Employee Benefits Services
Attract and retain the best talent with access to a cost-effective, comprehensive employee benefits package from Paychex. We can help you level the playing field against Fortune 500 companies, take time-consuming HR administrative responsibilities off your plate, and support you with seamless online employee benefits administration.
Support Recruiting and Engage Your Team With Employee Benefits
Group Health Insurance
Attract and retain the best talent with access to a cost-effective, comprehensive employee benefits package, which can help you level the playing field with Fortune 500 companies, take time-consuming HR administrative responsibilities off your plate, and is supported with seamless employee benefits administration.
Employee Benefits Administration
Simplify and automate your employee benefits management with our new benefits administration technology, Flock. Benefits shouldn't be overwhelming, so let our technology do the heavy lifting.
As the nation’s largest 401(k) recordkeeper2, we know 401(k) plans, inside and out. Talk to one of our retirement specialists about how to make employee benefit plan management simple and affordable.
Flexible Spending Accounts
Section 125 “cafeteria” plans, such as a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Premium Only Plan (POP), help employees pay for qualified medical expenses and health insurance premiums, respectively, with pretax funds, which helps them save money by reducing their taxable income.
Health Savings Accounts
Paychex offers Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to help with qualified medical expenses and save on taxes.
Dental and Vision Insurance
Offering supplemental company benefits such as dental and vision insurance can attract new talent and give extra perks to your employees.
In addition to offering Section 125 plans, you can help employees with unforeseen circumstances by offering ancillary benefits such as accident, disability, critical illness, and indemnity coverage.
Individual Health Insurance
Have you lost your group coverage? Call in the professionals. Our licensed insurance agents will look at your insurance needs and help find a healthcare plan to fit your situation.
Contact us today to get a free quote
Why Employee Benefit Services Help Your Business
Benefits Administration Challenges Many Employers
32% of business owners struggle with offering competitive employee benefits and compensation.1
Improve Benefits Offerings Without Additional Costs
PEO clients can help reduce the cost of health insurance benefits for employees, compared to those who go it alone.
Stay Competitive While Alleviating Your Administrative Responsibilities
One of the most frequent responsibilities that business owners would like to outsource is the administration of 401(k) and benefits.
Offer Convenience and Value to Employees
Paychex Flex® allows employees to initiate a variety of activities themselves, empowering them to get the answers they need, when they need them — saving your HR teams’ time and helping maintain everybody’s productivity. Through the Paychex Flex website or mobile app, you can:
- Control costs by integrating payroll and benefits with our Flock Benefits Administration system.
- Help your workforce save for their financial future with 401(k) plans, HSAs, and the financial wellness tool, FinFit®
- Give employees the opportunity to develop and grow in their careers with courses they can access online, anytime.
Provide Support Through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Confidential resources and support that help employees deal with challenges head-on — counseling, resolving medical claims, managing stress, stopping smoking, or losing weight — can help reinforce your commitment to their well-being.
FinFit® Financial Wellness Program
85% of employees would like consultation on financial education.3 This valuable benefit is offered free to all Paychex customers. Support your workforce in their efforts to secure their financial future with:
- Personalized financial assessments
- Online education, budgeting tools and credit resources
- Student Loan Consolidation Concierge
- Short-term employee loans* for emergencies and the unexpected
- Smarter alternatives to 401(k) loans, payday loans and payroll advances
- Open configuration options
- A financial wellness benefit at no extra charge
Paychex Is the Most Experienced Retirement Plan Provider
We offer all-in-one payroll and employee benefits administration for more efficient recordkeeping. Add to that flexible plan designs, full-service administration, employee self-service, and the expertise of the nation’s number one 401(k) plan recordkeeper2.
Find the Right Solution for Your Business
We can help you discover what you may need and how to get there. Tell us more about your business with our interactive solutions tool.
PEO: An Affordable Way To Manage Employee Benefits
A professional employer organization (PEO) provides economies of scale that may allow you to offer valuable company benefits and services, such as 401(k) plans and HSA or FSA accounts. A dedicated Paychex HR professional is also assigned to you to proactively assess your needs and create an action plan and provide knowledgeable HR advice.
Gain Total Visibility With Up-to-Date Benefits Data
Leverage complete administrative visibility and control over comprehensive benefits data and processes, including up-to-the-minute status and eligibility changes. Drive informed decision-making with reports by department, location, division, or other data categories. Data can also be made available to brokers or third-party administrators.
Tech Startup Builds Infrastructure with Benefits to Compete Against Giants
Lyrid Inc. did its homework by first listening to its employees and then selecting Paychex to help put a benefits package in place that matched what they wanted and needed to be successful.
"What makes a successful company is the employees. They want to be heard. They want to be taken care of. Working with Paychex (on benefits) ... allows me to showcase to potential employees that we are different (than other startups)."
Employee Benefit FAQs
Why Are Employee Benefits So Important?
Why Are Employee Benefits So Important?
Two words: recruitment and retention. Surveys show that an overwhelming majority of today’s job candidates prefer an employer who offers a good employee benefits and employee services package. Employees who have benefits tend to stay longer in their jobs, saving the organization the cost of replacement and onboarding.
We offer benefits administration tools that help you with the process of choosing, setting up, and managing your benefits package.
How Do You Offer and Manage Employee Benefits?
How Do You Offer and Manage Employee Benefits?
Businesses may set up their own employee benefits packages, but managing company benefits services and employee plan services accounts and keeping up to date with regulations can be a burden. Many businesses outsource their benefits administration to an all-in-one provider who can manage the complexities of retirement, health insurance, compliance, and ACA/ESR requirements.
What Are Legally Required Benefits?
What Are Legally Required Benefits?
Certain employee benefits are legally mandated by federal, state, and local laws. These vary by location but may include Social Security and Medicare. Federal mandatory employee benefits include:
- Social Security and Medicare
- Unemployment insurance
- Workers' compensation insurance
How Much Do Employee Benefits Cost?
How Much Do Employee Benefits Cost?
The price of an employee benefits package can vary depending on the complexity of the plans. A Paychex HR business partner is available to help you select a benefits package that meets your business goals, budget, and company culture.
What Employee Benefits Are Most Important?
What Employee Benefits Are Most Important?
Depending on federal and state laws and regulations, businesses may be legally required to offer unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, and other benefits. Businesses may also give employees the options of voluntary benefits for dental or life insurance, flexible spending accounts (FSA/HSA), or 401(k) plans. Employees may consider other “non-traditional” benefits to be important, such as stock options, tuition reimbursement, and telecommuting or remote work — one of the most desired benefits, according to the 2021 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey.
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State-facilitated Workplace Retirement Programs: What Businesses Should Know
6 min. Read
Over half of U.S. states have enacted legislation requiring private-sector businesses of a certain size to participate in a state-facilitated IRA program if they don’t currently offer an employee retirement plan. Businesses that don’t comply could potentially incur state penalties. Employers can choose a retirement plan from a non-government provider as long as it meets state requirements.
Across America, many states are experiencing a retirement savings crisis. For example, in Connecticut, 600,000 working people still have no access to retirement plans. In New York State, that number is in the millions. The Federal Reserve reports that roughly a quarter of non-retired adults have no retirement savings.
To deal with this crisis, 14 states and two cities have enacted legislation and five have been fully implemented programs. Of the enacted states, almost all are mandatory except for Massachusetts, which has proposed legislation to make it mandatory for for-profit businesses, as well as New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington.
Enacted: Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, New York state, New Jersey, Virginia, Maine, Vermont, and New Mexico, and the city of Seattle, WA.
Fully implemented and active—California, Illinois, Massachusetts (for non-profits), Oregon, and Washington
Check the status of your state at our online resource center.
State Retirement Programs, at a Glance
If your business already offers a workplace retirement plan, you may register for an exemption from the state retirement program. If you have a business without a retirement plan, however, you might need to comply with the state’s (and/or the state where your employees work) program requirements or risk potential penalties. While every state is different, most state-facilitated retirement programs:
- Are designed as Roth individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
- May be mandated for businesses employing a certain number of employees
- Use investment firms and investments chosen by the state
- May require employers to automatically enroll employees at a contribution of three to five percent of each employee’s payroll wages
- Allow workers to opt out of contributing via payroll deduction
- May require employers to do some administration
Also noteworthy is that a business located in a state without a mandate to offer a workplace retirement plan might still have obligations regarding a workplace retirement program if they have employees working and reporting income in a state that has such a mandate. For example, Wisconsin does not have a state retirement savings program mandate, but the state of Illinois does have a mandate. A business located in Wisconsin that also has the requisite number of employees working and reporting income in Illinois would be required to register for the Illinois Secure Choice Savings program for those employees or offer a private retirement plan for them that satisfies the mandate. If it is the latter, the employer would have to file for an exemption with the state of Illinois and demonstrate proof of their private retirement plan.
Another thing to consider is that unlike 401(k) plans, state-facilitated IRAs are not eligible for up to $16,500 in SECURE1 Act tax credits. Their contribution limits are not as high as 401(k)s. Many state programs also require the employer to do their own plan administration—filing, reporting, adjusting contributions limits, and more. This can be burdensome to smaller businesses that don’t have the time or staff to do complex plan management.
Update on the States
Here is a brief update on the enacted state-facilitated retirement programs as of November 2022.
The CalSavers program offers a traditional IRA in addition to a Roth IRA, and has oversight from a public board of directors. Recent legislation expands the program to almost all employers with at least one employee (sole proprietors are excluded). Employers must register for the program by Dec. 31, 2025 or offer a private plan that meets the state mandate. CalSavers has begun to notify businesses about penalties for noncompliant employers.
The Colorado Secure Savings Program requires businesses with five or more employees to offer a workplace retirement program. The state implemented its program and employers can begin registering. There are phased-in deadlines in 2023 for different business sizes.
Connecticut launched the MyCTSavings retirement savings program in early 2022 and established deadlines for businesses to register their employees. The deadline for businesses with 26-plus employees has passed. Businesses with 5 to 25 employees must register by Oct. 31, 2023. This program requires businesses with five or more employees and no retirement plan to participate in a state-facilitated IRA program. Noncompliant employers may be subject to civil action and court fees if they fail to enroll an employee in a timely fashion.
The state has a proposed launch of Jan. 1, 2025 for Delaware EARNS (Expanding Access for Retirement and Necessary Savings), a mandatory state-facilitated retirement savings program (Roth IRA). Businesses with five (5) or more employees that have been in operation for at least six months must register for the state program if they already do not have an auto-IRA plan for all employees or sponsor a qualified retirement savings plan. Any employee 18 years of age or older who receives wages in Delaware qualifies to participate and there is an employee opt-out option. Contribution amount per pay period will be 3 percent to 6 percent. There is an annual auto-escalation of 1% or 2% with a maximum of 15%. Any business failing to comply will face a penalty of $250 per employee per year, up to a maximum of $5,000 per year.
The state has created the Hawaii Retirement Savings Program, a mandatory state-facilitated Roth IRA program that every business in operation for at least two years with at least one (1) employee must participate in, if they have not maintained a qualified retirement plan within the past two years. The state has not set a launch date yet but certain parameters do exist, including an employer requirement to notify employees of the opt-in and the employee's option to opt out. Presently, the contribution amount default will be 5% per pay period, but this is flexible.
There will be penalties for failure to provide written notification to employees of the opt-in, as well as financial stakes that include making up missed contribution amounts in the amount each covered employee would have contributed (plus 6% interest rate). In addition, there will be a penalty of $25 for each month the covered employee was not enrolled in the program and $50 for each month they continue to be not enrolled after the date the original penalty is assessed.
The Illinois Secure Choice Retirement Program is a mandatory state-facilitated Roth IRA savings program that plans to send enforcement notices to noncompliant employers starting in 2022. Employers that do not comply may face penalties of $250 per employee for the first year, and $500 per employee for each subsequent year depending on business size. One more wave of implementation is also planned: employers with 5-15 employees must register by November 2023.
Tentatively scheduled for April 1, 2023, employers with 5 or more employees who have been in operation for at least two years and have no retirement plan. They may be required to participate in the Maine Retirement Savings Program unless they register for exemption. The registration plans to be implemented in three phases, starting with a proposed deadline of April 2023 for businesses with 25 or more employees, followed by October 2023 (15-24 EEs), and April 2024 (5-14 EEs). The program will be auto-enroll with an opt-out option, plus there will be a 5% default contribution limit (flexible) that includes an auto-increase of 1% annually, up to 8%. Self-employed and individual contractors are expected to participate.
The MarylandSaves program requires businesses of all sizes to offer employees automatic enrollment in a payroll-deduction IRA. The MarylandSaves program launched in September 2022.
Massachusetts legislation differs from other states in that it applies only to the non-profit sector. The Massachusetts CORE Plan is voluntary and allows non-profit organizations with 20 or fewer employees to participate in the 401(k) multiple employer plan (MEP) administered by the state. Participants must have payroll administered by an eligible third party.
The New Jersey Secure Choice Savings Program requires employers with 25 or more employees who have been in business for at least two years to offer a retirement plan (Roth IRA, with a traditional IRA as an alternative election). Smaller or newer employers can join voluntarily.
In July 2024, New Mexico is planning to launch a voluntary program that offers a Hybrid Roth IRA or Marketplace plan. The program will have auto-enrollment and give employees the choice of opting out. Since the program is voluntary, there will be no penalties imposed for non-compliance.
The New York State Secure Choice Savings Program was originally voluntary, but legislation has been passed to mandate participation in the program for businesses with 10 or more employees. Eligible employers had to have been in business for at least two years and without a qualified retirement plan for the two years prior.
The OregonSaves program has made great strides in helping private-sector workers who don’t have access to workplace retirement plans. Employers are currently required to automatically enroll employees in the IRA savings program if they do not offer their employees a retirement savings plan. Businesses with 3-4 employees are expected to register for the program by March 1, 2023 while businesses with 1-2 employees have a July 31, 2023 deadline to register. The employer penalty for non-compliance is $100 an employee, up to $5,000 a year.
The state began planning to implement the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan in 2017, a voluntary multiple employer plan (MEP) designed for employers with 50 or fewer employees. Self-employed business owners can also participate. The program is scheduled to launch in December 2022. Employees will be automatically enrolled but have the ability to opt out. Employers also have the option of matching contributions.
Tentatively scheduled to launch its pilot in March 2023 with a possible program launch on July 1, 2023, RetirePath Virginia requires employers with 25 or more employees to participate if they have been in business at least two years and don’t offer an employee retirement plan. The goal is to offer nearly 800,000 private-sector employees a chance to start saving for retirement.
About 131,000 Washington State businesses don’t offer workplace retirement plans. That translates to roughly 2 million employees with no retirement savings. In response to this crisis, the state has established its Retirement Small Business Marketplace to help small companies adopt retirement savings programs for their workforces. Participating financial service providers offer low-cost plans to employers with 100 or fewer employees, including sole proprietors and the self-employed.
The marketplace currently offers SIMPLE, Roth, traditional IRAs, and 401(k) plans to choose from, based on the type of business and the individual’s financial planning goals.
Regardless of Your State, You Do Have Choices
Some of the state retirement savings programs may be “mandatory”, but employers have the option to adopt a qualified retirement plan that exempts them from participating in the state program. In some cases, a state-run IRA may not be the best fit for your business. For example, you may prefer a traditional 401(k) plan that has higher contribution limits for employees. Or you may prefer a plan that requires less time, staff, and cost to manage, like the Pooled Employer Plan (PEP). It all depends on your business needs and the savings goals of your employees. When in doubt—be sure to compare your options.
1Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement. Under the SECURE Act, eligible new plans can potentially get up to $5,000 per year for three years in new plan tax credits with an additional $500 per year with auto-enrollment.
What Is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) & What Are the Benefits?
6 min. Read
Stress, both in and out of the workplace, is a fact of life for many employees and business owners. In fact, more than one in four business and HR leaders (26%) said they are extremely or very stressed, and this increased to 35% of leaders feeling stressed at companies with 250 to 500 employees.1
There are things you can do to help alleviate some of the burdens of competing priorities and other stressors. In the long run, providing employee resources can go a long way in demonstrating how much you value your workforce.
An EAP, which stands for employee assistance program, is one example of how you can help employees resolve a variety of issues that contribute to stress, which in turn may be adversely affecting their work performance and morale. EAPs may help improve engagement and productivity, and even reduce absenteeism and turnover. Here's a closer look at why you may want to consider an EAP as part of your benefits lineup.
What Is an EAP?
An EAP provides a confidential source that employees can use to find support and resources for certain challenges they face. The service is usually provided as part of a larger benefits package and connects employees to assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services. Depending on the situation, employees can access certain services from the safety and privacy of their own home.
What Does an Employee Assistance Program Do & Why Is It Important?
Employee assistance programs are designed to connect employees with the best resources for handling personal challenges that can impact their ability to manage stress and remain productive while at work. EAPs can suggest resources that help with many needs from mental health counseling to personal service discounts on babysitting or insurance.
EAPs have trained representatives that can evaluate the needs of the employee and connect them to the best resource to help with that need. Whether it's recommending a counselor or providing a list of local photographers to lessen the stress of planning an upcoming wedding, the representatives that work with EAPs can quickly and efficiently go to work for your employees.
What Does EAP Coverage Include?
While the details of an individual program are identified in the plan documents, many EAPs provide critical support for serious issues. Some of the issues and services often included in an EAP are (but aren't limited to):
- Mental health programs: Anxiety, depression, grief, crisis intervention, and behavioral health issues such as addiction or eating disorders are some examples of issues supported through these programs.
- Health and caregiving: In addition to managing their own health (e.g. establishing a fitness plan, getting nutrition guidance, or coping with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension), employees may be faced with additional challenges like being the caregiver for a loved one. Through an EAP, employees can get help locating eldercare or daycare services, nursing homes, or even tracking down an in-network physician for a child going to school out-of-state.
- Family services: All families can benefit from support in one way or another. Help is available with EAP marriage counseling services, family planning, child safety, physical or emotional abuse, and mediation.
- Counseling referrals: One of the overarching benefits of an employee assistance program is having readily available, confidential support from qualified professionals for personal, family, and work-related issues. Counseling services can include assessments, remote short-term support, or referrals.
- Substance abuse: Chemical dependency, addiction, alcoholism, gambling, and crisis intervention are a few examples where support from a qualified professional through the EAP can make a positive and potentially life-saving impact in an employee's life.
- Financial services: EAP services can connect employees with help to improve financial wellness — budgeting advice, achieving healthy spending habits, loan consolidation, debt repayment, setting up an emergency fund, and more.
- Work issues: Navigating a career change, establishing a plan for professional development, managing workplace stress and responsibilities, making travel plans, or managing relationships with coworkers are all examples of how an EAP can help employees with work-related issues and help prevent or overcome burnout.
How Does an Employee Assistance Program Work?
The specific offerings of an EAP vary depending on the plan documents of the program. However, an EAP typically covers your employees and could also cover eligible household members, including a spouse, domestic partner, children, or other dependents. EAPs often maintain a network of partners who can help meet a range of needs, such as legal firms, childcare professionals, elder care specialists, nutritionists, fitness experts, and more. With an EAP, your employees and their qualified household members have access to a confidential resource they can call when crises or general life management questions arise.
The range of services may vary from on-call counselors and referrals to local resources that can help them solve their challenges. Members can also access a virtual library of free resources and online self-help tools. Access to care counselors is available 24/7, and all communications are personal and confidential.
An EAP is not health insurance. However, a combination of a health insurance plan and an EAP could be useful to your organization and appreciated by employees.
Benefits of an EAP
When life's challenges outpace your employees' ability to cope, it can negatively impact both their performance and productivity. Having adequate support can help employees manage stress and solve problems, which may reduce the negative impact on the company's bottom line and overall morale.
Employees nationwide are currently dealing with stress: whether it's the ongoing impact of the pandemic, working at home and contending with work/life balance, are dealing with health issues, need to take care of kids, or are working long hours. In the 2022 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey, 60% of HR leaders said they were concerned about employee burnout, an 18% increase from before the pandemic. Your staff can leverage an employee assistance program to support employees in keeping stress levels under control, even during these challenging times.
Absenteeism and stress are closely related. When you layer this on top of the numerous issues that may already be keeping employees from work — being caregivers or getting sick themselves — absenteeism can become a serious issue. An EAP can help an employee find the resources that can help save them time and mitigate unhealthy stress levels. Having these tools on hand can have positive impacts, such as improved time management and more energy throughout the workday.
Reduced Accidents and Fewer Workers' Comp Claims
When employees have readily available access to resources that improve their health, manage their problems, and reduce stress, their overall wellness can improve. Stress management can help employees be more productive, as well as work smarter and safer, especially those who are involved in various forms of physical labor. Investing in an EAP may likely reduce accidents and could ultimately lower your workers' compensation claims.
For many employers, providing healthcare coverage is one of the more costly components of a benefits package. A healthcare assistance service like an EAP can help manage that cost over the long-term by helping provide the advice, support, and resources employees need to be physically and mentally healthier, thus lowering their health care claims over the long-term. Additionally, an EAP can help employees be more efficient in managing their healthcare expenses.
Greater Employee Retention
Employees who are engaged and satisfied with their work tend to stick around longer. Not only can access to an EAP empower employees to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives but offering an EAP as a benefit demonstrates that you care about their overall well-being, which can increase feelings of loyalty to your organization. Roughly half of companies with 10 to 500 employees expect that hiring quality staff will be more challenging in the next 12 months.1 Offering benefits like an EAP can really set your company apart.
Likewise, feeling stressed or overworked, an inability to achieve sufficient work/life balance, and not having access to resources are some of the reasons why employees choose to leave a job. An EAP, with its network of resources, functions to help employees better manage feelings and situations. When you consider the true cost of losing an employee (impact on morale, productivity loss, cost of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a new person), investing in an EAP to help support your retention efforts makes a lot of sense.
Other EAP Benefits to Employers
There are additional benefits of an employee assistance program for employers. In certain cases, EAPs can directly help a company resolve ongoing issues. Each program's offerings are different, but certain programs will provide consultations to managers or executives on how to handle difficult situations within the workplace. For example, an EAP can be used as a resource during employer/employee interactions. If a worker is experiencing performance issues or discloses personal problems to an employer, a referral to an EAP resource may be appropriate. However, it's important to evaluate this from a policy standpoint and obtain expert HR or legal advice to ensure the strategy you're considering complies with relevant state and federal regulations.
An EAP can also help a business meet employees' needs while staying within its budget. Many employees and potential job candidates want a variety of benefits, and an EAP is one way a smaller organization can remain competitive for top talent and retain valued staff once hired. It may be a good time to audit your employee benefits package to determine whether an EAP would benefit your organization.
How Much Does an Employee Assistance Program Cost?
When added to a larger employee benefits package, EAPs can come at a very reasonable cost to employers. While the exact figure will vary across providers and service offerings, many EAP add-ons cost between 75 cents and $2 per member per month, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
The exact costs will vary based on:
- The number of employees covered
- The number of services offered
- Frequency of use
- Chosen EAP provider
What Are the Steps for Launching a Successful EAP?
The most important step for launching a successful employee assistance program is identifying which services are needed by your employees. To that end, employers looking to add an EAP to their existing benefits package should take the following steps.
1. Gather Employee Feedback
Your employees may be willing to share what they need most, especially if they understand that the information is to be used to help you improve company benefits offerings.
2. Explore Provider Offerings
There are numerous EAP providers, each with their own unique plans and offering sets. By comparing several providers, you can start to narrow the field and identify which providers align with the services and benefits sought by your employees.
3. Compare the Numbers
Each plan will have its own limitations on number of covered employees, number of services offered, and how often employees can access the service. By comparing these figures, you can calculate a rough annual cost to your organization.
4. Integration With Your Existing Benefits Plan
Once you have chosen a plan, work with your EAP provider to seamlessly integrate this service into your existing benefits package.
How To Adopt an EAP at Your Business
Challenging situations, from stress on the job to navigating an emergency, can take a toll on individuals. Help your staff get the support they need by investing in an employee assistance program. Ready to get started? An EAP is included as part of all Paychex HR Services offerings, and clients can get started by contacting their dedicated HR professional. If you're evaluating your benefits plan on a broader scale or looking to switch providers, consider how Paychex can help you attract and keep an engaged and productive workforce.
12023 Priorities for Business Leaders, Paychex
If you're thinking of starting an employee volunteer program at your company, you're not alone. In our post-pandemic world, where employees and job candidates alike have shown a marked interest in giving back to the community, many businesses are opting for programs that allow employees to participate in volunteer opportunities that build on that interest.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a recent survey of HR professionals showed that nearly 50% of U.S. companies offered corporate volunteer programs in 2022, up almost 10% from 2014. Businesses are clearly seeing the value in starting and promoting volunteer programs within their organizations.
What Is an Employee Volunteer Program?
Corporate employee volunteer programs are known by several different names, including corporate volunteer programs and company volunteer programs. Simply put, this type of program is designed to bolster a business's engagement with the community and/or raise its corporate social responsibility profile. Generally speaking, these programs grow out of a concerted strategic initiative designed to support employees who want to give back to the communities in which they live.
What Are the Benefits of Employee Volunteer Programs?
The organizational benefits to starting an employee volunteer program are significant. These include higher brand awareness among the community in which a business is located, and more opportunities to promote the business as an "employer of choice," thus increasing appeal to job candidates.
With employee volunteering, there are numerous internal benefits as well. These may include:
- Enhanced employee retention
- Increased sense of employee empowerment
- Greater employee pride in the business where they work
- Strengthened teams, where groups of employees volunteer together
- Employees gaining new skills and perspectives
How To Start a Volunteer Program at Work
Determining the best way in which to initiate an employee volunteer program may depend on individual company cultures. But certain key steps should include some part of the following:
Gather Employee Input
The most effective corporate volunteer programs start with employers soliciting feedback from employees about how best to structure the program. One option is conducting a survey concerning employees’ preferred charitable institutions, and whether they wish to volunteer their time, donate money, or some combination of both. You can also determine whether some employees are already volunteering in some charitable function. It might be beneficial to explore partnering with a non-profit organization in which some employees are already volunteering their time and effort.
Determine the Program's Core Purpose and Values
Corporate volunteer programs should incorporate a business's core purpose and values into the planning and execution process. It's essential that the type of program undertaken is firmly aligned with what the company stands for. This approach helps determine what kind of volunteer opportunities make the most sense for the organization to pursue and can also deepen the employees' sense of purpose and involvement in the program.
Establish Goals and Employee Volunteer Program Guidelines
Like any other corporate initiative, the design of employee volunteer and engagement programs should have clear, concrete goals. Those frequently cited by companies with successful volunteer programs often include:
- Giving back to the community
- Enhancing the company's brand
- Boosting employee engagement and retention
- The number of employees who can participate in a volunteer program
- How many hours a business can comfortably accommodate in terms of employee participation
- Financial objectives for fundraising through volunteer efforts
Recruitment is another key goal for work volunteer programs. It's often said that millennials put a high value on companies with an established profile in social responsibility. Jobseekers increasingly want to work for an organization that demonstrates awareness of social conditions and helps to make life better for the local community. Once it's underway, your volunteer program may contribute to a promising job candidate's interest in applying for open positions with your organization.
Document Your Program Development
It's not enough to simply say, "Yes, we should start a volunteer program at our company." To be successful, carefully document the corporate volunteering program as it gets underway, as well as which elements contribute to the program’s success and those that prove to be ineffective (so as avoid those missteps in future employee volunteer program guidelines).
As your employee program starts to take shape, take care to document:
- Communicating news of the volunteer program to employees
- Costs incurred in the design and roll-out of the program
- Levels of enhanced brand awareness on social media and other platforms
- Increase in candidate recruitment, once the program is underway
With a list of relevant metrics in mind, it becomes easier to track the effects of your employee volunteer program. This method also helps facilitate any future attempts to broaden those volunteer efforts or to strike out in a different community outreach effort in the future.
Support the Program Through Leadership and Company Resources
A valuable component of any effective volunteer program starts with support from the CEO and other senior-level executives. Serving as role models, these individuals can inspire team members to become active participants in such a program. Leaders can also find the right balance between the organization's business goals and issues facing the local community.
The human resources team also plays an integral role in the design and structure of a volunteer program. HR can help align business needs with the spirit of volunteerism that is essential for the program's success. They can also determine how best to incorporate volunteer activities within both the veteran employee pool and the new hires. HR can also help decide upon the best ways to encourage employee participation in the program.
It's a good idea to consult your legal team prior to establishing a corporate volunteer program. These types of initiatives sometimes have wage and hourly implications, as well as other possible issues.
Finally, employing internal communications to promote volunteer activities is a crucial element. To boost interest in the program, look at all possible internal communications platforms and spread the word in a consistent, clear-cut manner.
Make Volunteer Opportunities Inclusive
To help ensure success, consideration should be given to opening the company volunteer program to all employees, regardless of their status as full- or part-time workers. This should also include remote employees, who may otherwise feel disengaged with the organization if they don't have opportunities to participate in the program and give back to the community. By focusing on inclusivity and the wide range of employee skills and experience, you help ensure the opportunity for all employees to take part.
One tool that can help boost inclusivity is a formal (or informal) employee survey. Gauge the interest of team members — both on-site and off-site — in taking part in volunteer activities. Just make sure everyone within the company can participate in the survey. That way, you'll have a better idea of your employees' volunteer preferences, and avoid the problem of leaving anyone out of the process.
Encourage Participation Through Internal Communications
The success of a corporate volunteer program largely depends upon getting the word out to your workforce. Thankfully, a wide array of communications resources are available for this purpose. These resources can include:
- Internal email campaign
- Fliers and bulletins
- Employee newsletter
- A message from the CEO
Also, it's very helpful to enlist managers in your promotion efforts. Once they are on board with the initiative, encourage them to offer an open-door policy with respect to volunteer participation. Managers can help encourage their team members participation by answering questions and promoting the benefits of volunteerism. If managers are excited about the new program, they will more likely convey that enthusiasm to employees under their supervision.
Share News of Progress
With a volunteer program in place, it's time to single out those who are most engaged and upbeat about the experience. Consult these "program champions" and support their efforts in publicizing the program among their co-workers.
Employee participants can also share news of progress through photos and brief descriptions about their experience. Additionally, survey those who take part and evaluate the level of their satisfaction with the program. Hopefully, the response will be positive, in which case, don't hesitate to share their views with the rest of the organization.
Revise and Revisit Your Volunteer Program on a Regular Basis
Once you have a viable corporate volunteer program underway, there's no time to rest on your laurels. To be genuinely effective, the program should be revisited and reevaluated on a regular basis. Are team members responding favorably to the program? Is participation up or down? Is the effort meeting a pre-determined budget or exceeding costs? Which community non-profits or other organizations should you seek to align with?
One effective barometer of a program's effectiveness is through surveying volunteer participants. Devise a brief survey that includes both "yes" and "no" questions, as well as open-ended questions regarding how well an event succeeded, where parts of that event fell short, and what can be done in the future. This way, you can keep a close eye on the program's viability and outlook for the future.
How To Encourage Corporate Volunteerism
It's one thing to get a company volunteer program up and running. Encouraging participation among employees is something else altogether. Rather than simply establishing a program and sit back waiting for something to happen, it's critical to actively build and support employee interest in this endeavor.
Start by integrating volunteerism into your company culture. This often entails top leadership's involvement, either directly through specific volunteer activities, or by drawing attention to the company volunteer program at every appropriate juncture (emails to the team, encouragement during all-staff meetings, etc.). Also, place volunteerism front and center in the wording of your corporate mission and values, highlight it prominently in recruitment materials, and as part of your new hire onboarding program.
Here are other ways to get employees more involved:
- Provide PTO. Some organizations provide additional paid time off (PTO) to employees who sign up to volunteer. Organizations selecting this option may seek to reduce potential misuse by setting clear expectations for employees who take part in volunteer activities — a specified minimum number of hours, whether it's to be offered to a team rather than individuals, and so on.
- Gift card incentives. Offer the kinds of gift cards employees care most about (resulting from informal surveys) and present those to employees who volunteer the greatest amount of hours, devise new volunteer opportunities, or as a "kick-start" at the program's outset.
- Treat volunteers to lunch. Generally speaking, most volunteer activities will involve the efforts of numerous employees, whether at a single charitable event or as part of an ongoing program. In any case, treating these volunteers to lunch at the company's expense is a way to build team spirit and engagement, particularly among employees who come from different departments but are united by the goal of helping others.
- Enroll volunteers in a prize drawing. Prize drawings are a way of injecting some excitement into the volunteer recruitment process. Look for a high-end prize (for example, a tablet or some other electronic device) that is likely to appeal across the board, rather than a prize that only a small group of people might want. The prize drawing can be held at the end of a volunteer event, as a way of celebrating company involvement.
A volunteer program's eventual success depends largely upon the efforts of leadership to promote involvement. When employees see that volunteerism is now a full-fledged organizational priority, their participation is likely to increase and gain traction as part of the culture.
Examples of Corporate Volunteer Activities
The kinds of volunteer activities your company chooses to pursue depend upon a number of factors — the community's location, civic needs and challenges, opportunities that best align with the organization's values and missions, and so on. Here are popular volunteer activities that may prove most relevant to your own efforts:
- Trash collection. Enlist volunteers in the hard but satisfying job of collecting garbage from a local park or other public area. It's not glamorous work, but citizens living in these areas will greatly appreciate your employees' contributions.
- Food pantry collections. Get volunteers to help collect food for local homeless shelters or other community programs helping those who don't have enough to eat. The same idea can be applied to cooking and serving meals at a shelter or other community outlet.
- Blood drives. Just about every community needs blood donations. Get employees involved in established blood drive programs or see about creating a new one, following a local disaster where hospitals are in short supply of precious blood supplies.
Make Volunteering a Key Element in Your Company's Culture
Getting your business involved in local and national volunteering efforts is a proven way to enhance employee engagement, boost retention, and attract new job candidates. A company volunteer program based on your mission and values will resonate with your workforce and give them new pride in being a part of this larger effort. Brand awareness will grow as a result of successful volunteer efforts, and you'll likely see more non-profits and charitable organizations reaching out to you. All of this translates into your company's favorable image both locally and regionally, and result in greater involvement among your workers and growth in your business.