By Melissa J. Anderson

According to two studies released recently, America’s top companies are working hard to retain high performing staff – and one top method for doing so is expanding workplace benefits.

Given the harsh economic climate, the fabled “war for talent” may seem far off – but considering the number of baby boomers looking toward retirement in the next 10 years, companies are scrambling now to keep them on board. Plus, many recent studies have shown that employees are ready to move as soon as the economy gets a little better.

The solution? Benefits, benefits, benefits. According to Aflac’s recent study, “Eighty-nine percent say strong benefits packages influence job satisfaction, and 86 percent believe they influence employee loyalty.”

But in many cases, the study revealed, the issue may not be increasing the level or type of benefits being offered. Many employees just don’t know what’s already there. In order to retain high performers in the next few years, management and HR will have to get better about communicating these perks to employees.

Communicating Benefits Better

Top talent is looking for better benefits. According to the Aflac report:

“Sixty-three percent say their overall benefits packages factor into whether they’ll change jobs, and more than half (54 percent) say they’d probably accept an employment offer that featured slightly lower compensation but better benefits.”

But providing decent benefits is only half the battle, the report indicates. Communication is key, and many aren’t even sure what their company offers. According to the survey, 66% of employees say HR is not or only somewhat effective at benefits communications.

Additionally, the report indicates, “42% of employees strongly agree that a well-communicated benefits program would make them less likely to leave their jobs.”

This means that companies need to go one step further – explain benefits in a dynamic way that ensures employees “get” what they’re offering. It isn’t worth losing high performing staff simply because benefits weren’t communicated clearly.

Retaining Older Workers

As the US workforce ages, benefits packages must change too – not simply because health and flexibility needs change as people get older. In fact, companies are now designing benefits packages in entice retirement-aged staff to remain in the workforce.

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s new Workplace Benefits Report, companies are looking for creative ways to keep baby boomers and older workers working. As this group of skilled and knowledgeable employees looks toward retirement, companies looking to hang to their decades of expertise will have to make it very attractive to keep them on board.

Andy Sieg, head of Retirement Services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch said, “Our Workplace Benefits Report finds employers are seeking to maximize the value of their financial benefit plans as part of their broader talent management strategies.”

One area employers are particularly concerned about is the needs of the aging workforce. He continued, “To help them win the war for talent, we are working with employers to deliver creative solutions and access to the personalized advice their employees may need to help them achieve their financial goals. This includes new and expanded programs designed to help older employees live well longer.”

As these valuable employees start to look toward the next phase of their lives, companies will need to work harder at providing flex scheduling and compressed workweeks, new healthcare programs, and different kinds of financial incentives to keep them coming back. Companies that aren’t prepared for these changing workforce needs will loose out on this experienced segment of human capital.