A total employment package will attract and retain the best talent.

Several years ago the movie “Jerry Maguire” introduced the phrase “Show me the money!” It spoke volumes about the popular culture of the time, with respect to employment. But the truth is that today's employees seek a combination of benefits, flexibility in scheduling work and leisure time, a stable employer and monetary rewards. An attractive total employment package must be available for a company to attract and retain the best talent. This is no small feat, because as every business owner knows, the cost of employee benefits increases every year. Attempting to keep a handle on costs - while staying competitive in the job market - has given rise to the notion of managing employee care programs as a way to manage costs.

Managing benefit programs today is best accomplished by focusing on three distinct initiatives:

  • Managing traditional care programs and associated costs:

    Obviously, small business owners or benefit administrators should stay current with changes and available alternatives to the health care coverage currently provided to employees, as well as their local competitive situation. Medical, dental and life insurance plans change frequently as new approaches are developed. Oftentimes the advancements made offer employees more attractive coverage, with a net savings in total cost to the employer. Just as companies compete for employees with the benefits provided, so do healthcare providers compete for the company's business. So, don't be afraid to ask for innovation!

  • Training and empowering employees to be wise healthcare consumers:

    Assuring that employees know as much as possible about the coverage available to them, and how to most effectively utilize it, makes them wise healthcare consumers. Likewise, health and wellness programs enable employees to maintain better overall health, which saves the company - and them - money in the long run!

  • Identifying nominal cost additional benefits:

    Not all benefits have a cost associated with them. As mentioned, low-cost or no-cost benefits are available for those creative enough to develop and institute them in their businesses. Examples might include training and personal or career growth activities, team-building programs (family picnics, etc.) and flexible work schedules. Accomplished in the proper way, in appropriate businesses, flexible work schedules offer a great benefit to the employee, with costs that can be readily controlled while also maintaining the same or better productivity. Consider for a moment the possibility of such a no-cost benefit - one that enhances morale and attendance, while maintaining current or better productivity levels.

For many years, people have said that necessity is the mother of invention. Staying current with employee benefits is one of the great business necessities of the modern age. How creative are you feeling? <<

Sidebar: Best Practices

Each month, we'll provide proven Best Practices. Readers are encouraged to send along any successful approaches they may be using in managing employees. We will feature the best of them in upcoming columns.

14. Evaluate your current benefit offering - could it be improved? Is it competitive?

It may be human nature for business owners to almost arbitrarily force benefit coverage and costs down as much as possible. After all, it comes right off of the bottom line - right? Well, it's also a fact of life that employees change jobs today for better benefit coverage for themselves and their families. Take an objective look at your offering vs. other local competitors and similar industries. Are you competitive? It may be old-school thinking to say “we aren't competitive, but we pay better!” That may or may not matter to an ill employee and his peers. Balance is the key.

Also, don't be afraid to gently squeeze your benefit providers. They don't develop state-of-the-art programs without feeling a little pressure themselves!

15. Develop, as a separate initiative, your list of no-cost or low-cost benefits.

A clean, safe, stable work environment is often taken for granted by managers, because that's how they want their businesses run. The fact is that those attributes are benefits provided to employees. Are your employees aware of the intrinsic benefits provided to them? Are team-building activities and training a regular part of your operation? These are benefits that may not be available elsewhere.

Consider the reasons that customers patronize your business - those same reasons often apply equally to employees.

Consider the possibility of flexible hours. Many employers are finding that flexibility is a powerful recruitment and retention tool - and, one that can be a no-cost productivity enhancement.