The Changing World of Benefits & Employee Retention in a Post- ACA Workplace

According to CEB’s 2013 Global Labor Market Research study, health benefits were one of the top five benefits a job seeker looked at when evaluating a company. With the Affordable Care Act, employers will need to start looking at different benefits and ways to retain employees who have more options when it comes to one of the most important benefits a company can offer.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has changed the benefits landscape as we know it by providing the opportunity for all individuals to be eligible for health insurance without a waiting period due to a gap in coverage. Anyone is now able to get insurance, whether or not it is offered by his or her current employer. In some cases the health insurance that they’re able to obtain is even cheaper than what their employer offers.

I’ve had several friends who have wanted to leave their jobs, but they couldn’t because the insurance was a necessity, especially when raising a family. This necessity for health insurance has been one of the major deterrents for employees who were no longer satisfied at their current company to leave said employer. However, due to the ACA, employers are no longer able to use health care as a main benefit in recruiting talent, because it’s now available to everyone.

In what I like to call the “free agent economy,” where the movement between project-based activities is more fluid, employers must now focus on making their organization more attractive with new and non-traditional types of perks and benefits. Employers have to start thinking outside the box and marketing their employer brand in a way that lures a candidate into their own economy. The only way companies are able to do this is to offer some of the flexibility and freedom that comes with the “free agent economy.”

In the new marketplace—that is the workplace—employees are driven to stay with organizations for reasons like fulfillment, relationships, and new career opportunities. It’s a new post-recession workplace where employers are being forced to view talent, skills, and knowledge of workers differently. They are truly short in supply.

The post-ACA workplace will rely on a company’s ability to engage their employees in a way that makes those employees feel like they’re part of something bigger than the company itself. Companies that are able to build and maintain a culture that places people at the center of their business will be able to build a workforce that does more then punch a time clock or complete tasks— one in which the employees feel empowered and part of fulfilling the overall mission of their company.

Companies that are working diligently to build a one-of-a-kind culture have been able attract employees in a different way, where the top benefits of the company are just an added perk. Candidates who apply for jobs at companies like Zappos are looking forward to being a part of the culture itself. Health benefits, vacation time, etc. at this point are just added perks to the culture. As free agents, they are able to have unlimited vacation time, purchase their own health insurance, and contribute to their own “benefits” package with a lot more freedom. Candidates are looking for companies who are able to develop them into something bigger and better, and that is why it’s so important to retain your most productive and engaged workers.

Benefits need to extend beyond how we treat new hires and those who are onboarding. Organizations need to go beyond traditional benefits and look at how they can provide exiting employees support with offboarding programs like outplacement services, 401(k), and COBRA assistance.

Whether a free agent position or a traditional FTE, the ACA has made is easier for employees to make their own decisions. It’s up to us as employers to focus on the entire employee life cycle and how we can make the best experience regardless of where they are individually.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is an author, speaker, HR professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the President/CEO of Xceptional HR and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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