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The Evolution Solution
Evolving benefit plans will meet employee needs and support recruiting and retention efforts

Benefit plans can sometimes be taken for granted. Employers renew the same programs year after year because it's something they've always done. Long-term employees can even begin to see the plans as a right rather than, well, a benefit.
But plans that change to meet the needs of an evolving workforce will always be the most effective tool for recruiting, retaining and supporting the best employees - especially when the details are well communicated.

The structure of a plan is certainly a key factor when someone is deciding whether to stay on the job or jump to a competitor who offers a couple of extra dollars per hour.

A study on behalf of Barclays, a financial services company, found that 12% of Generation Y workers are so dissatisfied with their benefits package that they have considered changing employers. "The reward for offering the right benefits packages to the right generational groups can be significant. Research shows that employees who are satisfied with their benefits packages are also more likely to be loyal to their employers and engaged with their organizations," the study concluded. "If tailored to the specific aspirations, priorities and objectives of each generation, benefits packages can be highly effective in enhancing employers' engagement strategies."

Long-term employees may not immediately recognize the need for a plan to change, but this can be because they had a voice when the plans were originally established. An increase in the share of employees with young families might increase the perceived value of options such as dental plans. Aging employees, meanwhile, might lean toward enhanced prescription drug coverage, particularly as their doctors begin to prescribe maintenance drugs.

The most effective wellness programs certainly reflect a changing workplace. Discussions with employees can help to focus on specific needs, whether they involve quitting smoking, healthy eating, or physical activity. Such programs do not have to come at a high price, either. Simple changes such as offering access to bike racks, health and wellness information, intramural sports and healthier foods at a business meeting will all make a difference.

There are advantages to healthier employees, too. "A positive health and safety culture can help you to attract and keep your employees, reduce the health care costs associated with disability, drugs and absenteeism, and improve morale," Industry Canada observes.

As important as physical health can be, there is even a place for employers to support financial wellness, which can have its own affect on workplace productivity. Programs such as voluntary Registered Retirement Savings Plan contributions and lunchtime presentations by financial advisors can all help to ease employee concerns about the future. Employee Assistance Programs, meanwhile, often offer guidance for employees who find themselves in the middle of a financial crisis.

No matter what is offered, of course, the level of awareness needs to be maintained. When I am asked to speak to groups of employees, I often find that many are shocked to learn that most of their benefits outside of Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan are not mandated by law.

The regular meetings help to reinforce the value of the available support, and emphasize the steps that can help to ensure the plans are sustained for years to come.

Top Tips:

  • Ask recruiters to study the benefits plans offered by competitive workplaces. How does your plan measure up?
  • Reinforce the value of existing plans by inviting benefits providers to offer regular updates to employees.
  • Ask employees for regular feedback about the existing plan. Needs and expectations can evolve along with changing demographics.

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The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Important advice about your medical records: Raymond Rupert, MD

Resolve to maximize recognition efforts in the workplace: YourWorkplace

Employers' aggressive targets risk staff burnout: Benefits Canada

Canadians without a pension aren't saving more: Benefits Canada

EI rates dropping 15% for some businesses

Chamber network concerned about proposed Ontario pension plan: Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board 2015 premium rates frozen

Workplace wake-up call - Pulling back the covers on sleep deficiency: Ceridian

Many Canadians lack work/life balance: Benefits Canada

Winning the war for talent may require new tactics: Benefits Canada

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