Employee benefits can be a powerful recruiting tool

Muscling up with superior talent can be the difference between business growth and business failure. Indeed, your people are the most valuable resource in your organization. And if you intend to establish your company as a destination for top talent, then you must have a benefits package in place that will attract them and keep them.

The first task is to ensure that your benefits package is, in fact, a key differentiator. Your health care/benefits package can become your competitive edge.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT PROVIDER

Having a variety of HMO options is good, but highly compensated employees will expect a variety of robust PPO providers as well - ones that offer everything from standard, gold and platinum to high-deductible health plans with health savings accounts. While each PPO offers slightly different services, packages and costs, the most important differentiators for those looking to create a high-quality and appealing benefits package are:

* Flexibility for employees. Each PPO typically offers numerous plans, but the plans available to employees are usually chosen by the employer. Yet it is the employees themselves who are the most affected by the chosen health care plan. Choose a PPO that provides multiple offerings and allows choice at the employee level.

* Deep network of providers. When choosing a health care plan, many employees are reticent to end longstanding relationships with physicians, dentists and other health care professionals. Choose a PPO whose network includes a wide range of providers - and ensure that many of those providers are located in the immediate vicinity and include specialists as well as generalists.

* Provider options. To give employees "big company" benefit choices, you may want to offer multiple PPO provider options. That way you cover the gamut of potential providers and ensure that employees have access to their preferred health care providers.

IMPROVE EASE OF USE

Providing a self-service portal that allows benefits planning and facilitates choice differentiates you from many employers. Such a portal should include robust communications tools, including the ability to view plan features side-by-side, and allowing employees to easily calculate costs. Employees and prospects value benefits packages, and they value the educational tools and online functionality of leading-edge benefits enrollment programs.

Professionals who are Web-savvy and pressed for time are not interested in reading endless pages of benefits information or spending hours with HR professionals to discuss their benefits; instead, they want their benefits information instantly available through any Web browser.

INCREASE VOLUNTARY BENEFITS

Employees with high expectations may not settle for simply a good medical, dental and vision plan. Even flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts may not be enough. Look for a complete benefits package that includes varying degrees of life and disability insurance, pre-tax commuter benefits, banking options, a robust employee assistance program, retirement plan options, and entertainment discounts - even pet insurance can be a valuable addition.

BEST PRACTICES

When you've lined up your benefits package, make sure that administration is turnkey and errors are virtually non-existent. Doing so will also help ensure compliance with multiple state and federal regulations. And everything should be backed by the best customer service available, so employees are able to get answers when they need them.

FIND A QUALIFIED HR PROVIDER

Evaluate the potential HR service providers based on their PPO options, their services, and the benefits that your company will receive from the partnership. They should be capable of accommodating your company growth and offering benefits packages appropriate for your size and your employees' needs and expectations.

An HR services provider can often offer better health care options because of its ability to purchase large-scale benefits. An HR provider also assumes the burden of ongoing administration and selected areas of employer liability on your company's behalf. The result is a "big company" benefits package and infrastructure, which increases employee productivity, satisfaction and retention.

Lyle DeWitt, CPA, is vice president at TriNet, a provider of HR outsourcing services. Reach him at lyle.dewitt trinet.com.

(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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