Voluntary Benefits for Employees: 6 Things to Know

October 27, 2021 |read icon 6 min read

New research shows that voluntary benefits are one big reason employees stay with their employers. And since businesses are competing for talented workers during the great resignation of 2021, offering a range of voluntary benefits is an effective retention and recruitment strategy. So as you consider voluntary benefits for employees, here are six things to know.

1. Give workers a reason to stay

(or join your team) – News reports talk about the great resignation, where many employees are leaving their jobs. But millions of workers are looking for reasons to stay. Due to the pandemic, many employees are struggling with uncertainty and stress. They like their jobs but are unhappy with the support they’ve received from their employers.

Research shows that 75% of employees surveyed consider voluntary benefits as a deciding factor on whether they stay or leave your company. (This is an increase from 68% in 2020.) So, give workers a reason to stay by offering the voluntary benefits they want.

2. Meet their diverse needs

– Although you may try to offer benefits that employees can personalize to their needs, it isn’t easy to cover all the options. Voluntary benefits can meet this need.
With voluntary benefits, you provide employees access to coverage in several areas. If your budget permits, you may want to cover a percentage of the premium cost, with employees paying the rest. Survey employees to find out the voluntary benefits they want. Then work with your broker and insurance carrier to secure the best plans that will meet workers’ needs.

3. Save them money

– A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey found that human resources (HR) professionals believe offering a package of voluntary benefits saves employees money. Benefits also increase worker productivity, which enhances business growth. HR professionals also say that providing a range of voluntary benefits helps retain and engage employees. And it attracts new talent to their business.

Keeping talented team members is an advantage for your company in terms of turnover costs, customer relationships and productivity. Companies spend on average 60% of a position’s salary to hire and train a new worker. Multiply this cost times several employees to see how your budget can take a big hit.

4. Keep employees healthy

– Employees want health insurance benefits to assist with unexpected medical needs. But it’s their dental and vision voluntary benefits they use more often.
Voluntary dental and vision plans include annual preventive care exams that employees can use to maintain healthy teeth and eyes, saving them money. During these appointments, health professionals will look for signs of changes in their patient’s mouth and eyes and also check for signs of medical conditions. These problems can include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia, high cholesterol and cancer.

Offering stand-alone dental and vision benefits gives employees the most coverage options. These plans can automatically be included in employee benefits packages or offered as individual voluntary coverage options.

5. Know what benefits they want

– Voluntary benefits trends change each year. Employees expect staple benefits, like dental, vision and retirement plans, automatically included in their packages. However, they want many other choices.

For example, most employers have several generations of employees working together. Each group has diverse personal and family needs. To meet these different needs, SHRM research shows more employers are offering a greater variety of voluntary benefits, especially those that support financial and mental well-being.

This research confirms that 80% of employees would enroll in financial well-being programs offered by their employer compared to 69% in 2020. The top financial programs employees want help them with student loan payments, life insurance, retirement savings, purchasing power and securing low-cost loans.

Due to the pandemic, many employees are anxious and worried about the future. Research shows about 59% of American workers rank mental and psychological well-being among their biggest wellness concerns. Some employers are addressing these concerns by offering free counseling services, such as an employee assistance program (EAP), online mindfulness courses to give employees tools to cope with stress, and team-building activities to encourage co-workers to support each other.

6. Provide regular benefits education

– SHRM research shows that 22% of employers report telling employees about their benefits regularly throughout the year. About 29% of HR professionals admit that employees often are not prepared to make benefits choices. As a result, they receive many questions during open enrollment.

Only 54% of employees say they understand their benefits. However, 49% say they do receive enough communications to help them make benefits decisions. So only about half understand their benefits. This means employers need to invest more time in educating workers about their benefits. They also need to encourage employees to use their coverage throughout the year, such as preventive care.

How do employees want to receive benefits communication? About two-thirds of employees surveyed say email is their preferred method, followed by video, online chat and in-person meetings.

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