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The Benefits Race: Why You Should Put Employees Ahead Of Recruits

There is a great deal of discussion these days surrounding the area of employee benefits and how companies are desperately seeking to offer the next big benefits package. I don’t live in the Silicon Valley, so my perspective may be off a bit, but from the outside it looks as though several companies on the West Coast are frantically trying to “out benefit” the company next door.

In fact, there is a website dedicated to providing the comprehensive and up-to-date information available regarding employers in the Bay Area and the various benefits that they offer their employees.

Benefits have quickly become a recruiting tool, meaning that the focus on employee benefits has moved away from “how do we take care of our existing employees and their families” and into the realm of “what can we offer prospective employees that will cause them to choose us over company X?”

Interestingly, this approach has put many businesses in the middle of a benefits race, which takes on the flavor of the infamous arms race that I remember being discussed as a kid and that put the world on the brink of a nuclear war.

benefitsDon’t get me wrong, I understand the need to recruit top talent. This is especially important for growth companies and having a list of fresh and exciting benefits is a great tool in the recruiting process.

While this may be a valuable resource, it is a far stronger strategy (and one that will have long-term returns for the company) to focus on caring for the needs of current employees.

Happy employees are the greatest form of recruiting.

Here’s an example: while offering to pay for additional education may entice recruits, it doesn’t help your current employees if they all have advanced degrees and would much rather have in-house daycare as a benefit.

Falling into the benefits race without building the company culture may entice highly skilled team members in the short-term, but what will the cost be in the long-term if employees become disgruntled due to lack of focus and attention?

Are we solving a short-term recruiting challenge while creating a long-term retention problem? Let’s think this through.

The best scenario possible for any company is to hire people for the right reasons and to ensure they are providing value in said company for several years. There is a great deal of discussion around this idea of creating employee engagement and ensuring that we retain our employees through this process.

If the efforts of our company shift from keeping our employees to focusing on gaining new ones, don’t we run the risk of our current staff becoming frustrated with the lack of attention and beginning to look elsewhere?

Our desire to out benefit the competition in order to hire the “best talent” becomes the very initiative that drives our employees away and forces them to search for value from another company. It’s interesting that the very reality we are seeking to confront, we create through our passions to one up others.

Benefits should be personal.

Your benefits should impact your employees and their families. Don’t design a benefits package that doesn’t make sense for the majority of your employees. If your employee base isn’t interested in going back to school, then perhaps an education reimbursement program doesn’t makes sense. If the majority of your employees don’t have children, then perhaps an onsite day care service isn’t the best use of funds. Create a package that is unique to your company, your employees and their families.

Benefits should be practical.

Perusing the blogosphere in order to discover the next big thing in regard to benefits may not be the best use of your time, effort or energy. Just because it worked at Google doesn’t mean it will work for your company.

Understand that benefits offered by employers will directly impact the bottom line of the company. And while a benefit is a cost that will hit the books, there is also an indirect value that comes from these benefits that must be considered when rolling out a new package. Benefits do not have to be considered an expense but can be viewed as an investment in future growth. How are your benefits keeping your people around?

Benefits should be purposeful.big-benefits

Make sure they make sense to your company culture. Benefits should be an extension of your core values and should hold up under the pressure that others will place upon the implementation process. Many will ask questions. Many will have doubts. Every action has “haters”…and you will hear from them (whether they are internal or external).

Ensuring that your benefits line up with your values provides your managers and employees confidence in standing behind these benefits, even when others call your actions into question.

Benefits should be positive.

Be sure to think through the various results of rolling out a benefit to the company. Will it add value to the majority of individuals involved? Will it create more work for others to track or monitor? Will it put undue pressure on others to maintain or manage? Some ideas seem great on paper or in the brainstorming phases but when we actually act upon them, they have more positives than negatives.

Thinking through these various aspects of adding benefits will ensure that we are authentic in our benefits packages and that our benefits actually reflect our company culture and not some idealized, Silicon Valley caricature.

Offering new benefits isn’t the problem. Thinking outside the box isn’t the problem. Keeping up with the competition isn’t the problem. Losing our people because we failed to give them the effort and attention they deserve because we were too focused on prospecting. Now that could be a serious problem in the long run and something we need to think in the short term.

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