The breadth of voluntary benefits employers can offer has expanded significantly in the last few years. Whether those benefits are pet insurance, student loan assistance or financial education programs, The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) reports that nearly 70 percent of employers consider voluntary benefits an important aspect of employee recruitment and retention.
If you find yourself envious of employees at other companies who get perks your employer doesn’t offer, don’t assume all hope is lost. Instead, follow these simple steps to formally request new benefits from your employer.
Compare how your benefits stack up to current trends
Employee Benefits News reports that the top ten most in-demand employee benefits (in order of demand) are: Paid family leave, flexible/remote work options, professional development, sabbatical leave, onsite fitness centers, student loan repayment assistance, onsite healthy snacks, identity theft protection, access to financial planning resources and fitness goal incentives. Consider which of these your employer already offers to see where there are gaps or opportunities to change or add benefits.
Solicit feedback from co-workers
Talk to your co-workers about the types of voluntary benefits they currently use and which they’d be most likely to take advantage of, if your employer offered them. Consider informal tools like Survey Monkey if you’d like to poll your co-workers and expand your research to other departments to collect data that supports your request. If you can show your employer that there are numbers of employees who would appreciate and use a specific type of voluntary benefit, they may be more serious to consider your request.
Research benefits at companies similar to your own
Research which types of voluntary benefits are popular using industry organizations like SHRM and publications like Employee Benefit News, which frequently report on voluntary benefits trends. Look at job postings from direct competitors to your employer to see what types of voluntary benefits they offer, too. These sources can serve as objective proof that your request is valid and worth considering.
Prioritize your wish list
If you have a long list of benefit requests, narrow it down to the top two or three the majority of your company would truly use and prioritize it based on demand. Your employer may not be able to accommodate all your requests—so let them know which are most important to staff, right now.
Suggest alternatives to existing benefits
Your employer spends time and money trying to craft a competitive voluntary benefits package, but there may be limitations on what they can offer. Instead of requesting more benefits (which may not possible due to current budgets), consider asking for replacements of certain benefits your information research suggests employees may not use.
Explain what’s in it for them
Remind your employer that ultimately, the addition of the voluntary benefit you request can bring direct benefits to them. For example, Harvard Business Review reports that nearly half of respondents to one survey said they’d accept a lower-paying job if the employer offered student loan assistance or tuition assistance. Further, The Society of Human Resources Management reports that the percentage of companies offering student loan-related benefits jumped from 4% in 2018 to 8% in 2019. When your employer can see that honoring your request could help them attract top talent despite salary constraints and carve out a brand as an earlier adopter of the benefits today’s employees really want, they may seriously consider (and appreciate!) your request.
Make it personal
Consider including a short personal story or a few from your co-workers that tells your employer exactly how the addition of the benefit you request would impact your life for the better, personally and professionally. Be honest about it could relieve stress or distraction in your life; share challenges you’ve had without the benefit and explain how it could change your life. If you’re saddled with $40,000 in student loan debt, for example, tell your employer what assistance in managing that would mean for your reality, in and outside of work.
State Your Case
You’ve put in the hard work to build a compelling argument that supports your request. Now it’s time to bring that information to your human resources team with confidence. Whether you email your request to your HR team in the form of a succinct document, a PowerPoint presentation or meet with the team in person, keep your request brief, factual and data-driven. Show that you’ve done research, and put real effort into your request.
Thank them for their consideration
Asking your employer to consider changing or adding voluntary benefits is a business conversation, just as an interview or performance review. Be courteous, respectful and gracious, regardless of the outcome.
Your employer offers voluntary benefits to make it a more appealing place to work, and to help employees better manage their lives. There is no guarantee that they your human resources team will say “yes” to your request–but there’s no harm in asking!