Are your HR programs too out of date to engage employees?

(Article by Dana Manciagli originally appeared in

Over the past two decades, the workplace has changed drastically. We’re an information economy. Implementation of flexible work arrangements continues to rise (nearly 80 percent between 2005 and 2012 alone). Casual dress is de rigueur. Millennials have arrived with their talents, mobile phones, apps, devices and a desire for meaningful work.

Yet many companies haven’t adjusted benefits to reflect these shifts. In fact, according to a new report by Quantum Workplace and Limeade, there’s a huge disconnect between what employees want and what employers provide when it comes to benefits, perks and programs. For example

  • 77 percent of employees want time off to recharge, while 45 percent of employers offer it.
  • 71 percent of employees want to work from home, while 32 percent of employers allow it.
  • 74 percent of employees want to work flexible hours, while 46 percent of employers give them the choice.

The report also cites that when employees believe you care about their health and well-being, they’re 38 percent more engaged. This means thinking long-term by offering benefits that are meaningful and relevant to your employees and your culture.

I interviewed Henry Albrecht, CEO of Limeade, an employee engagement technology company, and here are his top recommendations:

Talk to your people

Conduct a benefits satisfaction survey. What do they like? Dislike? What other benefits would they like to see? How do they want to hear about their benefits — email, intranet, a newsletter mailed home, all-hands meetings, something else? Take these responses to heart, and when you launch new benefits and programs in response, let people know you listened.

Use social challenges and pulse surveys to get quick, frequent mini-insights into what’s working, what isn’t and what people want. Walk around and talk to front-line employees, too, for the qualitative flavor tech surveys and management-only discussions can’t give you. And don’t just ask, answer — by making impactful, real-time changes.

Then, compare year-over-year results. After you announce a new benefit program or wellness program, you should see an increase in favorable impressions not just of benefits, but of the company as a whole.

Finally, speak plainly. Employees who are unsure if they have benefits are twice as likely to be disengaged compared to those who understand the benefits offered to them. Be clear about what’s available to reduce uncertainty and build trust.

Create a culturally relevant program

Any program or communication you put in place should feel like it comes from within. Does the program feel organic? Does it fit the ways your people work and what they are trying to accomplish? Does program success impact your overall business goals? You should also consider work environments when creating activities and challenges. You don’t want to implement flexible hours if most of your employees are shift workers. Similarly, offering yoga classes won’t help if your culture won’t accept them.

Numbers are your friends

To get real about relevance, you have to be serious about reporting. Look at utilization — what programs and communications resonate? Look at all of the strategy, management, health, well-being and culture factors that drive engagement. Are employees who engage in your HR and benefits programs more engaged overall? Do employees who take stress-relief breaks feel less stressed? Are employees who take advantage of flexible hours or working from home more likely to stay at your company?

If you’re not sure if your program is relevant to your people, then it probably isn’t. Take this short quiz to find out. Then do something about it.