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Why Team Input Is the Key to Successful Benefits Planning

To understand what benefits fantastic employees truly value, why not just ask 'em?
Every entrepreneur knows how important employee engagement and retention are to the success of any growing company. You’ve probably read the data yourself about how much time and effort go into replacing a good employee; surveys describe a cost equating to six to nine months of that employee’s salary.
You're probably aware that countless factors come into play in an employee’s decision to stay or move on -- including benefits and perks.
In my experience growing my content marketing agency, I found that benefits and perks themselves weren't the main reason employees choose to stay or leave to pursue other opportunities. Instead, what contributes significantly is the satisfaction they feel about their work, their long-term career-development opportunities and the support, respect and appreciation they receive from managers and co-workers.
But the benefits offered matter, too. And if you’re going to spend the time and money providing benefits and perks to show your team how much you value them (and to build a solid company culture), you should also make the effort to ensure those benefits align with what your employees truly want.

Step 1: Survey your team.

You don’t need to be a mind reader to discover what benefits your team would love; you just have to ask.
In the final quarter of 2016, the Influence & Co. leadership team began discussing if and how we wanted to update the benefits we provide our team in 2017. After exchanging ideas, we had a few assumptions about what we believed most people valued and what they didn’t -- but we didn’t act on those assumptions at that point.
Instead of changing our policies based on what we thought employees would like, we surveyed our team. We sent a list of 25 benefits and perks -- ranging from ones as major as individual medical health insurance policies covered 100 percent by the company to benefits as minor as catered lunches on all-staff meeting days. We asked for input.
In our survey, employees were prompted to select their three most-valued and three least-valued perks, and at the end of the exercise, they were encourged to make suggestions about anything they wanted that we didn't offer.

Step 2: Analyze your results, and make changes accordingly.

We were thrilled that our survey results didn’t include any major surprises. Team members most valued health insurance, paid time off and the ability to work from home when necessary, which were all benefits we had assumed they valued. Based on that confirmation, we were confident that continuing to offer our team benefits like full health benefits, discount gym memberships, unlimited paid time off and flexible hours and work location would be valuable to them.
The results also showed that the fifth most-valued benefit was profit sharing bonuses -- which we award based on performance using a portion of quarterly profits. We’d long been wondering if we should change the profit-sharing eligibility period for new hires from three months to 12 months, which would allow us to reserve more of the profit-sharing pool for employees who stay with the company longer.
Survey results showed that individuals who had been with the company for a year or less didn’t select profit sharing as one of their top-three benefits, while employees who’d been with us for two years or more overwhelmingly did.
While we assumed that might be the case, the results of the survey made the decision to change the eligibility period much easier. Not only did we have the data to back up why we were making a change, but we also had a team of people who were willing and ready to take that step with us.

Step 3: Acknowledge individual differences.

Employees had the option of including their names with survey responses. For those who did, we obtained insights into what individual employees most valued, and we could use that data to help us recognize them for great work in the future and do so in a way that is most effective to them.
We also asked optional demographic questions to pull data on the differences between employees who had more professional experience when they began working with us, compared to employees hired right out of college. Different team members valued different things, and we recognized that data like this could help us think through the best accommodations and perks for individual employees in the future.

Step 4: Communicate changes, and get creative.

Once you’ve surveyed your team and have decided you want to make changes, it’s time to share your findings. Ask any marketer on your team about the key to getting survey responses, and he or she will tell you about "incentives"; in this case, the incentive was a revamped benefits plan and increased insight into company values.
So, if you perform such a survey at your company, share what you've learned with your team, and clearly detail any changes and updates based on your findings.
This is also a good time to get creative. Beyond standard benefits like health insurance and paid time off, consider offering these unique perks to keep your employees engaged:
  • A personal branding budget: In consideration of the long-term benefits of thought leadership and personal branding, offer key employees the budget to build their own personal websites, or work with a content marketing agency to build their executive brands.
  • Pet insurance: Companies like IKEA and Microsoft understand that employees love their furry friends, so they include pet insurance as part of the insurance coverage options.
  • Ongoing education budget: Starbucks famously offers a college achievement plan that helps eligible U.S.-based Starbucks employees earn a degree through Arizona State University’s online program.
Keeping fantastic employees happy and engaged means understanding what they truly value. The best way to do that is by asking them directly and adapting your benefits and perks to make the biggest impact in their lives.

- Kelsey Meyer

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