As small businesses most of us have very limited budgets for non-essentials. Materials, fixed facility & payroll costs, accounting, legal and required insurance premiums account for a major percentage of our discretionary income. Are our businesses better served with higher salaries, greater investment into infrastructure or a greater level of benefits for our employees?
We all want high salaries and rich benefit plans, but as owners we know that there are few pennies left in the “surplus” dollars in our firms as we budget each year and decisions need to be made carefully. How often have we seen critical employees leave a firm because a competitor promised a better package? Equally important, how often do employees leave for higher salaries without regard to the employee benefits offered there?
How do we determine which benefits will attract and keep the employees we really want? How then do we share our decision making process with these employees so that we get maximum buy-in for our efforts?
First, we need to look at the overall culture of our employee base. Is our corporate culture one in which the individuals we care about most are happy? All the benefits and salary increases we can provide will not overcome an unhappy work environment.
Second, what do our employees value? Individual employees who are young with families will look at insurance benefits quite differently than those who are nearing retirement. Fortunately, health insurance programs now offer multiple plan designs so that we have a greater chance of meeting everyone’s needs. Additionally, supplemental benefits like dental, vision and life insurance can be offered on a voluntary basis so that only those who are interested need to apply and others can join in when they would like to. The cost for increasing benefit options does not need to come out of our tight benefits budgets and employees will still benefit by better plan designs and premium costs than they could access individually.
Third, how “financially fit” are our employees? The stress of budgeting, preparing for retirement and dealing with debt often translates into reduced productivity at work. We do not have to dip into benefits budgets to provide guidance in this arena. There are many counseling services which are happy to educate employees without cost to employers. Employees who see the benefit of this advice can access it at a much reduced cost through employer sponsored arrangements.
Whatever we choose to provide needs to be tailored to the needs and wants of our employees or there will be little benefit for the money we spend. Let’s ask our key employees what they think each year to stay in touch with what they value most. We at CDA Inc. would be happy to help you with this process. We have over forty years of helping establish employee benefits plans and then keeping them relevant.