3 Steps for Using Benefits to Create the Workforce You Want

HR leaders know it can be all too easy to take a simplistic view of benefits, only offering basic choices that allow them to “check that box.” But the reality is benefits can be so much more than that—they can be used as a strategic tool to reach those business goals you’re after.

Our Forrester-conducted study found that benefits were a differentiating reason for 66% of employees when deciding to join a company. Moreover, the 2018 Aflac Workforces Report found that 80% of employees who are “extremely or very satisfied” with their benefits also “agree or strongly agree” they’re content in their jobs overall. Clearly, benefits play a critical role in attracting candidates and keeping employees, so why not use those benefits strategically to create the workforce you want?

Here’s what it boils down to:

1. Identify the workforce you want

As with any industry, HR executives must understand the audience they’re targeting in order to successfully engage them. When it comes to recruitment, think about who you want those people to be. For many, work is tied to identity; consider the following: 

  • Who do you see taking pride in being part of your business?
  • Who do you see taking the best care of your customers?
  • Who do you see thriving in your company’s environment?

Use “the 5 rightS” of strategic workforce planning to guide your answers: right shape, right skills, right size, right site, and right spend. The type of workforce you need may evolve as your business changes, so think about what goals you need to achieve in the future when identifying your “5 rightS,” as well.

2. Determine what that workforce values

Once you’ve figured out who these people are, it’s time to figure out what they care about. Let’s say you’re looking to recruit recent college graduates for a number of entry-level positions you have open—many of whom have student loans. Financial-services firm Fidelity Investments, for example, launched a student-debt employer contribution program to help its estimated 25% of employees who have student loan debt.

Maybe you have employees with very specialized skills who have been with your company for many years that you are seeking to retain. Many of them may be taking care of elderly parents, so more emphasis on elder care benefits could be of value in this case. For example, Bank of America and its Merrill Lynch Wealth Management division implemented a caregiver resources program to cater to many of their employees who care for aging parents.

Different segments of your population will prioritize different benefits. Once you gain an understanding of what those different priorities are, you can start aligning the values of your workforce with benefits that will support them.

3. Choose benefits that attract—and retain—that workforce

Positioning the components of your total-rewards package for greater recruitment and retention is key. This step isn’t just crucial for employee satisfaction—it’s imperative for business success. 

Based on what you’ve learned about your workforce, be direct in interviews with candidates about benefits that are likely pique their interest. For current employees, keep the conversation about their benefits ongoing—not just during their new hire orientation and open enrollment, but as part of the workplace culture. Use personalized, just-in-time communications to ensure they’re maximizing these benefits when they need them.

Better benefits, better strategy, better workforce

Think back to that 66% of employees who took a job due to benefits: How many ideal candidates have you potentially lost by not using benefits strategically? By taking the appropriate steps to determine employee values and choose relevant benefits, employers can stand out in the crowded job market and proactively shape the workforce they want.

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