Companies often provide employee benefits (compensation given to employees in addition to their wages or salaries) to increase talent attraction, retention, engagement, and overall job satisfaction. This tactic is well supported by experimental evidence. According to the 2021 Employee Benefits, Health, And Well-Being Survey, 82% of respondents stated that employee benefits play a key role in whether they want to work for a company. Despite their importance, contemporary benefits packages appear to be falling short. According to the survey, 81% of employees stated that their company’s benefits don’t fit their lifestyles.
Given the significance that employees assign to their benefits, such widespread dissatisfaction ought to raise some alarms. To remain competitive, employers must update and upgrade their benefits packages to attract and retain talent. This post highlights some of the key areas in need of improvement so that organizations can offer a holistic and impactful set of benefits.
Why Employees Are Unhappy With Their Benefits Packages
The growing dissatisfaction with employee benefits likely has several sources. The first is that many benefits packages utilize a one-size-fits-all structure. For instance, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks employer-based coverage, 75% of the organizations surveyed offered only one type of health plan.
As companies become increasingly diverse, these types of benefits packages will become increasingly inadequate. Different demographics have different needs that are not well met with what is often a one-size-fits-all solution. As Joe Markland, CEO of Nfor1, an human resources and benefits company, states in his article for Employee Benefits News:
The current one-size-fits-all nature of today’s programs can’t possibly be best for everyone. A 61-year-old with a heart condition most often has little in common with a 26-year-old triathlete who can’t pay his or her rent. They don’t drive the same cars, wear the same style clothes or like the same music — and they definitely don’t need the same benefits.
Without a more personalized approach, benefits packages are likely to remain insufficient. Though many of the needs left unaddressed by contemporary benefits packages vary from one demographic to the next, other inadequacies impact a wide range of groups. For instance, rising healthcare costs are affecting just about everyone (though not always in the same way or to the same degree). As the New York Times reports:
Increase[s] in premiums and deductibles together over the last decade has far outpaced both inflation and the growth in workers’ earnings. Since 2010, premiums have climbed 55%, more than double the rise in wages or inflation.
Pandemic-induced changes in employee sentiment towards their health coverage have made this problem more acute. Workers have become more aware of the importance of having a comprehensive health plan and are looking to add on additional health benefits.
According to the 2021 Aflac Workforces Report, about half of all US employees purchased at least one new health benefit in response to the pandemic. This trend was more pronounced for those who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Matthew Owenby, Chief Human Resources Officer for Aflac stated:
This year’s survey demonstrates the heavy impact COVID-19 has had on American consumers. Now we are seeing that wake-up call turned into action, opinions and actions regarding their health insurance and financial security, which was even stronger for those who actually had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
Thus, even though healthcare costs are rising, consumers want more encompassing healthcare packages.
While benefits packages are woefully outdated, a clear understanding of their common weaknesses can provide companies with a clear direction for fixing them.
1 - Create A One-Size-Fits-One Benefits Package
Though personalized benefits may seem like a financial and logistical nightmare, recent changes to US laws have made it simpler and less costly to provide a one-size-fits-one benefits package. For instance, as of 2020, workers can take part in individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRAs). Under these arrangements, employers can set aside funds for employees to use on their preferred plans, on a pre-tax basis.
2 - Offer Modern Benefits
While health coverage is essential, many workers are looking for more holistic packages that incorporate the many dimensions of wellness. Below are a few modern benefits that employers can offer:
Flexible Work Schedules: According to Gartner’s 2021 Digital Workplace Experience Survey, 59% of workers would only consider a new job that allows a choice of location. Time flexibility appears to be important as well. In a recent Wellable Pulse Check, 86% of respondents stated that that the 9-5 workday is obsolete. Thus, employees want more control over where and when they work.
Education Benefits: Advanced degrees are becoming increasingly expensive. As a consequence, student debt has grown to record levels with the total amount of outstanding student debt reaching $1.57 trillion in the US in 2020. Employers can offer education benefits (e.g., tuition reimbursement) to help employees offset these costs and continue to acquire new skills in today’s degree-demanding job market.
Homeownership Benefits: Homeownership can bring with it several significant wellness rewards, which can lead to happier, healthier, and more productive employees. As housing prices continue to skyrocket, many employees may be deprived of these benefits. Employers can help workers obtain these rewards by offering homeownership benefits (e.g., homebuying education seminars or down payment assistant programs).
Pet Benefits: Unsurprisingly, pet adoption surged during the pandemic. While these furry friends are associated with several positive health outcomes (e.g., reduced anxiety and stress, increased social interaction, lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, etc.), they don’t always make life easier. For instance, pet ownership often comes with unexpected medical expenses. Additionally, many pet owners are uncomfortable leaving their pets alone at home for eight hours while they are in the office. Employers can make pet ownership easier by adding a variety of pet benefits (e.g., pet insurance, pet bereavement leave, or pet-friendly workspaces).