Over the last month or so, I’ve noticed a number of HR and people leaders in networks and communities that I belong to ask for benchmarking data, opinions, and ideas for revisiting parental leave and care benefits, and in some cases their benefits policies more broadly.

With many organizations currently going through their open enrollment, it makes sense that leaders would be curious about their peers’ benefits strategies—but when we focus too much on what other companies are doing, it’s easy to miss the mark. Here’s how to make sure you’re prioritizing the data that matters most when evaluating your own benefits policies.

Step 1: Look inward.  

Every organization is its own unique mix of individuals, each with their own needs and desires, which means employee insights and sentiment should be your north star.

Consider survey results. Conduct anonymous employee surveys asking about satisfaction with current policies, desired additions or changes, and benefits that would increase retention and engagement. Low satisfaction, especially on core offerings like insurance and retirement plans, is a clear indicator. Analyze patterns by tenure and demographics to detect benefits missing the mark for certain groups.

Audit your benefits philosophy. Do current offerings only cover basic needs, or do they enable employee aspirations for career development, work-life integration, physical and mental well-being, and financial stability? The latter cultivates engaged, thriving employees.

Scrutinize strategic fit. Walk through benefits and ask if each makes strategic sense. Assess whether policies align with updated priorities and operating environments. For example, benefits should enable flexible work lifestyles today, not assume work from an office.

Step 2: Look outward.  

Do an external assessment only after you’ve assembled your internal information. While external data can serve as a guardrails for how you’re thinking about benefits policies, it should be used to reinforce and optimize the internal data that is already available to you.

Consider competitor offerings. What benefits are talent competitors or industry peers providing? This establishes what is competitive and expected in our market to attract and retain top talent.

Understand labor market trends. What benefits are growing in importance for today's workforce based on changing expectations around flexible work, a multigenerational workforce, caregiving support, etc.?

Determine cost and how you’ll need to scale. How are inflation, healthcare costs, and other factors impacting the expense of different benefits nationally and in our markets? Will your offerings be able to be sustained over time? Offer the best you can while remaining practical so that those offerings don’t have to be taken away.