6 Employee Benefits That Will Drive Engagement In 2020

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You’d be hard-pressed to find an owner or manager that doesn’t recognize the importance of employee engagement.

It’s a fact: The more actively engaged your employees are in their work, the more productive they’ll be. According to a study by Gallup, increased employee engagement can lead to a 21% spike in productivity—and a 22% spike in profits.

Overall, engaged employees are satisfied with their occupational circumstances in two ways:

  • Intrinsically—that is, the satisfaction they get from doing their job well
  • Extrinsically—satisfaction with the rewards they receive for doing their job well

To be sure, intrinsic motivation will only go so far. If your employees aren’t properly compensated for their work, they’ll easily become disengaged—and may possibly walk away from your organization for good. 

More than just a competitive salary, you also need to offer strategic benefits to keep your employees engaged. In fact, SHRM’s 2017 Employee Benefit Report found that 29% of respondents have left jobs due to subpar benefits, while 32% report remaining with a company specifically because the organization offered excellent benefits.

The benefits you offer your employees can improve their engagement levels in both direct and indirect ways. In this article, we explore six types of benefits to offer your employees, and explain the role each plays in enhancing employee engagement.

First, let’s go over five overarching best practices to follow when creating a strategic employee benefits package.

5 Best Practices for Selecting Employee Benefits 

As an employer, you have complete control over the benefits you offer your employees.

Figuring out what benefits to offer—to both attract top-quality employees and keep them engaged—isn’t exactly a simple process. As complex as this process may be, that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated.

Here are some overall best practices to keep in mind as you determine your employee benefit strategy.

Offer Benefits Your Employees Value

There’s no universal “best” way of creating a benefits strategy—it’s all subjective to your employees’ needs and expectations.

I like to try to give my team the popular vote whenever possible. In the past, when we’ve updated our policies, I’ve had my team come up with what would be their ideal benefits, within reason, of course. They then collaboratively met and decided on benefits that would be best for everyone. 

After they came up with a good list, they submitted them to me. I took all of them into consideration, and modified ones that needed to be changed. This is something that they enjoyed doing because they got to take the wheel here. I also liked it, because then I could give them the opportunity to communicate what they really liked and did not like. This was a huge hit for our team, and everyone was on the same page afterwards.

By implementing this collaborative benefits plan, employee engagement and productivity are higher. This is because not only did my team come up with ideal benefits, they also implemented different things we could do together as a team into the new policy.” – John Rampton, Founder and CEO, Calendar

As we’ll discuss, while some benefits (e.g., health care, PTO) are typically seen as necessities, others are simply seen as “nice to have”—but aren’t exactly vital to employee satisfaction. It’s important, then, that you address your employees’ more pressing needs first and foremost, then work to determine which of the “nice to haves” are most valued by your team.

Generating feedback from your current team (and prospective employees) is essential here. 

Instead of offering a benefits package that’s “standard” within your industry, take the time to really understand how the benefits you offer impact your employees’ overall experience with your company. In turn, you can then use your benefits package to attract even more high-quality employees to your team.

Communicate Benefits and Policies Clearly

The International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans recently found that most employees don’t exactly have a firm understanding of the benefits they receive from their place of employment.

Too often, this lack of understanding is due to a lack of communication. It’s imperative that you communicate your benefits clearly, in a way that showcases their value to your employees’ lives.

HR meeting employee benefits whiteboard

To do so, consider documenting your benefits information in a variety of formats (e.g., text, video explainers, etc.), then store these files on a centralized internal knowledge base. That way, your employees can access the information whenever they need, and gain a better understanding of what their benefits package truly entails.

Enable Easy Use of Benefits

In addition to offering benefits that are easy to comprehend, you also need to ensure that it’s easy for your employees to take advantage of said benefits, as well.

Streamlining the enrollment process should be your number one priority here. There’s simply no reason your employees should ever feel frustrated or confused when enrolling in a healthcare or other such program via your organization.

Additionally, make sure the process of actually using the offered benefits is simple and easy, too. Whether this means creating an intuitive UI for taking sick time or PTO, allowing easy access to on-premise facilities, or providing remote work opportunities, your employees should never face difficulties when it comes time to take advantage of the benefits you’ve promised them.

Provide Options Whenever Possible

Though you’ll have already created your benefits package with your employees’ needs and desires in mind, there’s no guarantee that all of your employees will appreciate the package as-is.

family selecting annual benefits during open enrollment

If at all possible, consider offering flexible benefit plans that your employees can customize to their liking. While this may lead to more complexity regarding your benefits across the board, offering a “cafeteria plan” can enhance your relationship with your employees, as it will become clear that you’re truly looking out for their individual well-being.

Be Progressive With the Benefits You Offer

Perhaps most importantly, know that the benefits you offer today might not be the benefits your employees want to receive in the years to come.

In other words, your benefits package should evolve over time.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should make mere surface-level changes to your benefits plan, or add to your package a collection of superficial benefits that nobody asked for.

(Adding a daily yoga class isn’t going to make up for a lack of dental coverage…)

But, you do need to keep your employees current and future needs in focus at all times. 

As the overall culture of the workforce shifts over the years, so too will your employees’ expectations in terms of benefits and compensation. In staying ahead of the curve in this regard, you’ll continue to keep your best employees engaged, on board, and working productively for your organization.

A company can only design benefits that support engagement and productivity if they are clear on their culture first. That’s because the right benefits don’t boost engagement and productivity in a vacuum. The right benefits amplify specific values and messages in the company’s culture, which, in turn, boosts engagement as a result of that very intentional culture-building.” – Randi Braun, Executive Coach & Founder, Something Major

6 Employee Benefits to Drive Workplace Engagement

Here, we’ll dig into six employee benefits you’ll want to consider offering your employees.

While each benefit we’ll be discussing impacts employee engagement in different ways, and to different degrees, they all play a part in creating a well-rounded benefits package that your employees will appreciate.

Without further ado, let’s dig in.

1.) Health Benefits

Without a doubt, benefits related to healthcare and medical insurance have the biggest impact on employee engagement—in two key ways.

First of all, it’s what the modern employee wants. According to a recent survey by Glassdoor, 40% of working adults rank medical insurance first on the list of most valuable employee benefits.

Digging a bit deeper, the fact is that health affects work, and work affects health. If your employees aren’t healthy, they won’t be able to perform to their highest potential. But, if you haven’t provided them proper health benefits, they may be less likely to get the medical treatment they need to stay healthy. In turn, their productivity will suffer.

(The American Productivity Audit suggests that employees who go into work sick or injured end up costing businesses over $150 billion annually. We’ll come back to this shortly.)

When assessing healthcare plans to offer, focus on those that are:

  • Affordable and worthwhile for your employees
  • As comprehensive as possible

With healthcare costs on the rise, offering a comprehensive health plan is an effective way to keep your healthiest and most engaged employees onboard for a long time to come.

2.) Vacation, PTO, and Sick Time

Of course, your employees will need to take time off at some point. And you want them to be able to do just that.

As we just mentioned, when an employee isn’t at their best—be it physically ill, emotionally off, or just plain tired—their productivity suffers to the point that they’re actually losing money for the company.

baby on the beach family vacation PTO

If you want your employees to be at their best, you have to give them time to recover when they aren’t. 


You need to give them some time away from the job, too. As Glassdoor’s report shows, 37% of adults rank PTO and vacation time as the most important benefit to offer, with 32% saying the same with regard to paid sick time.

In providing paid time off in any format, you’ll increase employee engagement in a variety of ways:

  • Improved morale
  • Increased productivity
  • Enhanced trust and alignment

The more comfortable your employees feel taking time off when they need to, the more productive and engaged they’ll be when back on the clock. Prove to them that you see them as people first and employees second, and they’ll be more than happy to stick around within your organization.

3.) Performance Bonuses

If you want your employees to be more engaged with their work, there’s a pretty simple solution we haven’t mentioned yet—pay them more.

And the modern employee agrees. According to Glassdoor, 35% of adults say that performance-related bonuses are a top priority regarding employment benefits. 

It just makes sense: If an employee puts more effort into their work, and your business sees higher returns because of it, of course you should reward them with a bump in pay.

To state the obvious, the impact on employee engagement here is that the bonus is contingent on engagement and productivity in the first place. While other benefits impact engagement in a more indirect manner, performance bonuses allow you to cut right to the chase.

Additionally, offering performance bonuses will be attractive to prospective employees, who will likely hit the ground running as they come onboard in the future.

On a deeper level, offering performance bonuses allows you to show your employees that you truly value their efforts, and are willing to share in the profits they’ve helped create.

Whether looking to quickly engage new hires, or keep your long-term employees engaged as time goes on, offering performance bonuses is always a surefire way to make it happen.

4.) Professional Development and Tuition Reimbursement

Earlier, we talked about the idea of offering extrinsic benefits to your employees while playing off the intrinsic rewards they seek from their careers and lives.

In offering professional development and training opportunities to your team members, you can do just that. 

In terms of extrinsic value, you’ll be providing them with opportunities to advance their career and earn a higher salary. Not only will you be providing them future monetary rewards, but you’ll also bear much of (if not all of) the cost of their education, as well.

Regarding intrinsic value, investing in your employees’ development will act as further proof that you value that which they bring to your company. Again, when your employees understand the value of their efforts, they’ll be more likely to put their best effort into their work.

Professional development is an opportunity both to give back to your employees and at the same time to provide tools your team needs to be more productive. It is a great investment that has both short term and long term benefits.”  – Jennifer K. Stine, Ph.D., Founder, Academic Leadership Group

college graduation tuition reimbursement program

It’s also worth mentioning that employees with a growth mindset—that is, those most likely to engage with professional development opportunities—are typically more engaged in their work, overall. By providing them more and more opportunities to grow, you’ll inherently lead them to become even more engaged in their duties as time goes on.

5.) Schedule Flexibility

As we’ve said before, offering remote work opportunities and other modes of schedule flexibility isn’t exactly a new trend…

But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. In fact, our trusty Glassdoor report found that 30% of employees see schedule flexibility as a key benefit they’d like their employers to offer.

This flexibility can come in a variety of formats, such as:

  • Offering flexible working hours
  • Allowing for work-from-home or remote work
  • Scheduling employee work based on project deadlines, not time (i.e., 9:00-5:00)


The idea is to allow your employees to work when and where they’re most comfortable and best able to get their work done—as long as it’s conducive to your organization’s productivity and profit margin.

To be sure, offering this flexibility absolutely has an impact on employee engagement. For one, employees who work remotely 60-80% of the time are more engaged than the average worker. What’s more, employees who have control over their schedules are typically more engaged and productive in their work, overall.

We said it earlier: You don’t want your employees working when they’re not at their best. In allowing them to have more control over their workday, you can be confident that they’ll be fully engaged when they get to work.

6.) Wellness and Recreational Programs

Earlier, we talked about health and wellness through the lens of medical benefits.

Here, the focus is on the more recreational and culture-focused wellness programs you might offer your employees.

The connection is clear: Offering wellness programs as a benefit keeps employees happy, healthy, and engaged at work.

As data collected by Optum shows, those who participate in or have access to wellness programs are:

  • 45 percent more likely to rate their work performance as higher than co-workers
  • 88 percent more likely to feel valued by their employer
  • 57 percent more likely to continue working for their employer
personal wellness yoga class

What’s more, having opportunities to engage with colleagues in a more recreational setting grows team rapport—which, in turn, leads to more fluid collaboration and engagement when working together.

From gym memberships and yoga classes to courses on healthy eating and parenting, facilitating your employees’ personal growth will ultimately keep them engaged with their work moving forward.

Putting it All Together

The benefits you offer your employees can keep them engaged in their duties in both direct and indirect ways.

But, this is contingent on two key factors:

First, you must take your employees’ actual needs and expectations into consideration when putting together your benefits package. Simply put, if your employees don’t have any use for the benefits you offer, they aren’t going to have an impact on their job performance.

Secondly, your employees must have open access to all information related to your benefits at all times. Along with this, you should also provide them with supplementary materials to help them better understand the policies in question.

Emil Hajric Headshot

Post provided by Emil Hajric

Emil Hajric is the founder and CEO of Helpjuice – a powerful knowledge management solution. Helpjuice’s knowledge base software can be used to document your benefits package as well as make the information easily accessible to employees.

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