3 benefits your employees will want in 2018

Part of creating a work culture that attracts top talent and keeps employees happy is giving employees a voice – and really listening. As an HR professional, you have a big role to play in making sure employees feel heard, and this is especially true when it comes to benefits.

You may be tempted to make assumptions about the benefits employees want most – health care and retirement planning, for example – but it's important to take the pulse of your workforce each year to see whether needs have changed. This way, you can better ensure your benefits offerings are on target.

To help you do just that, we've listed three "non-traditional," and increasingly popular, benefits your employees might be interested in now and moving forward.

1. Flexible working arrangements 
The rise in popularity of non-traditional working arrangements are leading employees to want more customization in their schedules. In fact, in a recent survey by Fractl, "more flexible hours" was the second most important benefit to job seekers after comprehensive health care coverage. 

Allowing employees to work remotely is one option, and there are a slew of sophisticated video conferencing and collaboration tools out there that can make the transition to telecommuting seamless. If the demands of your business make working remotely difficult, you could consider allowing employees to work hours outside of the traditional 9-to-5 schedule.

Just make sure that you're being equitable with your flexible work benefits. In-office employees may resent your decision-making if some employees are allowed to work remotely full-time and others aren't. Be sure to offer other options to avoid friction.

financesDesire for financial wellness programs is growing.

2. Time off for community service 
According to a report from CECP, 61 percent of companies offered paid time off volunteer programs in 2016. These programs give employees additional vacation days to be used specifically for volunteering in the local community.

With corporate social responsibility tops on many people's lists of what they want in an ideal employer, the rising popularity of this new type of benefit makes sense. However, offering volunteer time off, or VTO, can be more meaningful for employees than a company donating money to a charity or sponsoring a local community event, as an article by Great Place to Work for Fortune magazine explained. 

"When employees are actively involved in giving back it can lead to a deeper commitment and connection to the work," said Elizabeth Stocker, a consultant at Great Place to Work. "It doesn't surprise me that the sentiment was much higher when people are actually involved in the work, rather than a corporate donation being made."

As for offering this benefit at your company, Artisan Talent noted that it may be smart to develop a policy around VTO that clarifies which charities or organizations employees can volunteer at to avoid PR issues. You could also have a process for employees to request VTO at organizations of their choice and then receive approval. 

3. Financial wellness support
The Society for Human Resource Management has seen a rise in the number of financial wellness programs offered by employers, such as sessions with financial counselors. Nearly half of all employers surveyed offered financial advisory services to employees in 2017. In addition to retirement planning and other financial resources, workers want their employers to provide assistance in areas such as student loan management and daily budgeting.

Consider exploring these three benefits options at your company to keep your offerings relevant to employees' needs in 2018.