In this Episode: Brian speaks with Paula Chizek, CMO, Benefits and Protection, at Principal Financial about their innovative approach to employee benefits. Paula provides deep insights on balancing cost and value, engaging employees through gamification, and preparing for future trends like succession planning in workplace benefits.

Podcast Highlights from Paula Chizek:

Importance of Customized Benefits: Understanding that every small business is unique is crucial. The benefits that employees want or need vary greatly, and a robust offering tailored to these needs is essential for employee retention and recruitment. 

Evolving Landscape of Workplace Benefits: The macroeconomic environment and personal/business financial stresses have made it vital for small businesses to be equipped with the right tools and information. This includes providing financial security for both the business owners and their employees. Employee benefits and income protection solutions are key to financial wellness and stability.

Digital Tools for Benefit Management: Digital tools now offer just-in-time information, streamlining the benefits process and improving communication between employers and employees. This includes enrollment activities, educational experiences, and electronic handling of policies and payments.

Employee Utilization of Benefits: It’s crucial to ensure that employees understand and utilize the benefits available to them. Small businesses have the advantage of direct communication with employees to address any gaps or misunderstandings about the benefits offered.

Overcoming Obstacles in Benefit Implementation: Business owners often face obstacles such as fear of the unknown and inertia when implementing benefits programs. Overcoming these challenges involves partnering with knowledgeable entities and fostering an environment where employees can discuss and understand their benefits. 

Creative Engagement with Benefits: One company gamified their benefits program to make it more engaging and informative. This approach, involving games like benefits bingo or jeopardy, helped employees learn about their benefits in a fun way, increasing awareness of available options like hospital indemnity and paid family medical leave.

Disconnect Between Employer Perception and Employee Desires: There is often a gap between what employers think their employees want and what the employees desire in terms of benefits. 

Flexible Benefits for Diverse Needs: There is an increasing need for flexibility in benefits offerings, not just in terms of remote work but also including flexible hours and work-life fit. Employees of small and midsize businesses express a strong desire for benefits that align with their changing life circumstances.

Balancing Cost and Value of Benefits: Business owners must balance the cost of providing comprehensive benefits against the value they bring in terms of employee satisfaction and retention. Not offering certain benefits might lead to higher costs in the form of employee turnover and recruitment challenges.

Future Trends in Workplace Benefits: Looking ahead, succession planning, business valuation, and exit strategies are becoming more important. This trend reflects the need for benefits that ensure business continuity and security for employees, especially in family-owned businesses where the next generation may not want to continue the business.