It’s a delicate balancing act: employers want to provide excellent benefits to their employees, but at the same time, they need to manage costs.

“I think that companies are striving to provide that best plan out there,” says Lori Bradley, manager, HR and payroll, at Extreme Fitness. “[One that] suits both parties’ needs—both the organization and the employee.” So, how do you find a compromise between the employee’s and the employer’s perspectives?

While some may believe that having the best plan requires a substantial investment, the solution could be less costly than you think. “You don’t have to break the bank,” says Irene Lis, president of Aligned People Strategies Inc., an independent HR consulting firm. “In fact, most things that keep employees engaged have nothing to do with money.”

Research from the 2008 30 Best Pension and Benefits Plans report, conducted by Hewitt Associates and published in the June issue of Benefits Canada, supports this notion. According to the report, a number of the employers that rank among the top 30 for employee engagement don’t offer “Cadillac” pension and benefits plans to their employees. However, they’ve done a superior job of communicating the value of the benefits they do offer so that employees understand and appreciate them.

How do you get this message across to employees? Consultants say it’s important to consider the bigger picture.

Ensuring that employees understand and appreciate the value of the entire employment deal—not just pensions and benefits—is key, notes Sarah Beech, managing principal, consulting, with Hewitt Associates. She says we’ll see a continued focus from employers on total rewards strategies as a means of communicating this message. “We’re seeing increased flexibility from a design perspective [and] more communication around the total rewards aspect of the employment deal.”

Related Links

Employers should also ensure that their benefits programs are aligned with their overall HR and business objectives. For example, many employers are reviewing their strategies for attraction and retention in light of the anticipated labour shortage. “They’re looking to tie what they’re doing programmatically into assisting them with their talent management strategies and addressing the demographic changes that they’re experiencing,” adds Kevin Aselstine, managing principal with Towers Perrin.

The main message to employers: money alone can’t buy employee happiness. Instead, employers need to think more strategically about how their benefits plans fit into their overall compensation and HR objectives—and how well they’re communicating this to employees.

To comment on this story, email