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Updated Jan 05, 2024

How to Build a Great Employee Benefits Package

A solid employee benefits package can help retain your best employees and attract top talent. Here’s how to build one.

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Andreas Rivera, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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When employers talk about their “compensation packages,” they don’t mean just salary. In addition to employees’ pay, these packages typically include a number of other perks, like health insurance, retirement plans and paid time off (PTO). If you want to build a truly desirable benefits package to keep your employees happy and attract top talent, this guide is for you.

What is an employee benefits package?

An employee benefits package is a set of perks given to employees in addition to their salary or wages. Often called “nonwage benefits,” they encompass many tools employees can use to take care of themselves and their families, establish a healthy work-life balance, save money and more.

Some benefits are mandated by law in certain instances, such as health insurance, while others, such as PTO, are offered to attract top-level employees to work for a particular company.

Editor’s note: Looking to outsource your human resources department for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

A truly impactful employee benefits program goes well beyond medical coverage, said Alex Shubat, CEO and co-founder of work-life-balance platform Espresa.

“I believe that benefits are all about employee recruitment and retention, which comes from people feeling valued,” Shubat said. “They want to know that their employers care about their well-being and respect their time.” [See related article: Quitting Your Day Job? The Basics on Benefits Coverage for Entrepreneurs]

Interested in outsourcing your benefits management? Learn more about how to choose a professional employer organization (PEO) partner and the difference between a PEO and an employer of record.

What to include in your employee benefits package

Here are some employee benefits that PEOs and insurance brokers can help you offer, as well as a few perks that many employers add as they expand their benefits packages.

  • Health insurance, including the following:
    • Medical: Health benefits are among the leading reasons an employee chooses to work at a company. Offer plans or options that help employees and their families access the ongoing and preventive care they need to lead healthy lives.
    • Dental: Annual cleanings, cavity fillings and emergency dental work can be expensive. A good plan helps employees and their families access preventive and vital care at an affordable price.
    • Vision: Vision insurance helps people who wear glasses access discounted or free corrective eyewear. This can lift a significant financial burden off your employees’ shoulders.
  • Flexible spending accounts: This benefit helps employees save pretax dollars for medical expenses.
  • College (529) savings plans: Help your employees set aside funds for their children’s education with a 529 savings option.
  • Retirement savings plans, such as a 401(k): Offer employees an easy way to save for retirement by automatically depositing money into a retirement account each pay period. Your company also may elect to match contributions up to a certain amount or after a certain number of years of service to the company.
  • Additional insurance (e.g., life and disability): Life and disability insurance can help your employees and their families during difficult times.
  • Time off for vacation, sick days and personal days: Offering ample time off for employees to take care of themselves and loved ones is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to their well-being and work-life balance.
  • A pretax commuter benefits program: This is especially helpful if your company is in a major city. For example, New York City requires all employers with 20 or more full-time, nonunion employees to offer this type of program. Even if you’re not required to offer it, employees will appreciate knowing you’re dedicated to making the daily grind a little easier.
  • Flexible and/or remote work options: Today, many businesses offer a work-from-home model at least part of the time, and some have fully remote positions. This option helps employees save on commuting costs and achieve a better work-life balance.
  • Stock options: Common in startups, stock options are equity compensation given to employees in exchange for their years of service or for getting in with a company on the ground level. This benefit allows employees to purchase stock at a preferred price for a predefined period if the company were to go public.

Of course, these are just the basics. To stand out and make your company more attractive to employees, you’ll need to go above and beyond, within your small business budget.

“All companies wish they could spend more on benefits, but it is a balancing act,” said Jeff Yaniga, former chief channel officer of Maestro Health. “It’s been hard for smaller employers to offer choice. Voluntary benefits continue to improve and evolve. Employers must budget benefits with the same rigor by which they budget payroll, innovation, and building great products and services.”

Benefits don’t have to eat up your whole budget, though. Small perks, like free food or discounted services, can go a long way in keeping employees happy.

“Something as simple as free drinks in the kitchen may only cost a few hundred dollars a year, but it’s amazing how much the ‘little things’ affect morale and performance,” Shubat said. For example, a soda machine or on-site dry cleaning “isn’t going to break the bank, and the value they generate in terms of retention is unbelievable,” he said.

Some wellness-related perks might include gym memberships or discounts, smoking cessation programs, subsidized health food markets and child care benefits. Other low-cost perks include employee-recognition programs (with small rewards or prizes); points-based programs that let employees earn discounts, cash and gift cards; and drawings or raffles.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Employee benefits packages can include a wide range of programs and perks, from large benefits, such as medical and dental insurance, to small perks, like free lunch. What you decide to offer depends on your company’s budget and overall goals.

Why offering competitive benefits is good for employers

You know that attractive benefits packages help employees, but you should also understand the advantages for employers. Here are a few reasons you should offer a competitive benefits package:

  • It attracts top talent. The best employees in your field know that they are in demand, and they have choices for where to work. An appealing employee benefits package can help attract and retain these employees.
  • It keeps employees healthy. Without health insurance, the flexibility to work from home or ample time off, employees may experience burnout. That hurts your bottom line in the long run, as employees are less productive when they’re overworked than when they are well rested.
  • It’s good for public relations. More customers want to conduct business with companies that have strong values, including good treatment of employees.

Tips for creating an employee benefits package

Our sources offered the following advice for building an employee benefits package that works for your company.

Offer choices.

Employees may seek different offerings in their benefits packages. For example, younger employees may want help saving money to buy a house, while older workers may be more focused on saving money for their retirement. Allowing employees to personalize their package to meet their own goals is a big part of increasing satisfaction with your benefits plan.

High-deductible health plans can be supplemented with voluntary benefits, such as low-cost loans, Yaniga said. “Empowering employers with the best benefits options will put them on a path toward higher retention rates, greater employee engagement and a more thriving workplace,” he said.

Other popular voluntary benefits include wellness plans, telemedicine, pet insurance and financial advisory tools.

Use technology to your advantage.

Finding an intuitive online portal that’s easy for your employees to access and navigate is important to help them understand what they can do with their benefits package. If it’s easy to enroll and make changes down the line, employees will feel in control of their benefits.

“Most traditional benefits, like medical and retirement plans, can be viewed and managed through online portals,” Shubat said. “The next wave is making all benefits and services available through digital platforms. Most companies don’t have those tools in place right now, but it’s becoming more and more common every day.”

Technology can help employers, too. By using the analytics provided by these tools, you can gain a better understanding of your employees’ needs and what’s working.

Ask employees what they want.

Yaniga emphasized the importance of knowing your employees and finding out what benefits they really want.

“The more we understand about the benefit priorities of our employees, the more we can meet them at their priorities,” Yaniga said. “Best-in-class companies build a great culture by applying all they know about their employees’ priorities to their benefit structures.”

FYIDid you know
Benefits should be flexible, easy to access and desirable for your employees.

Best HR software for employee benefits

If you’re looking for HR software that can help you devise and manage a great employee benefits package, consider these platforms:

  • Rippling: Rippling is well-rounded HR software that offers all of the most important features we looked for. It also includes highly effective onboarding tools, so you’ll be able to get new hires acquainted with their benefits package quickly and easily. Check out our Rippling review to learn more.
  • Paycor: Paycor is especially useful for analyzing your data, which can help you choose employee benefits that your team actually wants.
  • Gusto: Gusto is a leading name in HR, and for good reason. We especially like its tools for managing payroll and ensuring your team is compensated accurately and on time. This can also play into how you structure your employee benefits plan. To learn more about this platform, check out our Gusto review.

These are just a few great options. See our picks for the best HR software to learn more about our favorite solutions.

Build the benefits package your employees want

While a good wage or salary is important for any employee who’s considering whether to accept a job or stay with a company, the strength of the employer’s benefits package can often play a large role in their decision as well. By bundling the retirement, healthcare, time-off and other benefits your employees really want, you can help improve employee retention and enhance your recruitment efforts. Follow the advice above to start building a benefits plan that truly makes a difference for your employees and your business.

Nicole Fallon-Peek and Tejas Vemparala contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

author image
Andreas Rivera, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Andreas Rivera is a multimedia wiz who has spent years testing and analyzing the latest B2B software solutions and services. He engages with top programs and tools to determine the best products for businesses across a range of sectors. He also recommends the best practices and strategies for specific business areas. Rivera has a firm understanding of what small business owners need thanks to the time he's spent interviewing countless entrepreneurs and industry experts. He also has hands-on experience in customer acquisition, marketing, PR and thought leadership. He earned a bachelor's in communication and journalism from the University of Utah.
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