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When jobs are tight — as they have been around here for the past three years — people typically concentrate on just finding a job that pays well. Yet, as the economy inches toward a recovery, jobs will be easier to find, and jobseekers shouldn’t forget the value of employee benefits as they go looking for work.

A job isn’t all about a paycheck. It’s about finding work that you find rewarding and fulfilling in a company that treats you well, and it’s about achieving a satisfactory standard of living.

Remember that 40 percent of your total compensation package is going to come in the form of benefits. Yet, for many of us, benefits seem to stand for health insurance, retirement savings plans and a few other things. They aren’t often viewed as components of a compensation package that helps your quality of life.

Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company of Columbia, South Carolina, sensed that and decided recently to see just what employees knew about their benefits. The results were surprising: More than half knew very little about them. So Colonial began conducting one-on-one sessions to help workers understand the value of those benefits. When the company was done, 97 percent of workers said they better understood their benefits.

“Employers that provide good benefits, communication, and education through one-to-one counseling can feel better knowing they are maximizing their benefits investment,” said Randy Horn, Colonial Life’s chief executive.

This knowledge helps employees see the value of benefits offered, and helps them better understand why they share the cost increase when medical insurance premiums rise. Horn says the one-on-one sessions gave employees an environment to ask questions about benefit programs that sometimes seemed obtuse to them.

Some of the common benefits that workers should be aware of are:

Flexible work arrangements. This often can give workers the freedom to adjust their hours or shifts to meet their demands at home. Although the bulk of workers still will work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., many jobs can be done at other hours or outside the office.

401(k) savings plans. This is a very important tool for retirement planning, yet surveys show that only about half of the people with access to these savings plans actually use them. Some companies offer matching funds for every dollar saved by the employee, which is an effective way to boost your true income.

Education assistance. Some companies offer tuition assistance for workers who pursue college degrees that will help them in their careers with the company. Others spring for the cost of individual training or education course that directly impact the worker’s value to the company.

Health and wellness programs. Some companies offer subsidies to health clubs or gyms as a way of encouraging their employees to be healthier. This can also be reflected in direct savings to workers who may get sick less and require less medical attention because they are healthier.

There are hundreds of benefits companies may offer. But if employees don’t understand their value or how to use them, they are worthless. That’s why understanding what benefits your company offers can help you create a better life for you and your family.

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