CNCounty News

‘Fringe’ benefits help attract, retain employees

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Key Takeaways

Good benefits are key to attracting and retaining the best workers, two speakers told NACo Conference attendees July 22.

Robert Wilson, county administrator, Cass County, N. D., said that “for all the talk of the importance of culture, wages and benefits are always the bedrock” of attraction and retention. 

While counties may have trouble competing with the private sector for IT and engineering job candidates based strictly on salary, Wilson said overall the right mix of health, retirement and “fringe”/voluntary benefits is a big draw.

Voluntary benefits are products such as life, disability, critical-illness and accident insurance, legal services and financial counseling that are offered through an employer but paid for in part or solely by workers through payroll deferral.

Brett Haywood, principal of health practice for Buck Consulting, said there’s often “a big disconnect between what employers think their employees want and what employees want.” 

A Buck Consulting survey of 683 U.S. employees across a range of industries found that 68 percent of the employees thought that “voluntary benefits are an essential part of the benefits package.” Employees were particularly interested in voluntary benefits that enhanced their wellbeing.  

The Buck survey found that 79 percent of employees surveyed said they were interested in financial services. Top benefits they were looking for in this area included college savings, legal services, personal loans, emergency savings and long-term care insurance.

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they wanted enhanced healthcare options. Those options included health accident insurance, critical illness insurance, hospital indemnity insurance, cancer support and dental/vision insurance. And 72 percent of those surveyed said they wanted better work/life balance.

According to the Buck survey, the top 10 fastest-growing voluntary benefits are:

1. Hospital indemnity insurance
2. Personal loans
3. Financial coaching/planning
4. Caregiving
5. Critical illness insurance
6. Discount marketplace
7. Pet insurance
8. Health accident insurance
9. Auto/Home insurance
10. Long-term care insurance

Forty-five percent of the employees who were surveyed by Buck Consulting said they wished they had a better understanding of the benefits they received.

To help, Haywood recommended giving employees a “full-blown total rewards statement.” 

Wilson noted that “one thing our HR department does is make apparent what the benefits are — the total, not just wages.” That way, he said, “employees see it’s significant.” 

One of the big challenges, Wilson added, is communicating the value of those benefits to younger employees. “Their eyes may start to glaze over. We try to reinforce that, ‘If you stick with this, this is what it will look like for your future.’”

Haywood suggested using “higher touch engagement strategies” to reach younger employees. “Use more frequent communication, focus groups, resource sharing. As you age, you don’t need as much high touch.” 


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