What Employee Benefits Will Attract Talent in 2017?
By: Catherine Conlan
Where are employee benefits headed in 2017 — and what benefits will be most coveted?
Experts predict that competition for skilled employees will require innovative approaches to benefits in the coming year.
“We’ll see more ways to attract Millennials and employees with sought-after skills, and that always leads to benefits that we’ve never even thought of,” says Evren Esen, director of workforce analytics the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
SHRM’s recent report looks at 20 years’ worth of benefits surveys and where employee benefits are headed. This context will help your company offer the best company benefits possible.
Here are some of the biggest trends on the horizon.
Promoting a Healthier Work-Life Balance
Not surprisingly, the SHRM report cites increases in the sort of benefits that make it easier for people to balance work and life concerns, a trend that’s been building for years.
It found that 60 percent of employers offered some kind of telecommuting option in 2016, triple the percentage in 1996. Flexible work options also increased slightly with half of employers offering flextime in 1996, compared with 54 percent in 2016.
“Flexibility and different forms of flexible work will continue to increase,” Esen says. “Over time, flexibility and the idea that you can work from anywhere is going to be expected and be the norm, especially for younger generations who have had technology all their lives and can’t imagine working without it. The concept of going to the office to do work is going to change as younger generations come into play.”
Popularity in paid leave has also increased. The SHRM report found that 97 percent of employers last year offered some form of paid vacation leave; 26 percent offered paid maternity leave beyond short-term disability or leave required by state law; 21 percent offered paternity leave.
“We should expect the trend of expanding leave policies to be more generous to continue,” says Theresa Stenger, strategic account manager at Trion Group, a Marsh & McLennan Agency, an employee benefits provider in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Focusing on Health and Wellness
A new administration and Congress has created some uncertainty around health insurance policies, says Esen. Meanwhile, the SHRM report cites a growth of options to make health insurance more affordable.
More employers offer health savings accounts and increased contributions to those accounts. Employers moved toward high-deductible health insurance plans as the Affordable Care Act was implemented, Esen says; that trend is likely to continue in 2017.
On the health front, employee wellness has grown in importance over the past 20 years. The SHRM report found that 72 percent of employers offer wellness programs in 2016, compared with 54 percent in 1996. And more companies are moving from wellness to well-being programs that provide holistic options for employees, adds Stenger, including financial wellness programs, student-loan repayment programs and retirement planning courses.
In addition, behavioral health programs will become more prevalent as employers look to roll out integrated solutions between physical and mental health conditions.
Balancing Cost with Value
As benefits costs continue to rise, employers will be looking for creative ways to control those costs while still offering the type of benefits that employees want.
According to the SHRM report, benefits account for about a third of the amount employers pay for total employee compensation. These costs are likely to rise 6 percent this year, according to a 2016 report from the National Business Group on Health.
Focusing on low-cost benefits that employees value such as flexible scheduling or working from home is one way to mitigate costs, experts say. In addition, bringing some of your benefits management in-house can help, says Greg Kuchcik, human resources director at Zeeto, a marketing technology company in San Diego.
“Wellness is a huge benefit right now and there are great companies to use, but if you want to save money it can easily be brought in-house,” says Kuchcik. “Having it run by your HR team with the help of employees saves money and encourages employee engagement at the same time.”