‘Best Companies’ Take Collaborative Approach to Benefits

Over the past decade, the “best” U.S. companies have adapted their benefits offerings to meet changing employee needs, according to The Principal Financial Group’s annual 10 Best Companies for Employee Financial Security competition.

The program honors growing companies (with five to 1,000 employees) for their commitment to outstanding benefits. The 2011 winners exemplify three major transformations that have taken place over the last 10 years, according to The Principal Financial Group, an employee benefits provider. These trends are:

• Shifting from do-it-for-them to do-it-with-them. As benefit programs have shifted from the employer making most decisions to employees facing more choices and taking personal financial responsibility, the “best companies” continue to share significantly in the cost. They engage employees through collaboration and strong education to help them make the best use of their benefit dollars.

All winners provide employer-paid one-on-one meetings with benefits specialists and financial professionals to help employees make informed benefit decisions. Companies use a wide range of methods to reach employees, from payroll stuffers to webinars. Employees are encouraged to help run benefit programs.

• Changing from cookie cutter to customized. The last decade witnessed a significant trend toward customized benefit programs tailored to specific employee needs and demographics. Winners actively designed their programs to engage employees, targeting young workers (with 529 tuition-savings plans, adoption insurance and mortgage assistance) and older workers (with 100-percent-paid long-term care insurance and phased retirement), for example.

In addition, “best companies” actively engaged employees in helping to shape benefit programs, using employee surveys, focus groups and employee committees to understand their needs and wants. Most offer flexible scheduling to accommodate changing life stages.

• Viewing security as financial and physical. “Best companies” use a holistic approach that ties financial security to an increased focus on wellness as a way to lower health care costs for both the company and the employee. Winners recognize reducing financial and health stress leads to greater engagement and higher productivity, which ultimately leads to a stronger bottom line. In addition, winners are more likely to offer biometric screenings, health risk assessments and health coaches, and to reward employees for making healthy choices by tying medical insurance premium discounts to wellness participation and offering health savings accounts or health reimbursement arrangements.

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