medical, and potentially vision and dental health expenses too, other cornerstone benefits to consider include retirement and paid time off.

Educate employees on their benefits

Educating employees to understand what they are eligible for will help them take full advantage of their benefits. Provide ongoing support by frequently checking in with employees about their benefits, not just once a year, like during open enrollment for health benefits. This communication can happen through email, phone, text, in staff or one-on-one meetings.

Turn to outside experts who can help answer employees’ questions. For instance, with a health reimbursement arrangement, a health insurance broker who is well-versed in the individual insurance market and familiar with HRAs can be a great resource to your employees. Solution providers like PeopleKeep can also suggest certain benefits and explain the advantages and disadvantages of one benefit over another.

It’s important to present options to employees frequently, determine how employees best learn about their benefits and provide employees ample time to decide what they want to do.

Enhance your program

After establishing cornerstone benefits, build upon them. Rely on employee survey insights to inform your selections. Consider options like wellness perks that cover a wide range of wellness activities like a gym membership, yoga classes, meditation apps and mental health counseling. 

Not all benefits have to be company subsidized. Often, employees appreciate different options, like disability or life insurance, even if the employees pay for them themselves. 

Victoria Glickman Hodgkins

One of the best ways for SMBs to show they care about their employees’ overall wellness is by offering a quality benefits package. That investment in your people and company culture will manifest in many ways, specifically in attracting and retaining employees.

Victoria Glickman Hodgkins is the CEO at PeopleKeep, a provider of award-winning health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) and wellness stipend administration software for small to medium organizations.