With job seekers now in the driver’s seat across most all industries, employers are pulling out all the stops to find more – and more enticing – ways to impress desirable recruits and differentiate their company from competitors. One of the key battlefields is benefits, where winning requires creativity and insight into employee desires and preferences.
The right benefits package can help you keep the great people you already have — another worry in today’s tight job market — as well as attract new ones.
ManpowerGroup reports that near half of employers admit to feeling the hiring pinch, and 32% are taking action by beefing up benefits.
So what is the clever employer offering these days?
Let’s look at what Manpower Group and the Society for Human Resource Management have to say about current trends.
In some industries, the tried-and-true signing bonus still retains its magnetism to lure potential candidates. However, if you expect those new hires to stick around, you cannot afford to keep throwing cash at them. Your overall benefits package still matters.
Health and wellness benefits
- Health insurance remains a top priority, of course, but the landscape is changing here. For example, the number of companies offering health savings accounts, or HSAs, has increased 11% in the past five years. Employees can gain tax benefits as well as health care benefits by choosing an HSA.
- Critical care and other specialized insurance options are joining the list of voluntary health benefits offered at many companies. Employees love the ability to pick and choose the benefits that best match their personal needs and interests. One particularly popular alternative insurance is coverage for acupuncture and acupressure, now offered by nearly half of employers.
- Likewise, life insurance is now on the list of voluntary insurance options in about two-thirds of companies. Company-paid group life insurance for the employee is most popular (85% of companies), followed by supplemental life insurance for employees (80%). Optional life insurance for dependents has soared 13% just since last year, now offered by about 70% of employers.
- Employees want to be better skilled in handling emergency situations, too. So companies are offering first aid training and CPR classes.
Work environment benefits
- Stingy lists of paid holidays are losing ground to longer lists of holidays officially observed by the company. Many employers are broadening the definition of “holiday” by simply offering a given number of paid days off that employees can schedule as they like. Others are increasing the number of sick days available, or total paid time off.
- Stress relievers. Employers know that over-stressed people do less work, make mistakes, and get sick more often. To combat those negatives, workers can now take advantage of such benefits as in-house massage and even formal stress management programs, now offered by 12% of employers.
- Dog-friendly workplaces reduce stress for both pet parents and their co-workers. Dogs can liven up the office, too.
- Where some employers used to view telecommuting as a questionable option, most have now figured out that flexibility is uber-important to employees who want (or need) to control their own time. It’s a lot easier to work for a company and keep you mind on the job when you have the ability to deal with family issues, etc. as necessary.
Telecommuting can save time (and therefore money) for employees, and it enables employers to hire exactly the people they want, regardless of their geographic location. Almost three-quarters of employers now offer some type of telecommuting option.
- Wellness and fitness programs continue to grow in popularity, too. Employers are finding one way to encourage participation is by holding friendly competitions or issuing challenges. And, in fact, the number of companies organizing fitness games rose from 28% in 2017 to 38% this year.
- What else boosts fitness, medical health, and mental acuity? Standing desks. People want them, and employers are listening. As of this year, more than half of employers provide this option.
- A perennial favorite benefit – casual dress days – is also on the rise. Now, instead of allowing dressing down only on Fridays, employers are letting folks dress more comfortably all time. In some cases they haven’t gone that far, but do allow “lighter” attire seasonally.
- Like health insurance, retirement plans are still important. Employers are expanding programs, and many are offering companion benefits such as financial or wealth management consulting.
- Scholarships and tuition reimbursement, even for part-time employees.
- Student loan assistance and incentives. Some employers link employees with programs that offer counseling and student loan repayment structuring. Some are offering to directly pay down a certain amount of student as a signing bonus. One company in the health care field created an incentive plan in which the company contributes 5% of the person’s pay to their 401(k) when the employee contributes 2% of their pay toward paying off their student loans.
- Expanded internal employee training and development programs enable employees to sharpen their skills and/or develop new ones. Many companies are finding that broader and/or deeper training stimulates employee engagement, in turn boosting motivation and loyalty as well as productivity.
- More companies say they are offering one-time “spot bonuses” to reward and thank individual employees, while a small number say they paid a one-time across-the-board bonus to employees as a result of the new tax law enacted in 2017.
Family and lifestyle benefits
- Paid maternity leave is getting longer in many companies, and it has morphed into parental leave so as not to discriminate against new dads. And it’s not only for traditional pregnancies any more. Employers are extending the benefit to include adoptions, foster children, and surrogacies.
- A few companies say they now offer benefits that support parents with autistic children.
- Some companies also offer family planning support, such as egg-freezing assistance programs.
- To help new moms returning to work, almost half of employers provide lactation rooms. And new-mom bankers at Goldman Sachs who must travel out of town can take advantage of the company’s breast milk transport program to keep fresh milk flowing home during mom’s absence.
- Pet insurance.
- Support for volunteer work. For years, companies of all sizes have encouraged employee volunteerism by matching cash donations to charities and organizing groups of employees to provide hands-on support for community non-profits and projects. Now, employers are taking that a step further, offering paid time off to employees who want to volunteer. And some companies are upping their matching contributions as well.
Employers now know they can no longer view benefits as a “necessary evil” expense to be tolerated. Your benefits package has become an asset, and a valuable one at that, to sell your company as The Best Place to Work. Like all marketing efforts, success requires knowing your customer and offering the right selection of products. What are you doing to get more creative?