As we navigate through a time of unprecedented low unemployment rates and a labor skills shortage, employers are compelled to get creative in their efforts to attract and retain talent. Offering robust and diverse benefits and perks can set a company apart and make them more attractive to candidates who are being wooed with multiple career opportunities in today’s job market.
Likewise, we are also seeing employees leave organizations for many reasons including a lack of employee benefits, poor management, a lack of work/life balance, and work overload with no reward. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) 2018 survey found that working adults estimated their benefits to represent 40% of their total compensation. The survey also reported that 80% of workers would choose a job with benefits rather than take one that offered more pay and no benefits. Organizations can’t afford to lose employees – it’s costly and challenging to find replacements. To remain competitive, organizations need to pay special attention to the benefits they are offering.
Here are the Top 10 Employee Benefits of 2019:
- Flexible Working Benefits
Offering flexible working options, such as working remotely and flexible scheduling, is one type of benefit to help employees maintain work/life balance. The most recent Gallup survey results found that 43% of employees worked remotely in some capacity in 2016. By providing more flexibility to employees’ work environment and schedule, employers can also benefit by having more productive employees.
Another flexible working benefit example is offering a condensed schedule of a 4-day work week. Some organizations may choose this year-round, and others choose to implement this as a “summer hours” schedule. Allowing employees to extend their weekend time can lead to an increase in employee morale.
- Tuition/ Education Assistance
Employers are encouraging their employees to further develop their skills and knowledge through education and/or advanced training. Employers acknowledge that this can create a financial burden on their employees. Therefore, providing financial assistance as an option to help offset the cost has become a beneficial perk for employees. Some organizations reimburse employees’ education or training expenses up to a specific amount while others reimburse the employees per course taken, provided they earn a specified minimum grade. This financial support demonstrates to employees that the company is invested in their long-term success in the organization.
An emerging trend we continue to see is the benefit of student loan repayment. With the cost of higher education continuing to rise, students are graduating with substantial debt. In order to become more attractive to recent graduates, some employers offer to pay a portion of their employees’ student loans for every year of service with the company. An employer can gain loyalty from an employee through this type of investment.
- Professional and Career Development:
According to the 2018 SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) Employee Benefits Survey, 86% of employees indicated that professional and career development benefits are important to their overall job satisfaction. SHRM found the most common benefit in this area was professional memberships, while they saw a rise in the following professional and career development benefits:
- Onsite and offsite professional development opportunities
- Certification / recertification fees
- Professional license application or renewal fees
- Cross training to develop skills not directly related to the job
- Formal mentoring programs
- College selection / referral programs
Savvy employers recognize that employees are interested in growing and developing within their organization, and they will add benefits that foster this growth.
- Unlimited Paid Time Off
Along with flexible scheduling and the option to work remotely, more companies are reviewing their PTO policies. Unlimited PTO allows employees to take as many vacation, sick, and mental-health days as they need, as long as they are meeting their performance goals. Giving employees time away from work can provide the opportunity to rest and recharge resulting in less burnout and more enthusiasm to be more productive.
However, be sure to closely monitor your program if you offer unlimited paid time off. For some organizations, they’ve found employees take less time when it is unlimited and therefore are not getting the R&R needed.
- Free Food and Beverages
Many companies offer free lunches, snacks, and beverages to their employees. The SHRM Employee Benefits Survey found the percentage of employers offering free food and beverages increased significantly to 32 percent in 2018. This perk may seem extravagant to some, but there are several good reasons to do so:
- It’s cost effective. Employees often leave the office for snacks or coffee, and a quick coffee break can turn into an hour or more away from work.
- It encourages mingling. Flexible schedules and remote work results in employees interacting less. What better way for employees to connect and collaborate than over a cup of coffee?
- It helps with retention. Surveys have shown that people are happier in their jobs when free snacks are provided.
- Pet Related Benefits
For most pet owners, they love their pets like family members. As a result, some companies offer pet related benefits to show their support and appreciation for how important pets are to their employees. Some employers have open policies for bringing a pet to work, or they set a specific day to bring pets into work. It’s amazing how the presence of a pet can elevate the mood and bring a sense of calm happiness to the workplace.
Pet owners also know the stress of having a sick pet. Not only is the employee worried about the well-being of their beloved pet, but they are also stressed about the costs associated with their care. This is why some employers are starting to offer pet insurance to help alleviate the financial burden.
Although only 9-11% of employers offer these types of benefits according to SHRM’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, it is a slowly growing trend that will reflect an employer’s willingness to offer unique benefits.
- Retirement / 401(k)
Financial well-being can be a significant source of stress and anxiety, so it is no surprise that future financial stability and retirement planning continues to be top of mind for many employees. AICPA’s survey found that 56% of Americans want a 401(k) plan with employer match, which makes it among the top three most desired workplace benefits.
SHRM’s report found 93% of organizations offer a traditional 401(k) or similar defined retirement savings plan, and 76% offer a traditional 401(k) matching plan. They also found more than half of the organizations now offer investment retirement advice, which is an increasing trend they’ve seen over past years.
In an article touting the employer benefits of offering a 401(k) matching plan, Glassdoor says, “Offering a 401(k) matching plan to your employees is a good way to empower your workforce. It solves the challenges of recruiting talented new hires, decreases turnover, increases retention, boosts employee morale, and improves overall work productivity.”
- Ancillary Benefits
As employers seek creative ways to diversify their benefits options, ancillary benefits have become attractive. One example we have seen with increasing popularity is Teledoc. This allows an employee (and family members, if applicable) to be assessed and diagnosed by licensed doctors via phone or online. This can save your employees both time and money by getting the medical care that they need and avoiding an expensive trip to urgent care.
For more great ideas, the PlanSource 2019 Benefits Benchmark Report shared the following ancillary benefits with the percentage growth they’ve had over a three year period:
- Employee Assistance Program (84%)
- Parking and Transit (198%)
- Legal Assistance (207%)
- Identity Theft Protection (440%)
- Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness programs are good at helping employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviors and a healthy lifestyle. Healthy behaviors lead to lower health risks, and lower health risks lead to lower health care costs to the employer.
Health and wellness benefits can take on many forms from wellness programs like Humana’s Go365 to financial planning support. Some additional ideas to get your brainstorming started include:
- Gather a company team to run/walk a 5K (This can often serve a dual purpose of benefitting your employees’ health, but also a community organization.)
- Gym membership reimbursement
- Onsite fitness classes
- Promote a tobacco free campus policy
- Offer healthy food options in vending machines and cafeterias
- Onsite stress management or meditation classes
- Onsite neck and shoulder massages
- Medical / Dental/ Vision
Health coverage is a significant employee benefit that many employees depend on to support themselves and/or their family. Obviously, it’s beneficial for employees to have access to health coverage to support their good health and well-being, and employers benefit from having healthy employees. But particularly in today’s tight labor market, offering medical, dental, and vision benefits is becoming an increasingly important attraction and retention tool.
In their 2018 survey assessing the value of employer provided health care coverage, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) learned:
- 56 percent of U.S. adults with employer-sponsored health benefits said that whether or not they like their health coverage is a key factor in deciding to stay at their current job.
- 46 percent said health insurance was either the deciding factor or a positive influence in choosing their current job.
These statistics are important reminders of the importance that employees (or potential employees) place upon your health care offerings. Employers are wise to stay on top of the trends and employee expectations in order to remain competitive in the attraction and retention of their most valuable resource – their employees.
The list of potential benefits is extensive. But what may be a highly valued benefit for one organization may not be needed in another. Rather than copy what other organizations are providing, ask your employees for feedback. Ask them what benefits would make their lives easier or better. Having a variety of options can be a helpful way to attract and retain different generations in the workforce who may be at varying stages in life with differing priorities. Remember that not all benefits need to be paid for by the employer either. No matter how big or small your organization is, there are many realistic options for you to consider.
Thank you to Ashly Avery, Sam Lickert, and Melinda Canino with strategic HR inc. for their collaborative effort to share their insights and ideas on top benefits in the workplace. To share your thoughts or ask the questions, email info@strategicHRinc.com.