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Published July 27, 2022

How a Flexible Benefits Program Can Supercharge Your Retention Efforts

When it comes to employee benefits, flexibility may not be as easily achieved for every industry. For those in service, healthcare, manufacturing and other industries – it takes more than an internet connection and a good IT department to run your business.

The common theme we have heard from our clients and survey results is that employees (now more than ever) are wanting flexibility in their schedules and fulfillment in their jobs and that many are already struggling with burnout. While some companies have adopted a work-from-home or hybrid office experience to accommodate their workforce, there are plenty of other ways to meet the ever-changing needs of your workforce without overspending.

If you’re unsure of where to start, consider these trending benefits to help secure those impressive candidates you’re competing for:

PTO Exchange
A 2021 study of 1,000 full-time employees found that 60 percent of the individuals had trouble using all of their PTO. There are now programs available that allow employees to convert their unused PTO for cash, emergency funds, retirement contributions, HSA contributions, student loans or tuition payments and even charitable contributions.

Two weeks’ time off is no longer the standard and even generous programs like unlimited PTO may not be as accommodating as you’d think. It’s time to revamp this traditional benefit with flexible ways for your employees to cash in their earned time how they see fit.

Student Loan Assistance
It’s no secret that student loan debt is becoming a huge concern for many households. The debt is growing at an alarming rate – currently over $1.6 trillion. This doesn’t just impact former students, but also family members who have taken on student loans for their loved ones – meaning you most likely have employees (across all generations) burdened with student loan debt.

Several pieces of recent federal legislation have been issued to help reduce student loan debt, including pausing payments and expanding forgiveness programs. Organizations like Savi are offering programs to help more people take advantage of this legislation and making it easier to understand – increasing the level of forgiveness substantially. The best part? Partnering with programs that assist with forgiveness applications typically involves very little administration and cost.

Professional Development & Mentorship
What some see as freedom and flexibility has left others feeling disconnected from the camaraderie of the workplace. Has it become less clear for your employees what their career path forward should look like? Just as you would intentionally create a business development plan, many employers are now realizing that it is just as important to create a professional development strategy for their team members.

One way you can do this is by providing opportunities to mentor and be mentored. Coaching and development programs can help create excitement and drive engagement. Supporting community involvement is another win-win because it not only benefits the community you serve (potential partners and clients, included), but it also empowers your employees to lead fulfilling lives. Even when these things are peripheral to your core business practices, they can benefit you by bolstering morale and culture.

Grief Support
One America reported a 40% increase in the death rate among working-age people. Sure, COVID-19 has played a large part in this unfortunate rise but we’ve also seen an increase in heart attacks, cancer, depression and even a record number of overdoses.

This has raised the question of whether three-five days for bereavement and a basic Employee Assistance Program (EAP) are sufficient for employees who have lost a loved one. And the answer is clear – it’s not. Offering flexible PTO in the following six months to a year can be very helpful to individuals still healing from great loss. We all grieve in different ways and allowing your employees to take the time they need (when they need it) not only contributes to their overall wellbeing but can also help prevent burnout and unnecessary turnover.

Fertility & Adoption Services
One of the personal issues that you often won’t hear about is the loss felt by those struggling with fertility. Because it is deeply personal, these situations often go on without the employer ever becoming aware. The March of Dimes says that 10-15 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, which can certainly take a toll on the individual’s mental health. Potential new hires who have experienced this loss are more likely to evaluate benefit plan information to choose an employer who does cover some sort of fertility or adoption benefit.

If you have considered the cost of assisting your employees with family planning, fertility and adoption services, there are more resources than ever before. If new benefit programs are not feasible right now for whatever reason, there’s still an opportunity to broaden your current coverage to be more inclusive.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all benefits plan. The workforce is more diverse than ever and companies that want to stay ahead in their recruiting efforts need to meet people where they are in life. So whether it’s enhancements to your current plan, a more robust total rewards program or additional lifestyle benefits, make sure to consider all of the available options for your people before your next open enrollment.


This content is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. Gregory & Appel is neither a law firm nor a tax advisor; information in all Gregory & Appel materials is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal or tax advice.