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How to Get a Better Return on Benefits

Some companies treat benefits as an investment in their most important resource. Here are four ways to make sure it pays off.

Tailor your offerings to your specific work force. Survey your workers about what they want, whether it’s flextime, financial planning, or training and development. “Smaller companies have a big advantage here, because the decision makers are closer to the employees,”says Kevin Lynch, of Benedictine University. “Plus, it’s easier for small companies to be flexible in accommodating different preferences.”

When Integrated Project Management Company of Burr Ridge, Illinois, surveyed its employees, for example, it found they were indifferent to a long-term-care policy it had been planning to offer. But they were very keen on training programs, so the company focused its efforts in that direction.

Communicate the value of what you offer. Diamond Pet Foods makes sure that every new employee understands the inner workings of its self-insured health plan. As a result, says Andrew Brondel, the director of administration, employees understand that every insurance claim is being paid for with, in essence, the same pool of “Diamond dollars” that also funds the company’s 401(k) matching contribution. That makes employees unusually disciplined about the medical services they use.

Along those lines, entrepreneur Paul Spiegelman advises that you create an internal team that understands your benefits and educates employees about them continuously; an internal PR campaign ensures that employees don’t lose sight of what they have.

Once you offer a benefit, don’t rescind it. If employees see benefits taken away at the first sign of trouble, they will assume that the company simply offers them as gravy during good times but has no real commitment to them.

Get the right help. “Employee benefits are complex and getting more so,” Lynch says. “There are many legal and financial issues that require technical competence from a dedicated expert. The key is to find one who understands your business and can apply his or her technical competence in a way that provides value to your company.” If the person is not willing to take the time to truly get to know your organization, move on. 


Last updated: Nov 19, 2013


Scott Leibs is executive editor of Inc. magazine, where he oversees the Lead and Build sections while also handling a range of other writing and editing duties for the magazine, website, and custom publishing projects. He is a former editor in chief of CFO magazine and a former senior editor for InformationWeek, and has written for many other publications, including The Economist and the San Diego Union-Tribune. He is a graduate of Emerson College, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts.

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