August 6, 2018

 By Jim Gillen, VP Chief Marketing Officer, ESSA Bank & Trust
As seen in Lehigh Valley Business


In today’s competitive hiring landscape, many businesses are forced to offer a substantial employee benefit packages to compete for, attract, and retain top talent. These packages and perks often weigh heavily in the decision-making process of a candidate, making it difficult for small businesses to compete with larger companies when vying for the same talent. It’s a candidate’s job market. Be sure your small business is ready to compete.

According to a Glassdoor Employment Confidence Survey that ran in a 2017 Harvard Business Review article titled, “The Most Desirable Employee Benefits,” roughly 60% of respondents indicated that salary and perks are a major factor in deciding whether or not to accept a job offer. No surprise there. But this survey also found that 80% of new employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise when accepting a new position, and this opens the door to opportunity in the realm of fringe benefits.

The reality is most companies can’t compete with Google- or Facebook-level perks such as free lunches, onsite massages, onsite dental care, valet parking, or barber shops. So what health benefits and perks should a small business consider when they review the competitiveness of their benefits package?

A 2017 survey conducted by Fractl that ran in a 2017 Harvard Business Review found that aside from health insurance benefits, employees placed a high degree of importance on perks that are relatively low-cost to employers. Examples worthy of consideration would be flexible hours, additional paid-time-off (PTO), and an option to work from home.

This Fractl study was based on 2,000 U.S. workers who ranged in age from 18 to 81. A list of 17 benefits were given to each and they were asked to weigh each option when deciding between a high-paying job and a lower-paying job.

Improved health, vision, and dental insurance topped the list with 88% of the respondents indicating they would give these benefits consideration, 54% weighed in at “heavy consideration” while 34% indicated this benefit was worthy of some consideration.

Meeting with a Qualified Benefits Consultant

With the costs of health care on the rise, many small business owners are rationalizing whether or not they can afford to offer insurance and what coverage they should provide. Below are just a few questions business owners struggle with when evaluating benefit decisions.

  • Should I be offering a vision insurance benefits package or a discount vision plan?
  • Is my company eligible to buy coverage through an Affordable Care Act SHOP exchange?
  • Is my business eligible for the small employer health care tax credit under the Affordable Care Act?
  • What types of coverage should my benefits plan include?

A qualified benefits consultant can help your business answer these questions and tailor a plan to your specific business needs and employee base. Carefully consider that various benefits consultant options and be diligent in your selection—make sure your consultant is experienced working with multiple health care insurance companies and businesses similar in size to your company.

“Fringe Benefits” Can Help Too

As noted above, also considered important in the Fractl study were benefits that offered work-life balance such as flexible hours, more vacation time, work-from-home options, tuition assistance, and yoga classes. These types of benefits can give your company an edge when a candidate is comparing your opportunity to one that offer a higher salary, but with fewer benefits.

Other Low-Cost Employee-Benefit Considerations

Wellness Programs: On-site wellness programs can be beneficial for businesses of any size, but small businesses may have an advantage with wellness programs because they often achieve higher rates of participation and their programs are generally easier to implement. Happy and healthy employees are contagious and can promote positive work environments and productivity. The key to developing an effective wellness program is to keep it simple and manageable. 

Health Risk Assessments: Health risk assessments pose a series of questions about an employee’s medical history and lifestyle that can be helpful in identifying potential health risks. Proactively identifying risks can save your business money in the long run by catching a potential issue before it causes damage or takes an employee out for an extended period of time. Health risk assessments can also be used by employers to drive targeted wellness efforts. 

Additional resources are available for physical activities such as mapping out on-site trails and walking routes, encouraging employees to take stairs instead of the elevator, and offering on-site fitness classes. 

Job perks and employee benefits can be traditional or high or low-cost. It’s a matter of thinking about your employees’ happiness and how that can translate to work outputs or a better work environment. Consider out-of-the box creative solutions that keep employees loyal to your small business and promoting the value of the company.

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