Benefits play a crucial role in attracting and retaining employees. According to one study, 59% of employees reported that benefits were very important in their overall attitude toward their employer and 69% said that the benefits offered might cause them to choose one job over another. What makes one benefit plan more attractive than others? Affordability of plans and a reasonable number of options are universally agreed upon as a starting point. Assuming you have met those baseline expectations, what can you do to ensure that your benefits stand out as unique and innovative to both current employees and new candidates?Provide Access to Voluntary BenefitsGood health care insurance options are the cornerstone of a competitive benefits plan, but a strong selection of voluntary benefits can distinguish you as an employer. Even though employees will typically pay 100% of the cost of these plans, they appreciate the convenience of being able to enroll in them through work and to have the premiums deducted from their payroll. Employers are also able to offer lower premiums that employees would be able to obtain on the open market. Traditional voluntary benefits include dental, vision, life (and dependent life), accident, disability, cancer and critical illness insurance. Today, many employees have the option to purchase pet insurance, identity theft coverage and even home or automobile insurance, An Aflac study indicated that employees who are offered the option to enroll voluntary benefits through their employer are more likely to report being satisfied with their jobs and their benefits.Offer Great PerksPerks have been included with employment packages for decades, typically in the form of value-adds that help employees perform their job. Company cars, laptops, cell phones, travel discounts and other related extras are fading into the background against some pretty amazing perks for today’s workers. Some companies offer unlimited vacation time, with the caveat that work deliverables are to be met regardless of time taken out of office. NetFlix has no official, mandatory office hours, the ultimate extension of modern flex-schedules.The option to bring a pet to work is another trending office perk that is popular with employees, particularly Millennials who tend to start their families later and are more likely to own a pet for company. 75% of Millennials own a dog; that’s 50% higher than the general population. If you’d like to explore offering this perk, read these tips on creating a dog-friendly workplace and check out’s recommendations for dog-at-work policies.Include Unusual Benefit Offerings        Non-traditional benefits are becoming more appealing to employees, especially to the over 90% of Gen Xers and Millennials who say that unique benefit offerings make an employer more attractive. According to research by CNN Money, currently fewer than 20% of employers offer any form of paternity leave, yet 89% of respondents in a survey on paternal leave by Boston College’s Center for Work and Family agreed that paid paternity leave is important for employers to provide.Adding benefits that are desired by many employees yet provided by a minority of employers is a certain path to ensuring your benefits stand out. Laundry and even house cleaning services are another unique benefit that is intended to increase loyalty and retention with employees and their spouses or partners. These services save employees time and money and make a contribution to their quality of life that will make them think twice about moving on.Tuition reimbursement has been a staple in a rich benefit plan for many years, but creative employers today are also offering student loan repayment/reimbursement benefits. According to a recent article in Forbes, only 3% of employers currently offer these plans, yet 70% of the class of 2016 graduated with some student debt, as they joined the 40 million Americans who carry education-related debt. With only a small percentage of employers currently offering this benefit, there is considerable opportunity to stand out as an employer by adding loan reimbursement to your benefit plans. Like tuition reimbursement, this benefit can be tied to tenure with your company.In its recent State of the American Workplace report, Gallup reported that more than half of employees are actively looking for a new position or keeping an eye out for new opportunities. Competition for talent is expected to intensify in coming years, making it harder to find good people and harder to keep them. By creating a benefits offering that stands out from the crowd, you’ll be optimized to compete in the coming talent wars.

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