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What’s a Potential Benefit We Could Offer That Would be Helpful to You?

This question is very specific, and it might not apply to you, but if you have any input on employee benefits or if you have responsibility for benefit recommendations or decisions, ask away.

Over the years I’ve noticed a small, common behavior between partners in successful and happy long-term relationships. When a holiday or birthday approaches, they have a conversation that starts something like this: "What’s on your list this year?" I wish I could convey the warm tone of voice that’s behind this simple sentence. Don’t allow yourself to read it with disinterest or sarcasm because that’s not the way it is said by these partners. Don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s said at every gift opportunity either. These partners haven’t abandoned the notion of a surprise, but they have come to realize that gifts that are grounded in real needs are better investments.

What does this have to do with employee benefits? A lot. Years ago our workplaces were filled with a fairly homogeneous group of people. Deciding on a new benefit was fairly easy. But, in case you haven’t looked recently, things have changed. In one department you probably have a Baby Boomer looking at retirement issues, an older GenX with young children, a younger GenX looking for opportunities to learn and develop new skills either with you or someone else, and a GenY starting their working life. Your employees are increasingly diverse–different races, ethnic backgrounds, and life experiences. The Vietnam War and protests, the assassination of JFK, and mornings with Captain Kangaroo are seminal events and icons for some and ancient history for others. Desert Storm, the Challenger explosion, and MTV hold the same positions for others. One size does not fit all in this group; in truth, one size doesn’t even fit most!

As you work to provide benefits for your employees while being a good steward of your organization’s resources, you need specific information about the people in your organization. Benefit programs that don’t meet the varied needs of your employees are a waste and reflect poor leadership. Asking this question won’t make these decisions easy, but it will make you a better decision-maker.