Article Solutions for Cities By Kevin Knopf

Employee benefits: An underutilized recruitment tool

Kevin Knopf is the vice president of marketing communications for AP Keenan, a League Partner. He can be reached at


We are in a new era of remote workplace models, and the freedom and flexibility of remote work are incredible. But there is an other side to this coin. Many of the services provided by municipalities cannot be performed remotely. Service-based jobs require people to be present to provide those services, and even when there is a way to supplement those roles with remote work, the bulk of it often must be performed in person. This raises a significant challenge: How can cities retain their current workforce and attract new employees when battling against the attraction of a work-from-home model? The answer is total compensation.

Total compensation includes the employee’s base salary, plus other benefits, such as paid time off and health insurance. In other words, salary is one element of an employee’s total compensation. While things like base pay and retirement contributions may be inflexible in your budget, employee benefits are an area of compensation where an employer has an incredible opportunity, a finding backed up by AP Keenan’s recurring statewide Employee Benefits Survey.

Recruitment and retention with employee benefits

Employee benefits can often be overlooked as an essential employee retention tool. In 2018, a survey conducted by America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade association for health insurers, found that 56% of adults with employer-sponsored health benefits said that liking their health coverage was a critical factor in deciding to stay at their current job. For recruitment purposes, that same survey found that 46% of respondents indicated health insurance was either the deciding factor or a positive influence in choosing their current job.

This is all valuable information, but unfortunately, employers often only discuss benefits after an offer has been accepted during the onboarding process. Public agency employers can increase the attractiveness of vacant positions by highlighting the employee benefits that are available to candidates. After all, salaries for these positions are often readily available to be viewed online.

But how do your benefits stack up?

Publishing benefit information for candidates cannot be the only step. How do your benefits stack up against other employers? Engaging with a benefits consultant with broad knowledge of the marketplace is a critical part of evaluating your benefits program’s overall value.

AP Keenan advises employers that 2022 may be the most critical year for evaluating current benefits. To assist with this evaluation, AP Keenan has been conducting an employee benefits survey for this specific purpose for more than 45 years. Furthermore, AP Keenan’s innovative financial and organizational tools for schools and public agencies have helped many agencies avoid budget cuts altogether during other economically challenging times. Programs such as AP Keenan’s Supplemental Employee Retirement Program — which lets qualifying employees retire early without making financial sacrifices — have allowed clients to reorganize staffing while rewarding long-time employees.

The AP Keenan Employee Benefits Survey has been critical for developing benefits strategies for clients. Many have utilized the data to identify leading-edge cost management programs. Those with unions use the data in their bargaining negotiations. Most apply the information for determining their annual contribution strategy. Finally, many organizations seek to improve the outcomes of their health management programs through refinements identified by the survey results.

Participating employers in AP Keenan’s employee benefits survey have always included clients and nonclients. “As employee recruitment and retention continues to create challenges, offering competitive benefits is a clear response. Yet keeping costs under control poses a tricky balancing act, which we know can be successfully performed with the data our survey uncovers,” said Kelly Hall, senior vice president of service and account management for AP Keenan. “Participation in this year’s survey is more critical now than ever before, as having a larger data set will help these employers significantly in creating action plans and dialing in their short-term and long-term benefits strategies.”

For more information on AP Keenan’s Employee Benefits Survey or to participate in the survey, please email AP Keenan provides innovative insurance and financial solutions for schools, public agencies, and health care organizations. We serve those who support our communities. Our high-quality, cost-effective programs consistently exceed our customers’ expectations. We are the experts you can rely on when it comes to risk management, claims services, and technology.