What employee benefits should you offer?

By: Updated: February 12, 2018

In 2018, employees are looking for more than just a place to work. They want to find a job that keeps them engaged and interested. Your best bet is to provide employee benefits. In the past 5 years, the term has exploded into human resources as both a top recruitment and retention tool.

In fact, employee benefits have become just as important as a pay raise. With thousands of options to choose from, employers could have a tough time allocating their budget! Don't worry - we've simplified your options in this article:

Millennials in your workforce? Discover employee benefits for millennials.

Trending employee benefits

According to a Harvard Article, employees place high value on many affordable employee benefits such as flexible schedules and telecommuting. Additonally, the study found that competitve benefits can offset a candidate's decision to accept another job offer, even when the salary is higher. Unsuprisingly, health benefits, such as a Health Spending Account, remains the top contendor within employee benefits. Employees rated it as the most important benefit in a workplace.  

Coming in second was flexible perks. These include things like generous vacation packages, flexible hours, and work-from-home options. Work-life balance is a re-occuring theme in today's workforce discussion. These types of benefits are especially important to the millennial demographic and workers with young children. 

In fact, work-life balance has become such a frequent topic that some companies offer an unlimited time-off policy. This creates a mutual trust and respect between employee and employer. Even with this policy in place, employees may opt to take the same amount of time away from work. In some cases, it even boosts productivity as employees are incentivized to get their work done sooner. 

Common employee benefits you might not have thought about

  • Employee referral bonus program
  • Policies regarding discrimination, harassment, and whistle-blowing
  • Flexible dress-code
  • Limits to overtime work 
  • Yearly review/promotion panels
  • Retirement plans
  • Off-site social events
  • Training and education reimbursement

The process of choosing employee benefits

Employee benefits is a general topic and requires informed discussion. Sometimes the process is more important than the result. The right employee benefits plan is dependant on your business culture. 

1. Get to know your employees

Communication is key. You can opt to meet in person (if time allows) or distribute a company-wide survey. Before every decision, address the stakeholders. Employees are always keen to offer their opinion, especially on an important topic such as benefits. When you incorporate their opinion into the final decision, it also shows mutual respect. I’m sure most people would prefer a personally selected list of benefits over a pre-existing template. Who better to ask "what employee benefits should you offer?" than the employees themselves!

2. Look internally

Compare your company to its competitors. Try to learn what other companies are offering. See what people in your industry look for (in terms of benefits). Are they looking for gym memberships or a flexible schedule? This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have both, but think about the typical routine and lifestyles of those working in your industry. Are they looking for year-end bonuses, flexible schedules, personal days, or a flexible health and dental plan

3. Consider your workforce demographics

Are your employees generally older or younger? Do they share commonalities in their daily commute or eating habits? Many companies have already determined that millennials share very different values than baby boomers. Several studies found that millennials prefer flexibility and wellness over job security. While this might not be the case for everybody, an employer must look to the needs of their workforce.

4. Do your research

Employee benefits can be a big investment, especially for a small business. Do your research! With thousands of options to choose from, creating an employee benefits plan for small business can be a complex decision. Research the various benefits you can offer as an employer. There are hundreds of benefits that aren’t traditionally advertised. Keep in mind, several new benefits, such as an HSA, have risen in popularity recently.

Consider reading our Supreme Guide to Employee Benefits Plan for Small Business to quickly learn about health benefits for employees.

Also, be aware of pitfalls to avoid.  

5. Compare benefits providers

Once you have an idea of what benefits to provide, find a company that can safely and efficiently carry out your needs. The benefits industry is very large with thousands of providers. Make sure to do your research when determining whether the provider can be trusted with your company funds. Some providers might offer better service for a higher price, while others might have a high price simply because they invest more money into marketing. Be sure to compare pricing, reviews, and features for any benefits plan.

6. Consider a Health Spending Account (HSA)

Many employers choose a Health Spending Account because it delivers non-taxable dollars directly to your employees, for them to spend on any medical expense (yes – even pre-existing ones). It provides cost control for the employer, choice for the employee, and flexibility for everyone. Furthermore, the money spent on employees qualifies as a business tax deductible under CRA guidelines. It’s the 100% legal and efficient way to write off taxes on medical expenses which aren’t traditionally covered by the province’s medical plan.

If you want to learn more about an HSA – read our Top FAQ for HSA employee benefits

Olympia Benefits is a leading provider of an HSA with over 21 years of experience. Discover why 53,000+ clients choose Olympia.

7. Keep employees updated

Employees appreciate when a company takes the time to explain their benefits. Just like training for a new job, people want to be aware of changes. When possible, keep employees updated during the process of acquiring a new benefit. Even knowing your office has a new toaster could make a difference! Ongoing communication with employees is good for morale on all accounts. 


Learn more on how a Health Spending Accounts provides flexible health and dental coverage for your employees.

Download our FREE guide below:

Beginners Guide to Health Spending Accounts for small biz


How to write off 100% of your medical expenses

Are you an incorporated business owner with no employees? Learn how to use a Health Spending Account to pay for your medical expenses through your corporation: 

Download the HSA Guide for Incorporated Individuals

Do you own a corporation with employees? Discover a tax deductible health and dental plan that has no premiums:

Download the HSA Guide for a Business with Staff

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