Thinking Beyond the Raise

It can be difficult as a small business to recruit and retain the right people. The war for talent is real, and it’s increasingly challenging to compete with both the total compensation packages offered by large companies and the flexibility afforded by the gig economy. As the nature of work and employer/employee relationships changes, one thing remains the same: great people are the key to great business.

We often ask our clients, “What is the first thing you would consider doing when looking to entice a prospective employee, or trying to recognize an existing one?” Not surprisingly, the number one answer is to offer them more money. This makes sense, since it’s simple for us to understand the value of money–we all use it, and we all need more of it.

While it can seem like the obvious choice, offering more money isn’t always the right one. Salary is important, but today’s job seekers are making decisions about the roles they accept based on the total compensation package–the combination of benefits, retirement programs, vacation time, flexible work hours, and other factors. Likewise, the modern employee is also making choices about when to stay or leave a role based on more than salary. With countless websites dedicated to sharing information about employment and the types of compensation available, they are more knowledgeable than ever before.

Offering  benefits instead of a salary increase can be a win/win for you and your employees, when you consider that after taxes, EI, CPP/QPP and other deductions, a $1,000 raise can quickly turn into less than $700. Unlike a salary increase, employees receive benefits tax-free (in most provinces), making providing group benefits a great alternative to a cash raise in your compensation package.

The cost of healthcare for Canadians is increasing, government benefits are shrinking, inflation is rising, and there are long waiting lists for many services, so the value your employees and candidates place on their benefits plan is higher than ever. Having an employer-sponsored benefits plan offers them security and peace of mind, and generates goodwill toward your company.

While employees receive day-to-day value from their plans covering costs of visits to the dentist or a monthly massage, the real value comes from the coverage for catastrophic events. Plans can help cover employees for costly prescription drugs (which can range from $100 to over $10,000 a month), emergency travel insurance, life insurance, long-term disability, hospital stays and more. This can prove invaluable for them and their families if faced with a severe medical issue. In most cases, the value of $1,000 of their premium is much higher than $1,000 of salary increase; in fact, the difference could be life-changing.

So, what can you do to differentiate what your company is offering to hire, retain and reward the people you need to be successful?

That’s where we come in. Our benefits experts spend their time meeting with clients like you, helping them solve precisely this problem. We can help you combine the latest products and services available on the market with the insights we’ve gained from hundreds of clients and their employees across the country.

As a member of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, you have access to the exclusive One Source Advantage program from Cowan Insurance Group, offering member rewards like savings on group benefits, commercial insurance, personal home and auto insurance, employee assistance programs, and group retirement solutions. Our dedicated professional team will work with you to provide a customized solution for your insurance and benefits needs.

Learn more about our program at

This guest post was written by Adam Diamond, Director, Small Segment, National Benefits Consulting, at Cowan Insurance Group.