Attracting the best and the brightest workers should be a priority to keep profits high. But if small and medium sized businesses want to compete with larger companies, they not only must provide key benefits, but also clearly present them to prospective employees.

“You can't grow a meaningful company without amazing employees,” explains Burton Goldfield, president and CEO of TriNet, a leading cloud-based provider of HR services. “There's a fight for great talent in the U.S. today. The top employees have other opportunities out there, so in addition to having access to benefits, you have to do the best job you can in articulating those benefits.”

According to Goldfield, the benefits most in demand fall into two categories.

“You have financial and non-financial categories of benefits. Employees are interested in medical benefits and paid holidays, along with things like disability, life insurance, educational assistance, profit sharing and stock options. The top five monetary benefits include salary and bonuses, vacation, a medical plan, ancillary benefits and flexible spending accounts."

What employees want

As for non-financial perks, Goldfield says employees are interested in having autonomy, flexible schedules and the ability to work from home. Also, younger workers are often interested in the company's charitable contributions and in-service days, while older individuals are more likely to want specific information on 401Ks, including service fees. Other benefits employees ask about include on-site child care and gym programs.

Not surprisingly, health care coverage is a very big deal.

“With financial institutions leading by example, we then can build a strong business case for expanding these efforts to other businesses and organizations to convince them of the many benefits of providing financial wellness at work.”

Lynn Dudley, Senior Vice President, American Benefits Council, points out, “The Affordable Care Act changed the dynamic tremendously. First, there's the challenge to understand the responsibilities of the employer and employees. Cost is another. Compliance with the rules in a timely manner is also a  challenge. Having resources to answer questions as they come up is often harder for small companies.”

Dudley says health care often tops the list of benefits that matter most to employees, followed by retirement.

Multigenerational

“Employers are seeing a lot if issues cropping up with people understanding how to manage their financial well-being on a holistic basis — managing debt and student loan pay offs — and understanding the best ways to build overall well-being. With multiple generations in the workforce, the needs vary dramatically. People are often under prepared for disability and life insurance, so voluntary benefits, like more disability, are becoming more popular.”

As for competing with larger businesses in terms of talent, Dudley says small and medium size companies often do so successfully.

“They may not have the cash to devote to consistent contributions from the employer, such as a start up or young company, but they often offer an opportunity to share in the growth of the company through profit sharing contributions or equity.”

Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, remarks, “Forty percent of employees say they want help to achieve financial security, and eighty percent say that financial problems affect their productivity. It's a natural fit that makes a good deal of sense for employers to make financial fitness part of their employee benefit programs.”

Cordray also firmly believes workplace financial education should be a part of the discussion, stating, “Research shows that employees who receive effective financial education are more engaged at work and have lower levels of turnover.”

Speaking at the Financial Services Roundtable Event on Financial Education, Cordray referenced a recent survey by Aon Hewitt, which finds 93 percent of employers asked are likely to expand their focus on financial wellness in the workplace in the next year. Cordray also encourages financial institutions, financial providers and all employers to connect with their employees during key life moments and implement programs to boost employees’ financial capabilities.

“With financial institutions leading by example, we then can build a strong business case for expanding these efforts to other businesses and organizations to convince them of the many benefits of providing financial wellness at work.”