Should Employees Vote on Benefits Decisions?

Why Not Let Employees Vote on Benefits?

In the spirit of Election Day, here's a question for you to consider:

How much of a voice do your employees have in making decisions about what benefits are offered to them?

Plenty of research indicates that millennials, in particular, want (and expect) a say in such things. Seriously, just Google "millennials in the workplace," and you'll see that transparency and collaboration are two of the most important values millennials look for in an employer. When it comes to organizational decision-making, group input is their gold standard - especially for decisions that will impact everyone in the organization.

Hmm, now what's a decision that impacts everyone in an organization? I wonder...

That's right! Your benefits program is a perfect candidate (see what I did there?) to give your employees - and not just the millennials - a chance to help guide the direction of their experience at your company. You may already survey employees about their benefits to gauge satisfaction, and part of that may be soliciting ideas for changes and/or additions. But have you thought about actually putting specific decisions about your benefits offering to a vote?

Benefits on the Ballot

Let's say, for example, you've offered free gym memberships to employees for several years. It's a very popular benefit, but, at a cost of $40 per employee per month, one that is taking a significant toll on your company's bottom line as your workforce grows. You realize that, without cuts elsewhere, it's an unsustainable situation. What do you do? 

You come up with three options: 1) get rid of free gym memberships altogether and use some of the savings to add one floating holiday to your PTO plan,  2) keep them and offset the cost by requiring employees to take on a greater share of their medical plan premiums, or 3) simply offer partial gym membership reimbursement.

You believe all are fair and viable courses of action. But if you limit the discussion to within the walls of the HR office, your employees may not feel the same way when you notify them of your decision. In fact, they could very well feel betrayed by you - left in the dark and then dictated to about something that they would definitely have an opinion on. If all three options would have the same economic impact for the company, why not turn the decision over to the democratic process and let majority rule?

It could be that your opinion as a benefits team is way off that of your employee population. Maybe not, but wouldn't you rather be sure? 

When people believe they're making decisions for themselves, they feel empowered. When decisions are made for them, it can be very demoralizing. As long as you've been thoughtful about the options you present, allowing employees to vote on their benefits is a win-win. They feel like their voice matters, and are content with the results knowing there was a transparent, democratic process. And you avoid making a decision that's out-of-touch with your workforce while earning the trust and loyalty that's so vital to talent attraction and retention.

Learn more about how to develop your benefits program into an employee magnet for your company in this free, on-demand webinar!