Getting the most out of a benefit program, especially in the long run, requires aligning benefit programs with an organization's overall business strategy and compensation philosophy. Benefit planning inevitably involves tradeoffs between an ideal package and one that will maximize the desired impact at a price that can be afforded. The three most important factors that must be weighed are:
• What benefits can the employer afford?
• What benefits will best both attract and retain the employees needed to execute the organization's business strategy?
• What benefit vendors provide a quality and consistent product now and will continue to do so in the future?
Strategic planning allows employers to take the initiative in balancing employees' needs with a budget. It can involve taking advantage of new tools, such as electronic plan administration, and offering new benefits beyond the traditional health, disability, and life insurance and retirement plans with the addition of benefits such as financial planning assistance, gym memberships, and long-term care insurance.
Strategic planning can provide for controlled budgets over a period of years and provide meaningful benefits that aid in recruiting and retaining key employees. Steps to take to define and implement a plan for achieving these objectives include:
• Evaluating current benefit plans and programs;
• Identifying corporate objectives;
• Spelling out strategies that relate to corporate culture;
• Coordinating benefit strategies with other compensation and human resource programs;
• Designing a communication plan; and
• Establishing budgets to accomplish these steps.
In a tight job market, benefits play a ...