What’s New in Employee Benefits?

With the tightest labor market in years, employers are turning to their benefits offerings to attract and retain the best and brightest–as today’s candidates’ market shifts the conversation on what employees benefits are most valuable.

During last week’s annual convention of the Society for Human Resources Management, the organization released its annual Employee Benefits Survey, which highlighted the changing trends in employee benefits. Among the findings, SHRM found the biggest increase in benefits offerings related to health and wellness, with 20% of surveyed employers having added to this area in the last year. Travel- and housing-related benefits saw the least traction, followed by family-friendly programs.

Interestingly, those priorities don’t necessarily mesh with what employers think employees find most important: On that front, wellness was ranked third from the bottom, while investment and retirement was second-most important (after healthcare). However, only 12% of employers increased benefits related to investment and retirement in the last year.

One financial-health area has seen considerable growth: student-loan repayment. In 2018, just 4% of employers surveyed by SHRM offered benefits designed to alleviate student debt, a figure that doubled to 8% in this year’s survey. Other areas trending upward include standing desks and part-time telecommuting, which increased by 7 and 5 percentage points, respectively, from 2018. Additionally, the number of employers offering leave that exceeds Family and Medical Leave Act requirements jumped by 6 percentage points.

In a statement, Alex Alonso, chief knowledge officer at SHRM, said the study highlights the need for employers to understand the particular needs of their workforce–and, as it likely continues to diversify, to keep on top of changing expectations.

“Finding the right combination of benefits that appeals to a multigenerational workforce can be a challenge,” Alonso said. “But if you know a good portion of your workforce are baby boomers with aging parents, you might choose to beef up your caregiving benefits and flexible-scheduling policies. On the other hand, if you have a young demographic, offering benefits like student-loan repayment could be the way to go.”

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Jen Colletta
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.