How 4 HR leaders think benefits will change in 2021

After the last year, the world of benefits will never look quite the same, experts say.
By: | January 8, 2021 • 3 min read

Amid all of the shifts the coronavirus pandemic ushered in over the last year, the rising importance of employee benefits—as a tool to enhance recruitment and retention, as well as build organizational culture—was among one of the most universal. From childcare assistance to new options for virtual care, employers stepped up to the plate in the last year to meet the rapidly changing benefits needs of their workforces. Now that 2020 is in the rearview mirror, HR and benefits professionals are exploring how those transformations will continue to play out in the months to come.

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As part of HRE’s series on what HR leaders can expect in 2021, we spoke with a number of HR leaders about how the pandemic and other recent events permanently reshaped the world of benefits. Here are a few of the trends they see coming our way:

Emphasis on the ‘whole’ employee: Benefits programs will increasingly focus on supporting employees’ holistic wellbeing, predict EY’s Michael Spicci and Wendy Edgar. The pandemic and the ensuing rise in remote work have highlighted HR’s responsibility for supporting employees both inside and outside of work—driving a shift toward total wellbeing. “Total wellbeing can mean something different for every organization. At EY, it means supporting the emotional, physical, financial and social wellbeing of our people,” Edgar says.  Read more here.

A new role for compassion: One of HR’s shining moments in 2020, says HR Executive of the Year Ellyn Shook, was the level of compassion HR leaders brought to the crisis—and will continue to extend into the benefits world. The CHRO of Accenture says compassion is quickly becoming the primary leadership characteristic that will help organizations’ talent practices survive the pandemic. With that, however, HR leaders can’t forget to invest the same level of attention in their own wellbeing. “We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others,” Shook says. Read more here.

See also: Mayer—7 benefit trends to watch in 2021

Benefits and culture go hand in hand: DJ Casto, executive vice president and CHRO at financial services company Synchrony, says the pandemic has presented a “cultural stress test” for many organizations, and investing in the wellbeing of employees can help companies pass that test. Synchrony expanded its total wellness offerings, launched a virtual summer camp and after-school programs for employees with kids, and provided enhanced flexibility around where and how employees work—decisions that, he says, were all made by listening to the voices of employees, which can help support a strong company culture. Read more here.

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Tapping into technology to support employee wellness: Greg Wilson, head of workplace solutions at Ayco, a Goldman Sachs Company, says that HR leaders have a number of technology-fueled offerings to enhance their benefits packages—and support employee wellness. For instance, apps that support mental health, such as through stress management and virtual counseling, will continue to grow in popularity in benefits programs, he says. Likewise, HR can also invest in apps that help employees budget and track their spending as well as connect working parents to caregiving resources.  Read more here.

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.