A comprehensive benefits package can show current and potential employees that the businesses they work for care about them, their health and their future. The right offerings can also help attract and retain talent. However, benefits come at a cost, and employers have to weigh their offerings against the overall expense carefully.
“Our industry is unique in that we have a wide variety of positions and employees with a wide range of experience and age groups. We’re trying to address what everybody wants within that spectrum, which can be really broad and is difficult,” said Mary Eriksen, human resource/safety manager for Sapp Bros. Inc. “We can't be all things to everybody. You can’t afford to, and that is a challenge.”
Elizabeth Waring, CEO of Busy Bee, said benefits packages are vital to competing in today’s job market. “With record low unemployment rates nationwide, the job market is fiercely competitive,” she said. “It’s advantageous to offer not only competitive wages but also benefits for teammates from a long-term employment perspective.”
Waring acknowledged that programs could be costly. “As with all companies, we have to strike a balancing between what’s most important to our teammates’ needs and what the company can afford to offer,” she said.
Promoting Health Care
Health benefits continue to be the cornerstone of every employer’s benefits offering. They are the No. 1 option people look for when seeking employment, said Heather Meade, a consultant with Ernst & Young and a leader of NATSO’s HR Share Group. “As costs continue to rise, affordability continues to be a challenge for both employers and employees,” she said, adding that employers are looking at new cost-effective ways to offer benefits.
Sapp Bros. offers health, dental, vision and life insurance as well as a voluntary accident program to appeal to employees. “We try to give people an array of different insurances without making them really costly. You could spend a whole paycheck on insurance,” Eriksen said.
Meade said she is seeing employers trying to reduce costs by encouraging access to primary care to reduce high-cost conditions later on. “Employers are engaging in interesting new primary care models to encourage employees to get less costly care earlier,” she said. “Truckstops with clinics for truckers might want to add a benefit for their own employees to seek care there.”
To help minimize costs, employers are offering employees virtual care through nurse hotlines or video or phone consultations with a primary care provider, Meade explained. “It is a benefit that is appreciated by employees, and it also is a tool to reduce costs,” she said, adding that virtual care can help reduce lost work time and gives employees more flexibility. “Recent surveys suggest that 90 percent of large employers have implemented or are implementing some type of large virtual care. It is also something that makes a lot of sense for the truckstop workforce.”
Busy Bee provides HealthiestYou by Teledoc, which offers virtual care, to all members of its management team and it’s an option for all teammates. “The cost is minimal for the convenience it provides, such as speaking with a doctor about an illness and receiving the care needed without having to physically go to the doctor. Our team has loved having this option,” Waring said, adding that the HealthiestYou offering is extremely affordable and can save a tremendous amount of lost time and out of pocket expenses.
Along with HeathiestYou, Busy Bee provides the Best Doctors option. If a person has a serious illness, he or she is equipped with a team of specialists that can work with the employee on the best possible treatment options. “This is a phenomenal benefit. Although I personally hope I never have to use this benefit, there is an enormous peace of mind knowing that if someone has an illness, you have the best and the brightest team of doctors working on what options and treatments are available to get you healed as quickly as possible,” Waring said.
BusyBee also offers dental, and Waring said many of the benefits are incredibly affordable and provide a high return. “For instance, dental insurance has a minimal monthly cost but will more than pay for itself every year in the Waring home,” Waring said, adding that the dental insurance covers simple costs, such as dental cleanings and X-Rays, and costly dental work, such as fillings, root canals, crowns, and a large amount towards braces for kids.
Eco Travel Plaza in Crossville, Tennessee, offers its employees a health reimbursement plan, said Brenton Demko, vice president for the location. All full-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week can take part in the program, which provides $100 a month for health-related expenses.
“We are just not big enough to be able to offer health insurance. This was a relatively affordable way for us to do something,” Demko said, adding that Eco Travel Plaza fully funds the program at no expense to the employee.
Demko said Eco Travel Plaza doesn’t have to fund the program until an employee uses it. “We don’t pay out any money until a claim has been submitted. In August, if nobody used it, nothing came out of my checking account,” he explained.
The program is ‘use-it-or-lose-it,' and at the end of the year, employees forfeit any money they haven't used. However, Demko said it is a popular program with some employees using it every month.
About 21 Eco Travel Plaza employees are participating in the program, and they receive a debit card that they can use to access funds automatically, or they can get reimbursed if they pay cash. “Last year one or two people saved up receipts and cashed them in at the end of the year,” Demko said.
A provider handles the program for Eco Travel Plaza. “The company we are set up with makes it so easy to do this. They handle getting the employees enrolled and getting the debit card out,” Demko said. “As the company principal, I get copies in daily emails if someone submitted a claim and know how much it was.”
Taking a Holistic Approach
Meade said more and more employers are interested in their employees’ overall wellbeing, which also includes their mental and financial health. Employers want to have a healthy employee that is at work and able to be engaged in the workplace in a meaningful way. That can mean they go beyond health care, she said.
Employers could consider offering financial counseling or budgeting insight to help employees think through their salaries or how to plan for their retirement while still paying off their student loans.
As part of focusing on mental health, employers are creating policies and procedures to support those with substance abuse disorders. “We see them adopting more robust programs for those struggling with opioids and adopting second-chance policies to let someone who has tested positive for a substance come back,” Meade said.
Meeting Paid Time Off Expectations
Sapp Bros. has created multiple paid time off policies. “Managers are one level, mechanics and drivers are at another, and hourly employees are at a lower level,” Eriksen said, adding that today’s applicants expect to accrue PTO after being employed for six months. “We weren’t able to hire people with one PTO policy. We’ve revised our PTO policy to be competitive in the market.”
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