How HR can stay ahead of the ‘benefits renaissance’ in 2022

With the Great Resignation still in full swing, a record number of people leaving their jobs and the last 18-plus months drastically and negatively impacting employees’ emotional and physical health, HR leaders are being forced to conceive of new ways to attract and retain employees. More specifically, to be successful in this current environment, business leaders need to address the root causes of mental and physical health concerns to improve employees’ holistic health and overall happiness. This is underscored by the fact that more than half of today’s workforce believe their employer’s benefits offerings are more important now than before the pandemic and that employee burnout has worsened.

It’s time for HR leaders to focus on improving their benefits packages as we enter a new year in which employee wellness will be top of mind. Undoubtedly, the HR industry is undergoing a benefits renaissance, and we need to take advantage of this turning point to create benefits programs that go a step further and address holistic wants and needs. To get started, here are three things HR departments should take into consideration to ensure benefits programs are competitive, and most importantly, that they enhance employees’ overall wellbeing.

Don’t fall for Band-Aid solutions

Emily Taylor is Chief Human Resource Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Wondr Health.
Author Emily Taylor

With employee health top of mind, organizations are challenged to determine what benefits programs will make the most impact. The key to this is not implementing Band-Aid solutions but rather getting to the root cause of health concerns and implementing programs that align. In other words, we need to give our people the helmets and knee pads they need for protection before an injury even occurs. For instance, we can do this by offering weight management programs that educate employees on their overall health and equip them to address the root causes of weight gain and metabolic disease.

Related: How much are employers investing in wellness programs?

Common perks like gym reimbursement programs or weight loss challenges can certainly encourage wellness, but they are surface-level solutions that only help in the moment. It’s one thing to encourage healthier behavior for your people, but another to empower them with resources, knowledge and tools to succeed. Short-term initiatives don’t address the ongoing factors that contribute to health and weight gain like sleep patterns, nutrition and mental health.

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By zeroing in on the root cause of health issues, instead of providing perks that help in the short-term, employers can equip employees with resources to develop healthy and sustainable skills they can carry with them every day. This is a positive step toward creating a happier and healthier workplace, boosting productivity and the bottom line.

Ensure your benefits align with your organizational values

The HR industry is inundated with an increasing number of digital health and wellness solutions in the market, most claiming they meet all employee needs. However, the reality is that everyone’s needs are different, and diversity and inclusion efforts need to be considered.

Generationally, the workforce is at its most diverse–with five generations represented and each having vastly different wants, needs and motivations. With people more likely to engage with programs that feel personalized to them over a blanket-style program, the diverse nature of workplaces needs to be reflected in benefits programs.

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As HR leaders are evaluating their benefits and digital health stack for 2022, it’s imperative that they consider offering programs that can be tailored to the specific needs of individual employees. Everyone faces different daily obstacles, so by offering programs that are comprehensive and inclusive, you’re going the extra mile to help employees manage stressors and tackle their personal challenges.

Listen to employees and communicate

Clear communication is a key pillar of productivity. In fact, organizations with employees who feel connected experience a 20%-25% increase in productivity, according to McKinsey. This means that HR departments need to establish communication plans that drive engagement and ensure employees feel informed and comfortable to take advantage of the programs offered to them. This all starts with establishing clear, two-way communication channels that will only benefit employers and employees in the long run. To start, consider sending out surveys or setting up one-on-one meetings with individual employees to understand what benefits would be most valuable to them.

See also: What employers are doing to get creative about rising inflation

It’s likely that you’ll uncover that employees need both mental and physical health support, especially since the pandemic wreaked havoc on both areas. Research shows that during the pandemic, more than half of Americans have spent less time exercising than before and struggle to achieve weight loss goals. Additionally, 73% of people experienced increased anxiety and depression. This presents an opportunity for organizations to implement employee programs that promote positive weight management and mental health skills.

If your organization is not prioritizing the holistic health of employees in such a competitive labor market, you’re risking high turnover costs or missing out on great potential talent. To remain competitive, HR departments need to be mindful of what employees want and must be willing to implement new programs. Offering programs that can be personalized to employees and address the root cause of mental and physical health problems can provide a new level of support to employees. This results in happier, healthier and more productive workplaces, benefiting both employees and your business.

Emily Taylor
Emily Taylor is chief HR officer and chief financial officer for Wondr Health.

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