When looking for a job, weighing the options for employees is about much more than base pay.

By Chris Duchesne

The role, the manager, and the compensation are all important factors in deciding whether to join a new company, but benefit programs are a critical factor as well. According to a recent MetLife study, 61percent of employees say the benefits offered were the reason they joined their employer—69 percent say they are the reason they stay with their employer (2010 MetLife 8th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends). And increasingly, employees are looking for benefits that are tailored to them as individuals, not blanket programs that leave them wondering if their employer understands their needs. More than ever, the lines between work and home life are blurring and working for a company
that understands that is important to employees.

Family dynamics have changed, and today’s parents are facing unique work-life challenges that previous generations did not. Women are sharing family responsibilities with their spouses, more men are opting to take on a larger childcare role, technology is enabling work flexibility, and more women are staying in the workforce after having kids—in fact 40 percent are the family bread-winner. All of this means that we also have to evolve our thinking about benefits programs and work flexibility, whether you are already a parent or think you could be one in the next five years.

Companies who value their employees and want to retain top talent recognize the importance of benefits programs and a company culture that encourages employees to take advantage of them. They are looking for holistic solutions that provide a broad range of services that can help meet employees’ needs as they change over time. With the changed employee-employer contract, employees want to be recognized not just for their output and contributions, but as valued members of the organization who exist outside the work space as well.

Flexible work options, paid leave and benefits like child and adult/elder care solutions prevent workers from having to take unpaid leave and decrease related absences—good for both the employee and the employer. Among the top benefits highlighted by employees today are:

Flexibility
Whether it’s the ability to work from home a couple of days a week or the option to work four longer days and take the fifth off to run errands, make doctors’ appointments, or recharge , flexibility is key to employees. Technology has changed when and where work can be done. Especially for the latest generation of workers, the concept of being in the office and working a traditional schedule are no longer predictors of success, and for many is a turnoff.

Meeting Care Needs
With changing family dynamics, care responsibilities, whether for a child or an aging parent, no longer fall predominantly on women so care programs that assist both men and women are essential. Forward-thinking companies recognize that their employees are multi-dimensional, juggling the demands of work and family and offer care and backup care programs for employees.

Maternity and Paternity Leave
Most companies now offer maternity and paternity leave programs but whether they are paid or unpaid and length of time offered will vary from company to company. As a general rule of thumb, companies should offer at least two weeks off for paternity leave and should provide pay for as much of 12 weeks of maternity leave as possible. Some companies, like Yahoo!, even offer money for household expenses on top of paid time off.

Benefits programs are evolving and companies are getting creative to lure and keep talented workers. They are seeking solutions that can be tailored to fit diverse employee needs, but feel like a solution for one. After all, happy, balanced people who feel valued are more likely to be focused and motivated employees.

DuchesneChris Duchesne, VP of Global Workplace Solutions for Care.com, brings more than 15 years of experience in HR technology to Care.com, the largest online care destination in the world with 9.7 million members spanning 16 countries. A key member of the leadership team, he oversees the Global Workplace Solutions program that provides customized, cost-effective programs that make Care.com’s suite of services available to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. Each program is tailored to the specific needs of an employee base and can therefore range from the most basic level of services to enhanced back-up care to Senior Care Planning to one-on-one support in establishing care networks for relocating executives. Current clients include start-ups to Fortune 500 companies like Yahoo!, Clif Bar & Company, Facebook, Honest Tea, iRobot, Jamba Juice, Northwestern University, eBay and LinkedIn.

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