To Keep Top Talent: Personalize, Humanize Benefits

Diverse Employees

In this Point of View Vivian Maza, chief people officer at Ultimate Software, explains why effective benefits programs require constant care and feeding.

Each company’s open enrollment is a major annual milestone. For employees, it’s the crucial time to choose the best benefits for themselves and their families. It’s also crucial for HR to find out whether the organization’s benefits truly serve its workforce.

Overall, benefits are becoming a bigger piece of the puzzle for companies committed to caring for—and keeping—their people. By the second quarter of 2018, the average employee received 32 percent of their total compensation through benefits such as bonuses, paid time off, insurance and retirement plan contributions. Benefits are more important than ever, and they’ve become much more than a collection of healthcare choices.

To have the greatest impact, companies and HR leaders should continuously evaluate and adjust their programs and packages. While there’s no magic formula or one-size-fits-all approach to effective offerings, benefits are most powerful when they’re personalized, holistic and adaptive to employees’ unique needs.

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Though it may seem unrealistic or unfeasible to give employees everything they want, this idealistic mindset can still help HR leaders identify smaller, often-overlooked benefits that mean the most to employees—benefits that will keep people happy and thriving.

Here’s how to make a meaningful difference through benefits.

Hyper-Personalize Benefits

In today’s world, everything seems to be personalized, from shopping services for selecting your clothes to designing custom shoes with your favorite colors. This trend toward hyper-personalization has also reached the workplace. Work schedules are increasingly flexible, and a new generation of smartphone-first employees prefer video trainings over traditional sit-downs. Similarly, today’s employees expect benefits tailored to their individual interests, and employers need to ensure their people feel heard.

The health care packages you offer employees is a great place to start with hyper-personalization. At Ultimate Software, we have covered 100 percent of healthcare premiums for our employees and their families as part of our “people-first” culture for years. But it’s also important to regularly reach out to employees about the specific details in their coverage, how offered benefits impact their lives (and their families) and how you can change or improve programs to better fit their evolving needs. This open and ongoing feedback is critical to keeping benefits offerings relevant—and, sometimes, it will give you an opportunity to go even farther.

For example, when an employee’s young child needed cranial therapy—not often covered by healthcare providers, including under our original plan—we assessed the details and adjusted our policy accordingly. Not just for that employee, but for all employees, should another child require the same care in the future. It was a small change for us, but a life-changer for our people.

To apply this hyper-personalization to your healthcare packages, solicit feedback—via employee surveys more broadly, or town halls and one-to-one conversations whenever possible—to get to know your people as people, and better understand what matters, coverage-wise, to them and their families. Then, make adjustments where you can to meet their individual needs.

Wellness: More Than Physical Health

The dizzying pace of change in the workplace and the mind-blowing growth of available data and technology show no signs of letting up, and employees are facing new levels of overload. Today’s employees are feeling this overload in unanticipated ways, most notably increased anxiety and burnout. In fact, up to three-quarters of all healthcare expenses are due to stress.

As employees’ stress levels rise, so do their expectations around what their employers should do to help. Now more than ever, employees want companies to address their holistic well-being. Our recent research asked a spectrum of people—students, teachers, futurists, new hires, mid-managers, business executives and HR leaders—about the role they wanted HR to play in their work lives, and found that 97 percent of respondents believed it was important or very important that HR play a role in helping employees maintain personal physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual well-being.

When assessing workplace benefits, HR leaders need to increasingly consider the complete realm of wellness and continuously improve and expand offerings to include services beyond what we usually think of as healthcare.

Consider the wellness programs you offer now, and how you can build upon them. Maybe it’s adding onsite meditation classes or quiet spaces to help employees clear their minds. Perhaps it’s offering flexible schedules that enable parents to drop off and pick up their children from school or to attend special family functions and witness milestones that might take place during traditional work hours.

Find ways to show employees you care about them and that you’re wholly invested in their complete well-being.

Be There Through Good Times and Bad 

While your benefits may be “set” once open enrollment passes, there are moments when people need extraordinary support. How you and the company react in those moments means more than any 401(k) match ever will.

Recently, an employee’s teenage daughter was diagnosed with stage-four Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When they first heard the news, her managers and colleagues immediately rallied together to provide their support. They shouldered the extra work to ensure she was with her daughter when it mattered most. We did all we could to care for our own.

Meaningful benefits are about supporting the complete employee—caring for the whole person, at work and outside the office. Personalized benefits are a sign of trust, and a special promise: “You’re a part of our family, and we’ve got your back.”

When you care for your people day in and day out, it’ll always be worth your investment.

Vivian Maza has served as chief people officer at Ultimate Software since 2004. Previously, she was Ultimate’s office manager since the company’s inception in 1990. Before joining Ultimate, she was a systems analyst for the wholesale division of ADP. This article was originally published in Forbes. Based in Weston, Fla., Ultimate Software is a sponsor of the HCM Technology Report. To learn more, click here.

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