It’s no secret that employee benefits attract and keep the best talent, but which benefits are the most popular?

The best employees can afford to be choosy about their jobs, so it’s important that you offer as attractive a benefits package as possible. Over the years, benefits have changed as the economy and lifestyles have changed, so it’s important to be aware of what employees are looking for today.

Healthcare Benefits

Because healthcare costs have been rising so quickly over the last decade, most workers are very concerned about healthcare benefits.

Finding a cost-effective, comprehensive healthcare plan for your employees can be a very difficult challenge, but the better your plan, the better your chances of attracting the best workers.

Retirement Plans

Pensions have all but gone by the wayside, and in their wake, employees are relying almost exclusively on employee-sponsored 401(k) plans to save for retirement.

Offering a well-heeled retirement plan is sure to attract good employees. Here are some things to consider when setting up your employee retirement plans:

Matching. Nationally, the most common matching rate is 50 cents for every dollar contributed up to 6 percent of pay. In 2011, the median 401(k) match offered by employers was 3 percent of pay.

Eligibility. Only about half of 401(k) plans allow new employees to immediately start making contributions. The rest require waiting periods that range from a few months to two or three years.

Vesting. Less than half of 401(k) plans immediately vest all participants in the plan. Some employers don’t allow workers to keep any of the matching funds until they have been with the company for a certain number of years, usually 3 to 5 years.

Paid Leave

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, paid leave was the most commonly provided benefit to employees in 2010. In fact, 77% of the U.S. labor force enjoyed paid leave.

Undoubtedly, paid leave is one of the most valued employee benefits because it allows workers to enjoy paid time away from their jobs, usually with family and friends. Nationally, the average number of paid holidays is eight.

Most employers offer paid leave to their employees based on their length of service. Generally, employees receive 8 days of paid leave their first year, 11 days their third year, and 14 days their fifth year.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is the most commonly offered non-mandated employee benefit. In most cases, employers provide a small amount of coverage at no cost to the employee and then offer additional coverage at group rates.

Employees with health problems especially appreciate this benefit because they have to pay higher insurance rates outside of a group plan.

Education Benefits

Among employee benefits, education programs may not be as essential as retirement or health care, but they’re very attractive to employees who are interested in continuing their educations.

Education benefits could include tuition reimbursement, allowances for courses, or admission to conferences and seminars.

Unusual Perks

Sometimes it pays to advertise unusual employee benefits.

For instance, Google advertises nap pods. Wegmans Food Markets gives its employees coupons for Christmas food baskets. Southern Ohio Medical Center has an employee veggie garden where the staff can plant and pick their own food during their lunch breaks.

FactSet Research Systems offers monthly barbecues to its employees, and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts gives their employees free rooms.