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Jun 27, 2022

As we all know, The Great Reshuffle [a phrase I think is more accurate than ‘The Great Resignation’], has led to millions of workers seeking roles that better match their lifestyles and work style preferences.

At the same time as all this though, we’ve also seen U.S. companies starting to demand that their employees come back to physical offices.

To me this shows there is a disconnect between what employers want and what employees want for the future of work. For while enterprises are mandating that staff come back to the office, a PwC study reveals that half of employees prefer to work from home for at least half the week.

It’s clear that the only way companies can bridge this chasm is by creating a more flexible work environment. Because much like workforce preferences around remote or hybrid work, employees are also seeking greater flexibility in other parts of their jobs too, such as what benefits they are provided. Companies that take stock of employees’ preferences around more dynamic and personalized benefits are poised to win the war for talent.

Flexible benefits programs are undoubtedly part of the solution. They allow employers to create customized options for employees; options that take into account their personal interests and values. Rather than offering limited choices that work for some, flexible benefits programs provide flexibility for employees to choose what’s most meaningful to them and supports their needs.

Here are three steps employers can use to construct a flexible benefits spending account system:

1) Understand the needs of your workforce

It’s important that you customize your offerings based on your team. Just because a competitor offers a specific set of benefits to attract employees doesn’t mean that they are right for your workforce. Benefits programs should not be cookie cutter; rather they should be more inclusive and flexible in nature, considering what’s meaningful to your workforce and will best support their needs.

There are many different formats by which you can solicit input from employees around what benefits they need and how those resources can best be deployed. The point-system survey is an effective way to better understand your workforce. With this method, companies can represent a list of options then request employees to assign a number of points from a scale (for example, 1-10) to emphasize which categories most appeal to their needs. There are several categories to consider adding to the survey including, professional development, physical wellness, work-from-home support, financial wellness, family support and mental wellness.

Based on this survey data, companies can adjust their benefits spending accounts to help retain their workforce. Employees today want companies who listen to their specific needs and flexible benefits programs are a tangible way to show employees that you care about their preferences.

2) Create a benefits spending account system that aligns with employees’ preferences

There are various methods to administer benefits spending accounts programs, such as expense software, payroll deposits, outsourcing traditional third-party administrator (TPA), and modern TPAs. Many forward-thinking enterprises look towards modern TPAs that offer strong support, customization, and an unmatched experience.

The fundamental goal is to engage employees with the program. As such, it’s important to factor-in the ideal categories you want, as well as the branding, funding methodology, international coverage, and the work model for the program design.

When setting up categories for your benefits program, it’s important to understand what’s meaningful to both remote and hybrid workers. Different programs provide distinct benefits depending on their setup. For example, a health and wellness program will have a different focus than a program dedicated to work-from-home or commuting support. Programs like health and wellness are universal. Other programs, such as childcare or elderly care, are more specific to certain workers. Make sure your program design includes all the categories you wish to fund, informed by the feedback given by your employees, with specific budgets and parameters for each one.

3) Communicate benefits plans and drive engagement with real-time tracking

The goal is to engage employees with the flexible benefits program, encouraging them to utilize it. So, companies should build a thoughtful communication plan that addresses how employees can use the benefits/plans that are available to them.

To retain the current workforce, companies can use a simple communication strategy that includes email blasts, communal bulletin boards, and calendar notifications, to educate employees about their benefits. For larger announcements, employers should send direct mail and host webinars, and run company-wide activities that focus on benefits. Train-the-trainer programs will also increase employee engagement.

To attract new employees, companies can weave in flexible benefits messaging in job descriptions and ensure it is being communicated in interviews as a core part of the company’s offerings. Employees are interested in what sets the company apart, and highlighting your focus on flexible benefits can be a differentiator. Additionally, when an employee joins a company, they should be immediately informed about the flexible benefits plans that are available to them.

Remember…monitor engagement

Over time, companies should monitor engagement to see which employees are using the program and how they are using it. Companies can track various factors to determine if their benefits program is successful, including budget usage, employee satisfaction, account expenditures, and how employees engage with the program depending on location. Based on this data, companies should be able to adjust their benefits to keep pace with the evolving demands of their workforce.

Your future of work approach should be flexible and customized

While there’s no silver bullet for employee retention, gaining a better understanding of employees’ preferences and customizing benefits accordingly can help increase employee satisfaction and desire to work for your company. The outcome will be a benefits program that is modern and relevant.

The pandemic has revealed that employees want more flexibility in every part of their lives. Flexible benefits models can help support employees and show them they are valued while enhancing the company’s competitive advantage. By taking these steps to create flexible benefits programs, companies can better support employees with life benefits that help at important moments of their lives.