Suzanne Lucas

3 Benefits Your Employees Actually Want

Employer benefits used to be straightforward — provide health care, dental care and a retirement plan and you were pretty much done. But today if you want strong employee retention and the ability to recruit great people, you need to keep up with the times.

Of course, solid health insurance and a retirement plan are unlikely to go out of style. But there are several less conventional benefits that are rising stars, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Here are three that your employees (both current and future) want to see in your offerings.

1. Telemedicine

According to SHRM, the share of surveyed employers offering telemedicine benefits jumped from 73 to 81 percent between 2017 and 2018. With numbers like that, if telemedicine isn’t on your radar already, it should be.

Telemedicine allows doctors or other medical practitioners to diagnose and treat medical conditions remotely. Not all medical appointments can happen via computer, but the ones that do offer employees access to care without the time and money associated with traveling to see a doctor in person. If an employee has a telemedicine appointment during a workday, though, make sure you’re prepared to support the benefit, either by organizing a private place in the office for them to go or allowing the flexibility to work from home.

This benefit can make life easier for several types of employees, from those with chronic conditions who require frequent care to maintain their health to workers in rural areas where specialists are few and far between. It can also lower barriers to mental health care access for employees who might feel uncomfortable going for an in-person visit. If your business doesn’t have a medical center down the road, consider giving your employees medical assistance they can carry with them anywhere they go.

2. Sabbaticals

While you may think of sabbaticals as something that only academics do, there are plenty of opportunities for your business to offer this as a benefit to your employees — paid or unpaid. In fact, 18 percent of employers offered unpaid sabbaticals to employees in 2018, compared to 14 percent the year before.

Allowing employees to take off a large amount of time to pursue something outside of work can be a huge boon for employee retention. Imagine being able to take that trip around the world you’ve always wanted without having to quit your job to do it! Or having the time to work on your novel or learn to skydive — or whatever else your employees want.

While a paid six-week break would be fantastic, of course, an unpaid leave can also be a great benefit to your employees. Employers usually offer sabbaticals after five or more years worked, so they can give your employees something to look forward to (as well as an incentive to stick around).

3. Advancement Initiatives

Between 2017 and 2018, the share of employers offering women’s advancement initiatives as a benefit grew from 29 to 36 percent. While companies do often focus these initiatives on underrepresented groups, check to make sure you’re not violating any federal, state or local discrimination laws by offering this benefit to just one set of employees. Instead, offer mentorship, training and development for all employees.

Every employee is unique, and so a good series of advancement initiatives will include issues that apply to people with a range of backgrounds, goals and obstacles. With one, it might be child care responsibilities, while with another it could be the lack of a formal degree. Letting your employees know that you want to help them fulfill both their personal and professional goals makes your business an enviable place to be.

Consider developing a program where mentors work with employees to set goals and track progress toward them. With coaching and guidance, not only do you help your employees succeed, you help your business prosper. You get to retain great people with great skills. Wherever possible, help employees see how their individual goals support the company’s goals — and how company goals can help them continually hone their skills.

Keeping up with new benefits does take some work, but the goals that drive these trends don’t change much from year to year. Employees want help being their best selves, whether that means convenient and affordable ways to stay healthy, time to pursue outside interests and recharge or support in taking their careers to the next level. Your business and your employees rely on each other to be successful — a strong employer benefits package just offers the tools to make it happen.

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