Management

Recruit, Retain, & Protect Employees with Voluntary Benefits

These benefits enable employers to boost their coverage.

August 17, 2012
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Mike Evert

Mike Evert

Who isn’t tired of belt-tightening? What might have been a good exercise in austerity has now grown tedious.

Credit unions across the country are ready to do more, not less, for their employees. This is why many of them are embracing voluntary benefits.

Voluntary benefits are pretty much what they appear: optional insurance and financial protection products that employees can purchase via payroll deduction.

When combined with standard workplace benefits, voluntary benefits help create a custom suite of coverages personalized to each employee.

In that sense, voluntary benefits are more than a menu of options. Rather, they’re an invaluable service that can help employees optimize their benefits selections and maximize their investments in employer-sponsored financial protection services and products.

Here’s how it works: Employers still offer a standard slate of benefits. Employees enhance their plans by choosing additional coverages from a predetermined menu of options.

The employee pays for the additional benefits, but prices are competitive; typically much better than what employees could get on their own. Also, employees get the added ease of workplace enrollment and payroll deduction.

Today’s voluntary benefits aren’t extraneous products that few employees would ever want or use. Critical care insurance, for example, offers protection against a number of life-threatening illnesses, including heart attacks, stroke, and cancer.

It offers lump-sum payments directly to employees who can use the funds as they wish. That kind of security and control can make a tremendous difference to someone facing a life-threatening illness and related expenses.

Voluntary benefits also are valuable to employers. Because voluntary benefits enable employers to offer more and often better coverage to employees, they can be a powerful recruitment and retention tool.

Credit unions already distinguish themselves from competitors with their health benefits plans. Voluntary benefits can further widen that gap.

For example, some voluntary carriers offer medical coverage for part-time employees who are ineligible for plans offered to full-time workers. That could lead to reduced turnover among front-line tellers who might be otherwise tempted to take a similar part-time position with a different financial institution offering just a bit more in pay.

Ultimately, voluntary benefits give employees a measure of direct control over their compensation dollars, and they communicate an employer’s commitment to the financial well-being of its employees. This can be a compelling message, especially when employers in other industries are moving in the opposite direction with their employer-sponsored plans.

Critical to the success of any voluntary benefits program is effective communication. Employees need to understand what’s offered to appreciate the value.

Effectively convey the significance of voluntary benefits, while educating employees on your core employee offerings. Instead of sending mass communications or holding group meetings, for instance, conduct one-on-one sessions to more effectively clarify options and help employees make their selections.

Credit unions wishing to offer voluntary products should work with broker partners that bring salaried education and enrollment representatives, not commission-based independent contractors. The latter group may create a sales meeting environment featuring aggressive sales tactics, over-selling, and administrative errors.

After all, these should be educational sessions that inform and enhance the voluntary benefits experience.

MICHAEL J. EVERT is group benefits vendor development manager for CUNA Mutual Group. Contact him at 800-356-2644, ext. 6657957.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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