As companies adapt their people strategies for return to the office or for a new remote or hybrid work arrangement, employee retention will be a key consideration in 2022.

The coronavirus pandemic has created a buyer’s labour market with many people either contemplating or making a change in their employer. Employees are assessing how they fit into an organization, whether an employer’s values are in line with their values, as well as assessing what’s in it for them to stay with their current employer.

Read: 65% of employees looking to change jobs due to compensation, well-being: survey

So how can benefits plan design and strategy help retain employees while still remaining sustainable in the long term? Here are some things for employers to consider:

Listen to employee feedback

The most direct way to get feedback from employees is to survey their thoughts about the benefits plan and whether the current design meets their needs. An employee survey is also a good way to gauge whether an organization has a gap to address in terms of communicating about their benefits program — whether the gap is about the extent of what’s available or the value of the company’s contribution toward the cost of benefits.

Employers should have meaningful exit interviews with employees choosing to leave to understand the reasons behind the exit. They can also ask questions about total compensation, rather than just salary or wages, during an exit interview to determine if there’s something key missing from the benefits plan.

Dive into data

When employers are looking at their claims data, the focus is likely on cost drivers, but it’s also a good idea for organizations to review design adequacy. Some questions employers can ask include: How many plan members reached their annual health and dental maximums in the past two to three years? Is disability benefits design providing a good level of income replacement for those on claim? How does the employee assistance program utilization compare to the psychological services used under the extended health-care benefit?

Read: Employers making pension, benefits changes as pandemic continues: survey

Even though claims experience during the pandemic will include anomalies due to issues with access to care or services, this is a good exercise for employers to undertake from time to time.

Compare and contrast

Benchmarking a benefits plan to what’s offered by competitors and by industry sector can provide valuable insights into how an employer’s benefits offering stacks up. If employees are multi-jurisdictional, employers can make sure their program also meets expectations or requirements of a plan in that geographic region.

Align design

When cascading an organization’s business goals out to employees with goals and targets, employers should consider how their benefits plan aligns as well. While benefits plan design is likely to reflect the organization and what was important at the time it was designed, employers can ask if it still serves the organization now and in the future.

Weave culture in

Benefits plans are a great opportunity to express culture and values as an organization. Employers should weave the things the organization stands for into its benefits offering to further communicate the culture in a tangible way to engage employees.

Read: Redbrick considering range of commuting benefits, perks as part of return-to-office planning

Solid plan design that includes elements that both employers and employees value, while meeting the needs of workers and the financial realities of an organization, is both possible and a critical piece of an employee retention strategy next year and beyond.