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What You Need to Know to Hire and Keep the Best Employees in 2019
New research uncovers best practices for creating a competitive advantage by approaching employee benefits strategically.
These days, employers and employees should be aligned in their business and personal goals. For organizations, their business goals often include improving retention, raising engagement, increasing benefits participation or recruiting more high-potential candidates. Offering competitive salaries is one way to achieve these goals, but today’s job seekers are looking beyond their base salary when evaluating companies. As the workforce changes, organizations will need to take a hard look at their competitive advantages in the marketplace.

More and more, businesses use employee benefits strategies to achieve these goals. This creates a competitive advantage, as potential employees are more likely to work for organizations that show they care about members of their workforce. Ameritas recently partnered with the research arm of Workforce for the Using Benefits for Competitive Advantage survey, asking more than 400 employers exactly how they use benefits programs strategically. The data shows competitive advantage can be gained by addressing four key areas regarding employee benefits:

  • Benefits communication
  • Financial well-being
  • Measure benefits investment
  • Technology implementation

Organizations adopting a strategic approach to their benefits packages excel in the four areas compared to organizations that don’t.

1. PRACTICE PROACTIVE BENEFITS COMMUNICATION. Communication is critical when it comes to benefits and perks. According to survey respondents, the main reason employees don’t use their benefits is because they don’t understand how to use them. Organizations should develop a robust benefits communication strategy to mitigate this confusion. It’s most effective to communicate often through a variety of channels so employees know what’s available to them and how they can participate. Among survey respondents, organizations using their benefits strategically often use email, direct manager communication, intranet and newsletters in their communications mix (Figure 1).

Table displaying how to hire and keep the best employees in 2019
Figure 1 Organizations using benefits strategically
2. SUPPORT FINANCIAL WELL-BEING THROUGH BENEFITS. The No. 1 benefits challenge facing HR over the next 12 months is addressing rapidly changing workforce needs and trends. For many, this includes financial benefits. One area of financial well-being looms large on the horizon: student loan debt. More than a third of millennials have student loan debt,1 while 7 million workers between the ages of 40 and 49 have student loan debt.2 Student loan repayment — whether through tuition assistance or reimbursement — should be considered as part of a holistic approach to offering benefits. Assisting employees in this area can bring higher levels of engagement and retention.

3. ADOPT BEST PRACTICES IN MEASUREMENT REGARDING BENEFITS. Only a third of respondents agree with this statement: “We calculate the ROI of benefits investment at my organization.” Tracking benefits usage and obtaining employee feedback can help organizations design and maintain benefits strategies that support their organizational goals.

A set of carefully considered and appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) helps organizations see if their benefits are being used or if they’re wasting time and money on unpopular programs. Employers can also survey their employees to find out what benefits they use or don’t use, and what benefits they would like to have. Among survey respondents, organizations using their benefits strategically often track metrics related to health care costs, retention, engagement and absenteeism (Figure 2).

Table displaying how to hire and keep the best employees in 2019
Figure 2 Organizations using benefits strategically
4. INCORPORATE TECHNOLOGY INTO BENEFITS PRACTICES. Nearly half of respondents say benefits technology creates a competitive advantage at their organizations. At the same time, close to one in six cited a lack of expertise in technology as a top challenge to approaching benefits more strategically. Organizations that align their benefits strategies with their business goals will see higher benefits adoption and overall employee satisfaction. Benefits vendors can provide training and expertise, boosting technology knowledge.

Simply offering benefits is no longer enough to entice employees to stay at any organization. Addressing well-being through benefits and perks demonstrates to employees that the organization is dedicated to their success, which will aid in recruiting and retaining high-performing employees. The positive outcomes of a strategic benefits approach are numerous, such as improved employee engagement and retention, reduced health care costs and better recruiting outcomes.

All statistics taken from the Using Benefits for Competitive Advantage survey by Workforce in coordination with Ameritas unless otherwise noted. For full results of this research, read Get the Competitive Advantage: 4 Ways to Hire and Train the Best Employees at ameritasinsight.com.
The group division of Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. has served customers since 1959, and today issues and administers dental, vision, LASIK, and hearing insurance and student loan repayment plans for more than 8.1 million people and more than 58,600 employer groups nationwide. Claims contact center associates have earned BenchmarkPortal’s Center of Excellence award since 2006. Learn more about Ameritas and Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. of New York at ameritas.com/dental. Explore employee benefits and well-being topics at ameritasinsight.com.
1 Arenge, A., Perry, S., and Tallevi, A. (2018). Poll: Majority of millennials are in debt, hitting pause on major life events. CBS News.
2 Hirsch, A. (2018). Employers Explore Repaying Student Loan Debt. SHRM.