By Hilary Thompson
Each day we’re working, we can get wrapped up in the task at hand and feel like we can barely plan for the coming week. But it’s important to think about the future, particularly when it comes to your employees. Whether it’s putting together a great benefits package, connecting employees with wellness resources, working on a development plan, or helping them in other ways, encouraging your employees to plan for the future can benefit them, as well as you and your business.
1. Offer retirement, final expense, and other benefits.
Offering a retirement plan can be a differentiating benefit that helps your company attract and retain new young professionals. Be sure your employees know about the benefit, whether you offer a matching percentage for automatic withholding. Ensure they know how starting early with their retirement savings plan can make a huge difference later in life. Different types of 401(k) plans allow employees to make contributions tax-free, and there are tax benefits to employers as well. Maximum amounts of contribution, both for employees and for employers, change periodically. Employees are often encouraged to contribute at least enough to obtain the maximum employer match.
Unless you have employees nearing retirement, it’s unlikely that they have thought about final expense insurance, but with the average cost of funerals at more than $7,000, it’s never too early to begin planning for that expense as well. Burial insurance (also called funeral insurance and final expense insurance) is cheaper the younger your employees are when they purchase it. It goes a long way in protecting their finances when a death does occur. Adding this benefit to your employee benefits package shows them that you care – at all stages of life.
Additionally, setting up an HSA – a health savings account – is a way that employees can set up a tax-free fund dedicated to health expenses, should they arise. This account can be used to meet health expenses before an insurance deductible is met, or pay for costs that aren’t covered by your company’s insurance plan. These funds generally roll over year to year.
2. Create development plans.
While some workers may be perfectly content to keep doing what they’re doing long-term, usually they have loftier goals in mind. Additionally, your company must continue to adapt to new technologies, new consumer demands, and changing markets. It pays to keep your employees up-to-date and continue to build their skills. Setting up an employee development plan helps you to remain competitive, combat the skills shortage, and avoid having to recruit and train new people with the skills you require. You’ve got a great pool of people at your disposal; learn what your employees’ goals are, where their interests lie, and what they might be interested in learning next.
Also, consider which employees are nearing retirement and where the gaps in leadership might appear. Setting up training or mentorship programs to help prep the next generation for a leadership role can be a great way to introduce the idea of management to a young professional. Set up these plans as a part of the employee’s regular review process, perhaps quarterly, and include tangible goals and benefits. It can be a good way for both you and the employee to stay on track.
3. Offer educational help.
Offering an education benefit can also be a great differentiator between you and your competitor when it comes to attracting employees. Many companies will offer tuition reimbursement programs. This can be set up in numerous ways, usually with an annual or total monetary cap, requirements around employee tenure, or limits to programs that help train your employees for more highly skilled or leadership positions. Training employees in-house, including offering to send them through college programs, can save your company costly expenses associated with turnover, as well as the time spent to recruit and train new employees.
Even offering a scholarship or a fixed amount toward whatever type of educational program they’re interested in can benefit you. Employees who feel valued for who they are rather than what they can provide are likely to develop a stronger sense of loyalty toward your company. Remember, any kind of education can enrich an employee’s experience and translate into a more well-rounded worker, and it helps establish your company culture as one that values its employees. Even if your employee is pursuing educational programs that eventually may lead toward their seeking a position at another company, it’s not a reason to avoid the benefit – while they’re still with you, you can benefit from their new knowledge and experience, and they may stay with you longer than if they hadn’t been able to go to those classes. Talk about what your employee’s interests are while you’re discussing their development plan, and offer what benefits you can to help them with their goals.
4. Establish wellness programs.
Most people in their twenties and thirties can feel invincible – old age and health problems are concepts that are barely on the radar, right? What may not be apparent is that building healthy habits early on is what can help protect us as we age. Healthy employees, after all, are happy employees – not to mention the costs that can be saved by helping your employees to avoid illness. Studies show wellness programs save money, providing a 6-to-1 return on investment, saving on absenteeism, and reducing medical expenses. Plus, you’re helping your employees plan for their healthier future.
As employees adopt healthier habits, they’re less likely to develop health problems later on, and less likely to cost the company money. Wellness programs can be tailored to fit your company size and culture. You may choose to bring on a full-time wellness leader or company nurse. You might consider programs and incentives around diet, exercise, and overall well-being. Offering an employee assistance program with free counseling services can dramatically reduce problems associated with stress, including chronic health conditions and serious illnesses. Focusing overall on well-being and whole health can help your employees establish strong habits that they will carry forward for years.
However you and your company decide to help employees plan ahead, will have benefits long term, and can establish your company as one with a culture of caring about its employees, now and in the future.
Hilary is a freelance writer, small business owner, and travel junkie. With a background in content strategy, journalism, and business management, she loves to explore solutions for success, in all areas: health, business, parenting, life.