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fotosearch 47322187 largeAttracting and keeping top employee talent is one of the secrets to success. If you are not doing that, then you are hiring the castoffs others don’t want. In any business, part of the secret to getting and keeping top performers is never easy and requires a company do many things right.

One of the things that you need to “get right” is your employee benefit plan. This is true whether you are in Canada or the USA. Here we discuss what you need to get right, and for companies in Canada, we give suggestions for selecting good benefit providers.

No matter where your company is located, the same keys for using an employee benefit program to advance your company’s success are the same.

Real ROI for Your Business

Keeping your talented workers motivated requires more than just recognition and “Employee of the Month” awards. Aside from basic compensation, most companies offer some form of employee benefits, such as top-up health and dental insurance. However, few employers have a strategic approach to this, which can make the difference between just keeping staff happy and generating return on investment (ROI) for your business.

Align Benefits with Your HR Goals

For your employee benefit program to deliver real value to both you and your employees, it’s essential that it aligns with and supports your company’s HR goals. Is one of your goals to attract and retain talent in a specific field? If so, how does your benefits package support this?

Create Personas

Take the approach you would use to make a marketing decision:

Take the approach you would use to make a marketing decision: Identify what your ideal employee “looks” like and create a persona document that details their average demographics, aspirations, wants and needs. Then determine how this picture is likely to change over time, and you’ll be in a position to plan ahead for a benefits package that supports your talent both now and into the future.

Take a Big Picture View

Drilling down into the minutiae of an employee benefits package is your benefit consultant’s job, not yours.

Forget the traditional definition of life, disability, accidental death, health and dental insurance.

Forget the traditional definition of life, disability, accidental death, health and dental insurance. Rather, focus on taking a holistic view of what you’re offering your workers and whether this meets their requirements.

You might be surprised to find a program perceived as offering real value needs to include options such as:

  • Flexible schedules, e.g. a four-day week, job sharing or telecommuting,
  • Non-job related education and training, so your accountant can pursue his dream of going to chef school in his leisure time,
  • Paid (or unpaid) sabbaticals, to facilitate the ideal of spending a year in a kibbutz without necessarily leaving the job,
  • Paternity leave for the super-involved new dad, and
  • Paid gym memberships or other sports activities.

Keep it Relevant

There’s nothing more useless than options nobody takes up, so don’t get sucked into the benefit provider’s list of standard “add-ons” unless they are on your list of must-haves. While your benefits program should meet the needs of the majority of your workers,

to maximize your return on the expenditure you must also consider the outliers in your crew.

to maximize your return on the expenditure you must also consider the outliers in your crew. This means incorporating a sizeable chunk of flexibility into the design of your plan and it may be useful to find out what other employers in your industry are doing. After all, they are the companies who might try to poach your talent, so make sure your offering is at least as good as theirs is.

Building in the Nice-to-Haves

You might also find it surprising to know what some of your top talent considers to be benefits. Research shows options employees typically wish they had available include:

  • Having replacement mechanisms in place to enable key employees to take their full vacations at one time without feeling guilty or apprehensive.
  • Taking sick days without having to jump through hoops to produce a doctor’s note.
  • Qualified stress counseling covered by their employer or their insurance.
  • Finding a Benefits Provider.

Canada has by no means the same number of employee benefit providers as our cousins down South, but there are a few likely candidates to choose from. They don’t necessarily have to be the biggest, either; sometimes it’s the smaller companies that are more flexible and in a better position to offer unique packages. With that said, it’s essential that you choose a provider with sound financial backing, especially if you want to include RRSP and/or investment options.

Many companies offer packages aimed specifically at smaller businesses, with some requiring as few as three employees to get started.

Many companies offer packages aimed specifically at smaller businesses, with some requiring as few as three employees to get started. These include the five best known providers: Manulife Financial, Sun Life, Great West, Equitable Life and The Cooperators. But, you can also check out options such as the provincial Blue Cross companies and the big banks.

Take Away

The takeaway from this is that an “attractive employee benefits package” means different things to different people.

If you want to recruit and retain top talent and get real ROI out of the benefits you offer, it’s important to ensure you’re giving workers options they want and can use.

If you want to recruit and retain top talent and get real ROI out of the benefits you offer, it’s important to ensure you’re giving workers options they want and can use.

These also need to be aligned with your company’s HR goals and be able to grow with your business, so you may need a customized program to achieve that. Don’t just go with what’s available; you owe it to yourself and your workers to do an in-depth investigation into what they want and need, and then find a way to provide it for them. An experienced business consultant can help you understand how best to motivate your workers and leverage your benefits program for ROI.

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