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Why a comprehensive employee benefits package matters to every small business

By Rieva Lesonsky

Just a few years ago, with the nation still recovering from the Great Recession, it was an employer’s market. Today, however, the shoe is on the other foot. As hiring and retaining qualified employees becomes ever more challenging, a comprehensive employee benefits plan – one that includes more than just medical – matters to small businesses like never before.

Take for example, Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Oregon. From day one, this small 100-person company prioritized making their benefit program grow with them. The small brewery started with the basics – medical, dental and vision – and has added benefits such as life and disability insurance to help attract and retain qualified workers as they grow.

As with so much else today, Millennials are a driving force behind the growing diversity of employee benefits programs. Though stereotyped as devil-may-care youth, many Millennials are hitting their mid-30s, getting married and starting families, making benefits critical to their job satisfaction. Meanwhile, younger Millennials, open to switching jobs in search of greater responsibility, consider a potential employer’s benefits offerings before they apply. Consider these findings from MetLife’s  14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study:

  • Millennials are more than twice as likely as Baby Boomers to look to their employers for help solving their financial concerns
  • 65 percent of Millennials lack even a three-month savings cushion
  • The more benefits an employer offers, the more likely employees are to stay with their employers and to recommend their workplace to others as a great place to work

It’s not always about the money— a CareerBuilder survey cited by MetLife from 2015 shows that, when it comes to job hunting, 55 percent of employees say they consider affordable benefits more important salary. Understanding that, CEO Bill Carr at Retirement Strategies, Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, uses a robust benefits package, including vision, dental and HSA plans, to attract and retain young professionals in their 30s.

How can your small business tackle the challenge of offering a more comprehensive employee benefits package?

  1. Know what’s out there. In addition to health insurance, vision insurance and dental insurance, consider employee benefits such as life insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance, retirement plans, health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), commuter assistance, childcare assistance, legal services and even health insurance for pets. Working with a carrier that specializes in benefits for your industry, as Carr did, can help you find the ideal mix.
  2. Listen to your employees. Employees in different life stages have different concerns and want different benefits. For example, employees with children care more about life insurance or childcare assistance, while Millennials value retirement plans highly. Talk to your employees about what types of benefits they’d prefer, and your broker about what types of benefits are available. If you tailor benefits to your employees’ needs, your staff is more likely to use the benefits.
  3. Keep the bottom line in mind. It is possible to offer a robust benefits program and stay within a small business budget. Look for creative ways to offer them to employees, whether that’s paying for all or part of them or simply providing them to employees as a self-pay option. Talk to your broker to see what can be made available in your program. Everyone wins: You keep costs under control, and employees get the benefits they want.
  4. Look for carriers that offer multiple options. Streamline benefits management by finding a carrier that offers all or most of the benefits you need. The fewer carriers you have to work with, the easier it is to manage your plan, and the more time you have to grow your business.
  5. Regularly reassess. Review your benefits plan annually to make sure it still fits your budget and your employees’ requirements. Ask your broker what new benefits are available. He or she can help you adjust your benefits mix as your company grows and your employees’ needs evolve.

More and more, savvy small business owners find that offering a comprehensive benefits package is essential to attracting and keeping qualified employees. Fortunately, it’s also easy to do. MetLife’s “Beyond Medical: Why Small Business Owners Offer Added Benefits – and How They Do It” is a great resource as you jumpstart your planning.