As the 2008 recession pounded the economy, many companies were forced to put their employees on the chopping block. There were layoffs, salary freezes, hiring freezes, and benefit cuts all over America. Here in 2016, the economy is mostly recovered, yet many companies continue to stand still in these areas out of fear that things may take a turn for the worse again.

Employees are typically pretty understanding when a company has to tighten its belt in bad economic times, but as the financial situation improves, they want to stop paying the price of recession. To retain existing employees and attract new ones, companies have to offer attractive benefits and compensation packages, or they risk losing quality talent to those companies that do.

The Best Benefits

There are a number of benefits packages that employees still find attractive. While some companies have begun to offer more unique benefits, such as tuition reimbursement or in-office gyms, the three benefit staples — health insurance, 401(k) plans, and vacation — are still a sure way to increase employee satisfaction, according to a recent report from Glassdoor.

1. Insurance

Health insurance plans are still the most sought-after benefit among employees. But workers don’t want just any old insurance. The quality of the health insurance matters greatly. The trend toward high-deductible plans and increased employee contributions for premiums during the recession likely has many employees demanding better insurance now that we’re facing better economic times.

2. 401(k)

Retirement plans come in second of the top three. Two-thirds of companies offer a 401(k) package, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So if your company doesn’t offer a quality retirement package, it’s likely your employees can find another one that will.

3. Vacation

The same goes for vacation and paid-time off packages. The younger workforce now demands a better work/life balance, and that includes a decent amount of vacation time to be spent on family vacations or other personal endeavors.

The Worst Benefits

cameraSome benefits are nice, but employees just don’t give them much consideration when it comes to weighing their job satisfaction. Paternity and maternity leave, for example, might make a new parent happy when they get to spend a few weeks at home with their bundle of joy, but when considering the entire package, the top three previously mentioned factor family leave almost out of the equation entirely.

The same goes for employee discounts. We all love getting 15 percent off our cell phone bills or 50 percent off our gym membership, but for the most part these sorts of discounts aren’t deal breakers for employees and prospective employees.

What It All Means

It’s pretty awesome that Google employees can give each other credits to be redeemed for free massages and take naps in special pods meant to drown out light and sound. It’s equally cool that Apple throws occasional keggers for its employees. But you’re not Apple or Google, and your employees don’t expect you to be.

Above all, your employees want to be respected and acknowledged for their hard work. One of the best ways to show appreciation to your company’s workforce is to offer a comprehensive, high-quality core benefits package. If your business can afford to add bells and whistles like free food, employee discounts, ping pong tables, and shuttle buses, all the better. But the benefits that matter most are the ones you’d expect: The ones that keep employees healthy, happy, and secure in their futures.

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