Five Steps to Benefits Programs that Work

I get a lot of questions from people strategists about benefits packages. Specifically, they want to know "How can I make my benefits more appealing?"

I tell them they're asking the wrong question.

Because most of the time, what these people are inquiring about is, "How can I make my existing offerings look prettier?" What they really should be asking is, "How should I change my offerings to make them more useful?"

One is a question about packaging; the other about content.

For those only interested in the former, there's not much I can offer. Rebranding, at least when it comes to benefits, isn't a strategy. The same offerings will get you the same results. If you want to change the results, you have to change your strategy.

For those willing to do a deeper dive into the content side of the pool, here are five things to consider:

Make wise investments

Market research is one of the first building blocks of any new product launch. So it's a mystery that very few companies invest the same energy toward their people strategies. Would you ever launch a consumer product without knowing if there's a market for it? Of course not. But installing benefits without data is doing just that. Investments - whether pointed inward toward supporting your employees or outward toward selling in the marketplace - are only wise if you know they have a chance of actually succeeding. To find out what has a chance, you need to go to the people who will be using the services - in this case, your employees. Because, why guess when you can know?

Create the right survey

Getting the data you need from your employees is a no brainer - ask them. This can be done via survey. But be careful. Many employers get caught up in the traditional survey that asks employees how we, the company, are doing. Unlike more traditional employee surveys, this one needs to be targeted toward them, the employee, as in, what do you need? A carefully crafted survey should get to the heart of what ails your people - and what benefits could help them perform better.

Be bold

There's a tendency to stick to the beaten path when it comes to picking benefits. But that pretty much negates any chance of addressing any of your workforce's unique issues. Just because nobody else is offering a particular option doesn't mean it's a bad idea. More important than "Is a program traditional?" is "Is it realistic? Affordable? Effective? Practical?" That's not license to do something totally weird just for the sake of being different. But if a benefit contributes to people performing better in your specific workforce, then even the most unconventional benefit has tremendous value. Asking the right questions serves as a guide allowing you make more precise and higher-value investments in things that work.

Make your benefits easy to use

Programs that are hard to use will become like the treadmill in your basement; they'll just collect dust. To be effective, benefits need to be visible and fully connected by a single platform that allows employees to see exactly what is available and how they can be employed and accessed. Ideally, such a platform should be operated by real people who can answer real questions. But whatever scaffolding you put up, it's all but a given that...if you build it, they will come.

Re-visit your investment

Measuring the impact of your programs offers definitive insights into whether these programs are delivering and meeting your stated goals. Yet fewer than 70% of companies actually bother. Why? Don't you want to protect your investment? Take Health Risk Assessments as an example; some companies say they know their benefits are working because people sign up for them, but that's a false metric; it only tells you that people think a particular program is a good idea, or that the incentive was right, not that it's actually doing anyone any good. So basically you know you're good at deploying programs. Knowing you need to lose ten pounds and actually taking steps to do it are radically different outcomes. Benefits-investment impact can be done via survey. Once you know whether a particular program is working, you can make an informed decision about whether to keep paying for it or spend your money elsewhere.

Bottom line: measuring the impact should be like flossing - it's time consuming, but worth the payoff.

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands

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