One of the biggest challenges retail employers face is finding relevant benefits solutions for their entire organization. With both employees behind the scenes working in corporate offices and front-line workers helping customers directly, retail businesses face unique challenges in finding benefits that make the biggest impact.
As you evaluate your current benefits and plan for the years ahead, talking directly to employees about their unique needs and habits will help you make informed decisions about how to implement the most robust benefits plan.
Understand Employee’s Unique Needs
To evaluate your employees’ needs, create personas that characterize their goals, income levels and roles within the organization. Personas can help you better understand how employees think about and utilize their benefits, and give you insights into benefits that may be a good fit.
Using anonymous surveys and in-person interviews, talk to employees about their preferences and how they’re currently using or thinking about the benefits you offer.
You may find that younger employees who are just getting started in their careers are most stressed about paying down student loans or balancing their budget, alongside keeping their bills paid. Older employees who work in management roles may be less focused on earning a higher wage and more concerned with finding work-life balance or preparing for retirement.
Aim to create at least four or five different personas for your organization that can help you address specific employee needs.
The best kind of employee benefits are ones that adapt to employees’ needs over time.
For a young employee, the benefits that are most attractive when they start at an organization could be health insurance to cover the basics. But as they start a family, those same health benefits may not meet their needs.
Adaptive benefits programs that can grow with employees on their journey and offer different tiers or ancillary benefits, like health savings accounts (HSAs), give employees flexibility to create solutions that makes the most sense for their lifestyle.
Similarly, financial wellness benefits that guide employees through life events like shopping for car insurance or buying a home can reduce stress. Traditionally, financial benefits have only focused on retirement planning, but some employees may need help addressing more immediate financial needs.
Modern financial wellness benefits are also adaptive in that they can offer third-party benefits solutions, like insurance price comparisons or refinancing options, which employers aren’t currently offering directly within a wellness portal.
Although retail work is often seasonal, engagement efforts to get employees to understand and utilize their benefits can’t be. If your efforts are focused around open enrollment and dwindle throughout the rest of the year, engagement rates will likely look similar. Year-round, use a variety of communication tactics to ensure your employees receive essential messages about their benefits.
For starters, use posters and physical information packets to continually remind employees about the benefits they have available to them and where they can go for help.
Use employee break rooms or bulletin boards in high-visibility areas to leave information about benefits in plain sight.
If you have a company-wide intranet, use it to highlight key features of your benefits offerings and create videos to show employees how to gain access.
While changing some aspects of your benefits plans may be limited to open enrollment, your intranet is a year-round portal that may be able to make recommendations to third-party benefits that can be accessible whenever employees need them.
Emails and Texts
During your persona creation phase, you may learn that certain employees prefer to receive regular email and text communication about benefits, while others may prefer in-person trainings.
Talk to your benefits providers about what engagement strategies they have and how they can continually engage your employees throughout the year. Sending quarterly reminders and updates about benefits offerings, running contests and sending monthly newsletters with benefits highlights are a great way to keep employees in the loop.
As one of the largest employment sectors in the U.S., boasting 15 million employees, retail workers come from a number of diverse backgrounds. The stress they feel at work not only affects their job performance, it can also follow them home.
To attract and retain the best talent, retail employers should focus on providing adaptive benefits that grow with employees as they achieve their goals, and provide help when employees need it most.
Health and financial wellness benefits that continually engage employees and offer solutions outside of open enrollment can make a big difference in engagement and enrollment rates. Their effects can also spill over into hiring and retention efforts. Talk to employees about their unique needs and create a targeted plan for employee groups rather than trying to find a blanket solution for your entire organization.
Chris Whitlow is the founder and CEO of Edukate, a platform that amplifies financial wellness efforts through data-driven insights and solutions. Edukate drives user engagement, scales with any size organization and integrates with a company’s existing benefit providers and other third-party solutions to meet individual needs. Edukate is a one-stop destination for employees, providing guidance for challenges they are currently facing, and connecting them with the employer benefits that matter to them most — all while cultivating a culture of positive financial awareness.