Podcast Episode 9 - Employee Benefits....a Podcast

by Johnny Shiu

In a competitive marketplace, a company’s benefits package is an announcement of its values and mission.  We don’t really have look any further than the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do to you.  In scripture we are told “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 12:31) Jesus here compared loving one’s neighbor as loving the “self.”  Clearly, God knows that we love ourselves. The charge here is to love others with that same love.  

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Generally speaking, the best benefit that a company can provide to any employee is rewarding them with meaningful work.  (Eph. 4:28) When work is missional the employee and employer both benefit synergistically.

In order to compete, an employer can love on its employee by providing “at-market” benefits or even “above-market” benefits.  Benefits such as medical coverage, dental, vision, 401K, bonuses, stock options, and other incentives are fairly standard.

Providing an employee with at market or above market benefits serves several purposes: 1) it is an opportunity to show how much a company cares for its employees; 2) it can validate the company’s core values (or not); 3) it can promote employee retention; and 4) it can create happiness at the workplace.

As Richard Branson famously reminds us “Train your employees so well that they can leave; but treat them so well that they won’t want to.”

An employer would do well to be mindful of the demographics of its employee base. A younger population may find above market pay and regular bonuses superior to say extra Pringles on the shelves.  By contract, an employee base comprised of parents would surely appreciate full family medical coverage, and a flexible work schedule or  “work anywhere” model.

Other non-traditional benefits such as “Mindfulness” training to line managers, an Adoption Honorarium, Identity Theft protection for the employee and his/her entire immediate family, and Student Loan assistance are opportunities to attract, and co-opt employees.

In this episode we look at a few more novel benefits as well.  For instance, a vacation embargo against contacting vacationing  employees so that time off can be appropriately focused on family.  Similarly, the employee would not earn brownie points for “checking in” while on the sandy beaches of Wailea, Maui.

Occasionally, a company - with great intentions - may provide benefits that actually undermine family time.  Rusty examines an early story from the annals of IBM where Tom Watson famously implemented cafeterias....but just for lunch. Benefits such as providing breakfast and dinner on campus may send the wrong signal to the employee base. It may convey a message “we want you to work early and stay late.”  

In sum, the suite of benefits that a company provides to its employees should align with the company’s values.  How the leaders of a company practice the promoted benefits will speak much louder than what is written in the employee handbook.  When a company is authentic about how a particular benefit is practiced in real life, it provides the employee with a sense of peace in exercising that benefit.  Such an environment will likely have the unintended consequence of breeding happier employees, employees who want to work, and employees who are proud to flash their company badge.