Are Your Benefits Competitive Enough?

In order to remain competitive, one-third of employers “increased their overall benefit offerings in the last 12 months,” according to a 2017 report by the Society for Human Resource Management. Usually, employers take this step after weighing the effectiveness of their benefits program and deciding that it needs to be improved.

Even if there are no apparent shortcomings in your benefits program, it’s still a good idea to periodically measure for effectiveness, as this will help you maintain a competitive advantage. Below are two ways to accomplish this.

1. Examine the current market

In March 2018, private industry employers paid an average of $34.17 per hour worked, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Out of that amount, 69.5 percent went toward wages and salaries, while benefits accounted for the remaining 30.5 percent.

Legally required benefits — such as unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation — made up 7.8 percent of private industry employees’ compensation, followed by:

  • Health insurance (7.5 percent).
  • Paid leave (7 percent).
  • Retirement and savings (3.8 percent).

You’ll need to ensure that your benefits are, at a minimum, in line with industry averages.

2. Conduct external benchmarking

It’s not always easy to obtain accurate benefits information on competitors. However, if you fail to benchmark, you could be treading on perilous ground, as you will have no clue what your competitors are offering, nor will you know how capable they are of luring away your workers. If you want to know whether you’re succeeding or failing, you’ll have to benchmark.

During the data collection process, aim for a peer group of at least five competitors with qualities similar to yours — such as industry, business size, number of employees and geographic location. With Form 5500s and 10-K filings being public record, you should be able to find benefits information on your competitors reported through those filings.

You can also take advantage of free national data, such as BLS statistics and annual benefits reports issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If you work with a benefits provider, the provider can do the heavy lifting. Or you could hire an HR consulting firm that specializes in benchmarking services. There’s also the SHRM’s benchmarking service, which provides access to free nationwide reports as well as industry and customized reports that both come with a fee.

If you cannot afford to pay for benchmarking services, you can do your own research. For example, you can conduct an online search to see which benefits the companies in your industry are offering. (Job descriptions may reveal this information.) This method likely won’t be as detailed as you’d like, but it will give you an awareness of what your competitors are doing.

As for what to measure, you’ll want to zero in on three main areas:

  1. Employer and employee cost.
  2. Coverage.
  3. Plan type and design.

Along with external benchmarking, perform internal research to gauge how your employees are feeling about your benefit offerings. Then make the necessary improvements based on those results.

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