Selling Employee Benefits Versus Simply Providing Them

By Dan Eisner, Employee Benefits Advisor

Regardless of the type of business that you are involved in, you are likely trying to “sell” something, whether it be a tangible product or a service. These sales efforts are conducted in some form of competitive market environment – if you do not do it better than your competitor, you risk losing the business. In order to be competitive, most businesses invest significant amounts of resources and energy on marketing and sales activities.

So, what does this have to do with employee benefits? Benefits plan sponsors need to have the same “marketing and sales” perspective when it comes to competing for key talent. Regardless of the type of business you are involved in, you need employees to run it and you should have a “people strategy” to support your broader business strategy. Study after study confirms that employee benefits are one of the most valued components of an employment offering (after salary) and therefore it makes a lot of sense that your employee benefits strategy supports your people strategy. Based on our experience, it appears there may be untapped opportunities to do better in “selling” their employment brand.

Organizations spend lots of time and energy in advertising (akin to marketing) and recruiting (akin to selling) for new employees but that typically culminates in a fairly traditional “offer letter” to a potential candidate. This letter usually includes a systematic listing of things like base salary, vacation entitlement, other workplace policies, and employee benefits. For the employee benefits portion of the offer letter, the benefits are often laid out like an insurer booklet – systematically describing benefits like Life, AD&D, Long Term Disability, Extended Health, Dental, etc. This offer letter is often seen as a routine final step and a formality in the hiring process but perhaps it could be more. If potential employees are taking these offer letters home and likely comparing them to their current employment package or comparing them to other offer letters they may have received from competitors, how do you get yours to stand out from the crowd? How do you more effectively “sell” your employee benefits offering and your broader employment brand?

Based on various sources of research, we know which types of employee benefits that employees value the most, so simply re-ordering them in the offer letter and focusing more on the most valued benefits makes more sense. Employees should still know something about their life and disability benefits but they really want to know more about their health and dental coverage, universally the most valued components of the employee benefits package. As well, if you are able to provide spending accounts, either or both non-taxable (Health Care Spending Account) and taxable (i.e., Wellness, Fitness, Lifestyle), these may resonate more to prospective employees and therefore should go right up front as we know that employees want the additional choice and flexibility that these programs provide. As well, employee benefits should be integrated into the broader total rewards offering – if you provide great time-off policies or have the best incentive plans, that should go right up front as well.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity lies around tapping into an organization’s existing marketing and sales departments, which are externally focused, and get their perspective on the recruiting programs. Given that organizations are in the business of “selling” their employment offer letter, why not get the professional support of the internal team and resources that are already focused on selling products and/or services externally. As well, there may be an opportunity to develop a more sophisticated “employment brand” that supports the business strategy. In a best case scenario, you may be able to tie your employment and business brands together, which is becoming important in a world where some employee groups, particular Millennials and Gen-Z, are more focused on what a business’ brand is or what it stands for.

We would be pleased to discuss your specific situation with you to identify the best strategy with respect to your employee benefits and retirement programs. Should you have any questions on the above, please don’t hesitate to contact me or a member of our team.

ZLC Financial is one of the fastest growing advisors for employee benefits programs in Vancouver and we are fortunate to have the best people, resources and clients. We provide value to you by leveraging one of the most skilled benefits teams – over 350 years of experience within our team of 18 employee benefits specialists. We have been working with businesses ranging from 3 to over 75,000 plan members for the past 35 years.

Disclaimer: This information is designed to educate and inform you of strategies and products currently available. The views (including any recommendations) expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and are not necessarily those of ZLC Financial. This information is not to be construed as investment advice. It is for educational or information purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal, taxation or account advice; as each situation is different, please seek advice based on your specific circumstance. This commentary is not in any respect to be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities.


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