The employment market for accounting firms isn’t going to get better anytime soon. With demand for accounting services rising and the number of available employees effectively shrinking, finding and keeping great employees will continue to be a challenge for firms for years to come.
There are a lot of ways firms can recruit and retain employees, but one of the most obvious and easiest to implement is an excellent benefits package. Yes, benefits cost money, but they represent a long-term investment in both employees and your firm that you can’t afford not to make.
From a flexible work environment to mental-health benefits, here are the five employee benefits your firm needs to offer.
Healthcare benefits are a given for employers now. Employees expect and rely on them. Any of these options can provide great benefits at an affordable price:
- Make sure you offer a Health Savings Account (HSA) if you provide employees with a high-deductible insurance plan, as many employers now do. With an HSA, your employees can put away pre-tax money to reimburse themselves expenses including glasses, less-mainstream treatments like acupuncture and certain medicines that your health insurance plan might not cover.
- An alternative benefit worth considering is an Independent Coverage Health Reimbursement Account (ICHRA). Instead of offering a group health insurance plan, you can contribute pre-tax money that gives your employees the option to purchase a healthcare plan of their choosing from insurance exchanges or a broker.
- Or think about self-insuring with a level-funded plan, which lets you pay for low-end costs and still get a group insurance plan to cover anything catastrophic.
Retirement plans are no longer just for older employees. New workers are looking for opportunities to invest in their future. Retirement plans are a must-have benefit.
Thanks to 2019’s SECURE Act, you have a great incentive to set up a 401(k) retirement plan. You can get reimbursed through tax credits for the costs of setting up the plan. You get even more tax credits if you choose to make enrollment automatic. The act also allows pooled employer plans so you can further reduce your costs by pooling your assets with other companies. When you pool, you can reduce both your fiduciary and financial responsibilities.
Flexible Work Time
Speaking of must-haves, you need to offer at least some sort of flexible work environment. Employees want flexibility. They want better work-life balance. They want to be more independent and mobile. Smart employers are providing flexible work options like these to attract and keep the best people:
- Many employers are grappling with work-from-home policies and how to maintain security policies. One useful option is to allow hybrid work arrangements that individual managers can approve. An employee could, for instance, work one or two days from home and the rest of the week in the office. Other staffers might want to work at home full-time, something you can manage if you’re running applications in the cloud.
- Now might be a good time to consider offering a four-day work week by expanding schedules, perhaps with 10-hour days. You should also start setting up employee evaluations to match deliverables, not just hours worked.
- Another major trend right now is “unlimited,” or flexible, paid time off (PTO) plans. With flexible PTO plans, instead of having a limited number of days off per year employees can take time off without counting the days they’ve used. A lot of employers like this plan because 1) they can choose to make it available to longer-term employees and 2) they can require that paid time off be taken only with a supervisor’s approval.
Providing mental health benefits for employees helps support employees both in the immediate and long term.
Mental health issues used to be a stigma. Not anymore. Millennials and Gen Z, who make up half of our country’s workforce, are more open about their mental health issues than past generations. Smart employers are responding with more benefits aimed at improving and maintaining mental health.
Talk to your health insurance provider and make sure you’re fully up to speed on the benefits available so you can explain them to your staffers. Also, consider signing up for a platform like BetterUp.com or Fringe.us, which offer mental health services. For an annual fee, employees can take advantage of counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals to provide confidential online counseling whenever they need it.
So many workers today have family pressures. It’s not uncommon for both members of a household to work full-time and care for kids, older parents and relatives. The more conflicts your workers have between their job and caretaking, the less productive they are. Dependent care benefits pay back both employees and employers alike.
Every employer should have a plan. It can be as simple as a flex savings plan. Tax rules allow a company to contribute up to $5,000 per year per employee to reimburse for qualified dependent care expenses. The plan must be made available for all, and you don’t have to reimburse the full amount. It’s up to you.
But for whatever you do reimburse, you get a tax deduction and the employee pays no tax. You can combine this benefit with some paid-for financial counseling on how to best take advantage of the dependent and childcare tax credit—providing an invaluable service to your employees.
So, Where Do You Start?
There are plenty of other benefits you can offer your employees. You can pick and choose and provide up to a cost that you can afford. But providing something is what’s important. You’re competing against big companies and governments for talent, so you must offer the competitive employee benefits that will most help you attract and keep the best talent.