Skip to main content

The Top 5 Keys to Building a Benefits-Driven Culture

Definitions of “culture” are numerous, but in the simplest terms, company culture is how things are done in your workplace. In this context, culture should be driven by an organization’s purpose and brand, outlining how employees can succeed. According to Gallup, culture is “a pervasive force that influences the way people work together, how decisions get made, which behaviors are rewarded and who gets promoted.” 

But culture can also be shaped – and reinforced – by your organization’s employee benefits strategy. A healthy workforce culture can make it easier to attract and retain a workforce that values the balanced lifestyle that benefits support, after all. And it takes no stretch of the imagination to see that a culture of wellness is truly a win-win: when your workers are happy and healthy, they perform better, take fewer sick days and experience less burnout.  

Here are a few best practices to make sure your benefits and culture are in sync: 

1. Take Stock of Your Current Culture  

Before enacting sweeping cultural change in your organization, conduct an audit to capture its current state. Often, there’s a disconnect between the way employees view your culture and the vision set by leaders.  

Initiate conversations with your employees to determine how they perceive the culture. You can conduct small focus groups with employees coupled with surveys to build more comprehensive insights. Your questions and method of gathering data will be unique to your organization’s structure and the culture you’re trying to build.  

Ask questions like: 

  • What three words would you use to describe the culture here? (If you’re conducting a focus group, you can allow them to be broader. Ask for examples of why they’ve described the culture that way.) 

  • How do you feel coming into work each day (or logging on to work if your company is remote)? 

  • Do you feel supported and valued by your manager? By the company as a whole? 

  • Do you understand the benefits that you’ve been offered? 

  • Do you know who to contact with questions about your benefits?   

Be as specific as possible. If you have a set of values that are central to your brand mission, be sure to include questions that assess how well each of those values are being reflected in your culture.  

Finally, evaluate and organize your data. Create a “current state” snapshot and compare it with your “ideal state.” Which pieces align with your goals, and which need work? This will help you build a strategic plan with actionable steps that will get your culture where you want it to be.  

2. Lead By Example  

Leaders must nurture and demonstrate company culture through their actions, not just with words. Less than 50 percent of U.S. workers strongly believe their organization cares about their wellbeing, according to Gallup. Companies can be quick to tell employees they value wellness and health, but don’t always back it up with action, causing employees stop paying attention. And when managers aren’t “walking the talk,” employees don’t feel empowered to take care of themselves. 

That’s why one important thing leaders can do is support and encourage employees to use their PTO and sick days. Don’t ask for reasons or justification when they want to use their time off. Consider instituting mandatory PTO if you notice employees are consistently taking fewer vacation days than they’re allotted.  

Mental Health America’s “Mind the Workplace” report showed employees don’t feel comfortable or safe regarding mental health in the workplace. About 59 percent of respondents disagreed that their supervisor provides emotional support to help them manage stress and one in four “strongly disagreed.” Normalize open, honest conversations about wellness and mental health. Direct your managers to initiate those discussions with their employees in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere. Encourage employees to talk about stress and educate leaders to recognize signs of burnout — and take steps to resolve it when they do.  

It is important to make good on the promises you made to your employees about caring for their well-being or your culture will be seen as insincere. 

3. Provide Ongoing Education and Communication  

Keeping employees informed is a year-round initiative. New hires will be introduced to benefits offerings during onboarding and initial training. But many companies make the mistake of not following up periodically to remind employees of their available benefits.  

Educating employees empowers them to make the best decisions as they utilize their benefits throughout the year and when it comes to open enrollment. Develop a clear, transparent communication plan with educational materials about each of your offerings. This is a good time to measure benefit usage and see which programs need a boost in visibility or require further education for employees to understand their value.  

Be sure to use a variety of channels to reach employees: social media, email, hallway flyers (if you have a physical office) and/or text reminders. And sometimes it makes sense to engage employees’ family members, too, with direct mail. 

Learn more about deploying effective benefits communications in Action! Solving The Benefits Communication Conundrum. 

4. Listen to Employee Feedback  

The best way to keep your employees engaged with their benefits is to listen to them and make changes based on their feedback. You can send surveys annually to get better insight into the value your benefits are providing your employees.  

Ask questions like:  

  • What benefits do you like the most/least? 

  • On a scale of 1-10, rank the importance of each benefit to you. 

  • What benefits would you like to see added to our current plan, or which of the following benefits would you like to see added to our current plan?  

For the latter question, you can include a follow-up that asks employees to rank the potential options in order of importance.  

Creating a culture of wellness requires you to be aware of your employees’ varying needs and ensure you’re meeting them. Modify benefits offerings or create new ones when needed. Take action to prove you’re committed to their health and well-being, building trust in your company culture. 

Check out our February Top 5 list for more on how listening to feedback can get employees excited about using their benefits. 

5. Incorporate Wellness into Culture Outside of Benefits  

A strong benefits plan alone doesn’t make a culture of wellness. Prioritize workplace behaviors that help employees have a healthy relationship with their jobs. For example:  

  • Encourage employees to block time on their calendar for taking breaks and engaging in wellness activities like going for walks or doing yoga. 

  • Implement a policy that employees are not expected to reply to emails or calls outside of working hours. 

  • Incentivize employees for taking advantage of their benefits using monetary rewards, physical gifts, special recognition or extra perks like additional vacation days. 


So there you have it! These five ideas are just the beginning. Explore the posts recommended below – and stay tuned to this blog for more insights and inspiration.