How to offer benefits employees actually want

benefits graph

To attract star recruits in this rigid labor market, some foodservice operations are sweetening job offers with innovative benefits such as pet insurance or discounts on wireless internet and hotels. However, some operators are finding that their workforce doesn’t always take advantage of their benefits.

At Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix, many team members qualify for state or federal programs, and don’t opt for the employer’s health benefits. “We’re trying to get a pulse on what’s really important generationally,” says Joshua Fels, director of culinary and nutrition services for the medical facility. “We have everything from millennials, who don’t understand anything about the benefits offered, [to] boomers who are fully invested in those benefits.” Finding out what exactly matters to these staff members at different stages of life requires some effort, he says. Here’s how Fels works to select the right perks for his team.

Ask for input

benefits package

During open enrollment, Fels and his team spend a portion of their weekly meetings asking team members for feedback on their benefits package. Managers also set up one-on-one conversations with workers who have suggestions and questions. During those discussions, employees often share attractive benefits they are seeing at competitors, he says.

Fels also recommends being available in the operation, especially during open enrollment. “It’s about being present in their space where they’re working to continue to build that credibility and trust,” he says.



When it comes to complicated benefits, it’s important to take on an educator role, Fels says. His team takes every opportunity to advertise the operation’s benefits and help team members make sense of them. During department meetings, Fels carves out time to drill in the importance of getting invested in a 401(k) right now for younger team members, and how different people could benefit from their tiered healthcare plans.

Stay relevant

college textbooks

Full-time Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix employees can apply to receive $5,000 a year toward their school tuition. And those who are not selected can take advantage of discounts at several colleges, universities and trade schools that the hospital has partnered with. But the department is looking for more opportunities to satisfy the growing number of team members who want to continue to finish their education. To start, Fels is investigating how to give employees access to GED courses on campus. “Travel and transportation can be a challenge,” he says. “If we can offer [the classes] while they’re here at work, there’s a bigger chance it will be taken advantage of.” 

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