Employee Benefits: Keeping Employees…Happy

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Rising healthcare costs have turned employer-sponsored health coverage into a premium perk for many employees. Those same costs have put employer-sponsored health coverage out of reach for many small businesses. Fortunately, though health insurance may be the most desired benefit of employees, it is not the only one they value.

MyrtleBeachOnline.com reports that survey of 1,092 adults commissioned by Medco Health Solutions, Inc. found more than half (58 percent) of adult workers said participation in a health plan was the best choice among possible employee benefits. A $500 salary increase, the next most desirable employee benefit was chosen by only 14 percent of those surveyed followed closely by participation in a 401(k) plan chosen by 12 percent. Eight percent desired paid life and disability insurance. Five extra vacation days were chosen by only two percent of those surveyed.

Small firms without the financial wherewithal to offer health insurance can find less expensive benefits to offer employees. According to the Journal of Accountancy, the important thing is to find out what kinds of things get your employees to say “Wow! I can't get this from any other employer!”

On of the most appreciated benefits that have a minimal price tag is allowing professionals control their own time. Providing a few hours of paid time off and flexible scheduling helps employees balance work and home obligations. A telecommuting program can actually save you money as an employer since telecommuters provide their own equipment and office space. If telecommuting isn't an option, bringing in meals or providing temporary concierge services like dry clean delivery can help make the long hours required during peak seasons bearable.

Employees prosper in environments that are interesting and offer opportunities to learn and take on increasing responsibility. Encouraging employees to join professional associations, or local business organizations and creating a mechanism for them to share their experiences with others is a great way to make employees feel they are valued. Assigning mentors, especially between the leaders of your business and new or key employees can encourage employees to take a personal interest in and feel ownership in the company.

Offering additional training, either in-house or online, to help employees prepare for advancement. Providing access, encouragement and tuition reimbursement to continuing professional education (CPE) opportunities, professional certification courses and testing and accredited degree programs at local colleges and universities is extremely important to the modern “teach me” generation.

“Getting educated at work is the ultimate convenience,” Greg Natalucci, CPA and staff accountant at Vitale Caturano & Co. told the Journal of Accountancy. “I usually can apply what I learn right away and retain more. And I've become better friends with co-workers.”

There really is more to employee benefits than health insurance and pensions. The challenge, for small firms, is finding it.

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