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How to empower your people to ask for the benefits they need – and build a package to match their feedback

Gym passes and free office lunches aren’t the perks they once were. It’s time to rethink your employee benefits packages – but what do your people really want? What’s going to make their lives that little bit easier and their engagement levels soar? Not sure? Ask them.

A whopping 63% of people accept a job because of the benefits offered. However, times have changed and what once may have looked like a golden ticket to your new hires may not be so shiny anymore. In fact, their needs may have completely changed since the pandemic began. For example, the idea of world travel most likely has fallen behind the need for first-class healthcare.

By encouraging talking about benefits more openly, you can make sure your people feel not only more supported and their concerns heard, but that you’re actioning their needs.

Here are 4 ways you can empower your people to ask for the benefits they need, and adapt your benefits package to meet them.

1. Prioritize benefits during onboarding

Discussing employee benefits during the onboarding process is an essential part of welcoming new hires into the organization. But, with many other training obligations and a new workflow to adjust to, new employees may feel too overwhelmed to ask for what they need.

This is where HR and People Teams can come into their own. It’s important to place an emphasis on explaining what new hires can expect from their benefits right away. This might mean adding a training session for new employees a few weeks into their new roles to reassess and check over their benefits.

Benefits such as retirement planning and healthcare coverage are typically the most important benefits for most people and you’ll want to be correctly secured earlier rather than later to maximize the value your people get from these.

Pro tip: Employee feedback on how well new hires understand their benefits can help HR teams in creating a functional and efficient onboarding process.

2. Don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations

You’re not psychic and neither are your people. If you really want to know what benefits they’d most value, ask them.

Take healthcare, for example. While healthcare coverage is a common benefit most workers will take advantage of through their employer, it is often a difficult benefit to discuss due to the complexity of coverage options and family member considerations. Giving your employees all the information necessary to make the best decision for themselves and their families can drive engagement, increase retention, and open the door for more communication.

Here are a few questions to ask employees that help jumpstart some tougher health conversations:

Do you understand the sick day policy?

There are many different rules and regulations legally surrounding leave and sick leave, but the way a company chooses to handle this process internally can vary from office to office.

Keep in mind that not only is reviewing your company’s policy with new hires important, it can also be beneficial for employees already with the company. If an employee is taking several sick days, there could be a deeper health concern that may be hindering their work performance.

Welcoming employees to be transparent can give them peace of mind that their health is a priority, while also helping management navigate how to best support employees and their individual circumstances accordingly.

Do you have enough life insurance coverage through your package?

Many companies offer some sort of life insurance as an additional benefit and, as this benefit tends to be more important to the older workforce, this demand varies from company to company. But often, this group life insurance offering does not provide enough coverage to support an individual’s needs when taking into account their dependents or financial obligations. Although it can be challenging to talk about this subject, it shows a company’s dedication to their employees’ families and overall financial well-being.

Experts recommend maintaining around 10-15 times an income in life insurance coverage, which is often not fully covered through an employer. Rates can also vary on a case to case basis depending on an employee’s health standings. Discussing private life insurance options may actually help employees save money.

How can the company better support your mental health?

In recent years, there has been less stigma surrounding mental health and companies can further this mission to break down barriers to better support their workers. Encouraging open communication about mental health is a win-win—employees can find a deeper sense of comfort and understanding in their place of work, while employers are creating a motivating environment that results in increased productivity.

Employees should be aware and well-informed about the accommodations available to them based on their needs. Because the Americans with Disabilities Act helps support employees with mental health issues, HR can also stay up to date and have information readily available to employees ready to have these conversations.

3. Gather employee feedback in a benefits survey

Giving employees feedback in different ways is incredibly important. Taking feedback on how employees feel about their benefits can be equally as advantageous. It can be harder for HR to make productive changes in their communication if they are unaware of the areas where they’re lacking.

Start by asking employees about the areas where they see room for improvement in their benefits options, if they are still confused about best accessing them, and if there are any additional benefits or perks they believe should be available to them.

When asking your employees about which benefits they’d like, you should limit choices to what you as a company can actually offer. Because you can quickly lose your employees’ trust when they ask for a certain benefit, and the company fails to deliver it. For example, improved healthcare plans may not be on the cards right now due to cost. So it’s best to not ask your employees if they want it.

However, that doesn’t stop you from gathering suggestions in open-ended questions, as it can signal to you where you should go in the future. Or unearth benefits your HR team hadn’t considered but which are very doable.

Pro tip: Make sure you’re hearing every voice, not just the ones who shout loudly enough.

4. Utilize feedback to create the optimal benefits package

Analyze the responses and weigh the costs & benefits

It’s impossible to deliver everything your employees want, whether that’s because of the cost or the amount of time it’d take to implement.

So every HR team needs to prioritize what it chooses to offer employees. But it can be challenging to understand the relative impact and cost of each benefit. For example, would free breakfasts make people more productive or likely to stay? Would an improved dental plan cost a lot but not actually improve engagement that much?

In the past, that kind of analysis would have been a long and expensive consulting project. But now, you can identify the perfect benefits package in just three simple steps with the Qualtrics Benefits Optimizer. It’s built on the same engine as our tools that help product designers design the perfect product, by analyzing the trade-offs people are willing to make. It means you can present a range of different benefit packages, ask employees which one they prefer, and then see your optimal package automatically created for you. It makes it faster and easier than ever to understand the perfect package to offer your employees.

emplayee benefits package comparison

Make benefits specific to regions, departments and employees

You can layer in segmentation into your analysis, too. For example, do your 18-25-year-old employees prefer different benefits to your Baby Boomers? This kind of insight can help you build a more bespoke benefits plan for different employees at different stages of the employee lifecycle.

If you’re not ready to personalize for different employees, consider doing it a department-level, or even just at a region-level.

Some regionalization will likely already be forced on you — for example, local regulations might mean you have to offer certain benefits in some countries. But in other cases, you might identify the fact that different countries prioritize very different things, due to cultural and societal differences.

Communicate benefits in the right away

How you communicate new and existing benefits is crucial to their ultimate success.

For example, Blackrock’s retirement contribution plan used to have the snappy title “Company Retirement Contribution”. In surveys, employees complained of either not understanding what the plan was, or not seeing its relevance to them. The company renamed it 401k Boost and saw a big uptick in employee contributions, with survey feedback suggesting it now sounded like a great perk.

Be transparent about your work

All of this work can’t happen behind the scenes. You need to show progress and showcase benefits that were created as a result of employee feedback. At Blackrock, any employee-inspired benefits or improvements are tagged with a ‘You told us. We took action’ sticker.

You could do something similar, pairing it up with strong leadership comms and cascading information to managers, so they can share feedback and actions with their teams.

Simplify benefits optimization with Qualtrics

As employee benefits have the potential to play a large factor in an employee’s experience with a company, helping them to feel more comfortable asking questions and communicating is key. Utilizing our Employee Benefits Optimizer provides an efficient approach to understanding your employee’s values and supporting them throughout their employee lifecycle.

Find the perfect benefits package for your employees with our Employee Benefits Optimizer