To attract and retain employees, employers must continually evaluate benefits offerings, trends, and tools. This isn’t just a once of year assessment in the fast pace benefits world of today it is at least a quarterly check-in. The pandemic significantly changed the way we work and the way we view work – including expectations around employee benefits. In 2021, more than 47 million Americans quit their jobs1. Everyone was taking a different look at their work-life balance and where/how to work, i.e. in person, remote, hybrid, or opening their own small business. As employees are reconsidering their work its time for employers to examine their employee benefits packages and see what’s working, what’s not and what’s missing. Now is the time for employers and health plans to modernize employee benefits and become the trailblazers that combat the lingering Great Resignation and Trendy Turnover rates we have all come to expect.
The Society of Human Resource Management’s 2022 Employee Benefits Survey indicates that when viewed individually, employers indicate each benefit is even more important than it was prior to the pandemic, resulting in a different mindset toward benefits such as flexible work, family care, and paid leave2.
Rapid change in the way we work, where we work, and the workforce itself, will keep employers on their toes. Look for states and the private market to pave the way and make needed changes with innovative voluntary employee benefits, paid family leave, flex work, and long-term care programs and products. A notable challenge will be inflation and addressing the selection of some voluntary benefits.
Mental Health & Financial Wellness
Employers have renewed focus on mental health and wellness, largely to address burnout to avoid turnover. These benefit offerings have been desperately needed and well-received by the workforce. Employers should go one step further and focus on financial wellness; understanding that financial wellness reduces undue stress. In today’s job market, financial wellness benefits go beyond retirement benefits such as a 401(k) plan, to include emergency savings, student loan repayment, paycheck loans and paid leave.
Prior to and throughout the pandemic, workers hesitated using their time off, for fear of termination or inability to pay bills, hence the resulting patchwork of federal, local, and state leave laws. People can’t afford to lose their jobs if they take time off, and workers hadn’t saved for unplanned absences like we’ve experienced with the pandemic.
Employers quickly learned that paid leave is essential during critical life events and financial security creates peace of mind at work. They have increased offerings around income protection like short-term disability and paid leave. Additionally, government paid family and medical leave (PFML) programs are passing at an increased rate3 – Connecticut Paid Family and Medical leave program began this year; Colorado’s and Oregon’s programs are next; and three other states already passed paid family and medical leave laws this year4. Many employers are using these state-mandated PFML programs as a starting point to offer enhanced paid leave benefits through a voluntary or private paid family and medical leave offering. Employers can take these statutory programs to the next level and purchase insured family or medical leave (IFML) products to support employees in many other states as well5.
Companies have innovated to quickly shift benefits and their delivery to the changed needs and demands of today’s workforce. Employers are recognizing holidays like Juneteenth as paid company holidays and introducing new company “perks” such as mental health days or the four-day work week. Employees have seen the art of the possible and expect more from their employers when it comes to workplace benefits.
Employers are scrambling to hire and retain employees and fight burnout – the risk of depression among employees is 71% higher than it was before the pandemic6. Custom benefits is one tool that is proving effective for employee recruitment and retention. Rather than a one-size-fits-all benefit package, employers are transitioning to personalized benefits offerings where employees can choose from a menu such as telehealth, pharmacy discounts, life insurance, nutritional wellness, trainings, tuition assistance, fertility benefits, legal assistance, and virtual mental/behavioral health management.
By transitioning to an a la carte approach with employee benefits, these employers are also addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. This approach to benefits recognizes that employees’ lives differ and so too will the needs and use of employee benefits. For example, not all employees need family-related benefits, so for DEI purposes, employers are seeking benefits for employees of all walks of life and stages of their lives, including pay-for-vacation, pet insurance, onsite cafeterias, and career advancement training — not just parental leave, fertility benefits, or life insurance benefits supporting a traditional spousal relationship.
Key to Staying Competitive
As the employee benefits market transforms, insurance carriers and employers must have a change management plan to consider what the next generation of benefits will entail and the resources to support them.
- Acknowledge: There is likely no new normal and constant change is here for the foreseeable future. Those armed with tools and partners that provide benefit usage data and trends, compliance updates, and innovative, flexible offerings will fare better.
- Assess: Designate a committee or consultant to assess the benefits possibilities from paid leave, mental health services, to emergency savings, and pet insurance. Survey employees and the local market to understand needs and trends. Considering hiring a consultant that does the legwork for you faster and more efficient as it doesn’t bog down your already overworked team.
- Appraise: Evaluate your current technology to deliver the benefits. Solutions may include productivity indicators for remote and hybrid work, leave of absence portal or software, and benefit enrollment education tools. Customized benefits apps are inexpensive and allow for more streamlined dissemination of important information to employees. These apps also are designed to lighten the load for your HR team and engage employees to yield higher adoption of benefits and greater satisfaction.
- Analyze:Have employee benefits usage data at your fingertips. This information can help inform potential policy and program changes. Not all benefits changes have to be major: consider swapping that employee pool table for a program supporting floating holidays or volunteering in the community. It is also important to analyze the why behind offering certain employee benefits. For example, what does the organization get out of offering the benefits and do they align with the organization’s mission and values?
Review and analysis will assist in planning and budgeting for new and changing benefits and resources. Many apps and definitely brokers/insurance carriers can help with providing data and again and outside consulting firm can come in and take and unbiased look and suggest a plan for execution to achieve the Total Rewards program your employees deserve.
The workplace has been reformed in more ways than one- for best or for worse it’s here and happening. As the demand for talent and reducing burnout remain challenges, must continually evaluate benefits offerings, trends, and tools in order to evolve, stay competitive and attract and retain top talent. If you like to learn more about how an outside consultant can be of assistance, contact Premier Workforce Solutions today to learn more. Premier is a Nationwide HR consulting firm with innovative customized solutions that have positive bottom line impact.