The employment landscape is constantly shifting, but the past few years have demonstrated that change is happening faster than ever as employees’ standards transform, and employers work to keep pace with those new expectations.
In 2022, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 50 million workers quit their jobs — a record since 2001, when data collection launched. Why the high churn rate? According to the most recent Retention Report from the Work Institute, “employers caused the Great Resignation.”
To be more specific, employees are more actively seeking better opportunities at other organizations because they aren’t completely satisfied with their current situations. Keeping existing employees engaged and fulfilled is arguably the biggest challenge that HR professionals are managing in 2023.
How are they doing it? Compensation is certainly one avenue, but employee benefits are also an increasingly critical part of the package. From health and wellness to financial security, here are some of the biggest ways employers are structuring benefits to attract and retain the best employees.
Health, dental, and vision insurance are foundational benefits. Apart from those basic perks, there are plenty of ways that employers can show support for employee health and wellness via their benefits package.
Regular exercise trickles up to employers: It means lower stress levels, sharper focus, better health.
Employers can either collaborate with a local or national gym or fitness outlet to offer free or discounted memberships, provide on-site fitness facilities or classes, or create a monthly or annual gym or fitness stipend for staff, which allows them to choose their own program or venue.
Apps and companies such as IncentFit can help employers track whether employees work out a certain number of times per month, then “reward” those employees who meet the preset goal with the stipend.
From smoking cessation to mindfulness, there are a number of ways employers can think about wellness and apply it to their workers. These programs might include free biometric screenings, activity rewards and incentives, team and individual wellness challenges, and more.
For many younger workers, keeping up with their mental health is a critical self-care activity. Mental and behavioral health resources can include free access for employees to a mindfulness and meditation app like Headspace or Calm, or it could mean using a platform such as Ginger, which offers in-app behavioral health coaching, therapy options, and more.
Sometimes (but not always) packaged with health insurance, providing telemedicine to staff can be an enticing perk for some people, especially any employees who are located in areas where access to healthcare is limited.
These programs allow workers to reach a physician or care provider via video chat, eliminating the need to visit a doctor’s office for more simple diagnoses or care requests.
One specific area where employers can stand out in terms of health care perks is by offering compensation for fertility treatments or adoption, which can be prohibitively expensive. Subsidizing these expenses can win loyalty with a certain subset of employees.
Even as our lives have become increasingly digitized, work has typically been done at the employer’s location, during the employer’s preset hours. That’s been shifting with the rise of different work models that help workers be productive wherever and whenever they choose.
For positions that can be executed remotely, offering remote or hybrid work options to staff can be a big win for employers. According to research by Ergotron, 88% of employees surveyed said that the flexibility to work from either home or the office has increased their job satisfaction, and 75% said they had a more active lifestyle when working remotely.
Remote and hybrid options can eliminate the daily commute for employees while also allowing employers to cast an ever-broader net geographically when seeking new talent.
If remote and hybrid work are already part of the culture, another level of flexibility employers can provide surrounds the hours employees work.
Some jobs require more collaboration, but for positions that focus on solitary work, employers might be able to accommodate both early birds and night owls.
Along the same lines, if employees can get their work done in four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days, offering shorter work weeks and longer weekends can make a big difference.
Some companies establish a four-day workweek for the whole organization! A pilot program in Britain testing four-day workweeks found that there was no loss of productivity during the experiment — some companies even saw higher productivity.
Employers who subsidize volunteer time, either by blocking off volunteer days for the whole company to pitch in on an effort, or by providing employees with paid time off to pursue volunteer activities, can set themselves apart from the competition (and possibly even establish some goodwill in the community).
A professional development program is an investment in employee growth. Giving your employees the chance to grow and learn new things can only enhance your workforce.
Whether it’s a skill that’s required for your company or training in an aspirational organizational skill (such as Agile or Scrum certification), providing and paying for training programs is one way to help employees feel valued and appreciated.
Offering tuition reimbursement for current students, especially for classes relevant to your business, can help cement loyalty from staff members both while they are working on their degrees and after graduation.
While many employers leave it up to their employees to find a relationship with a mentor, some employers are more proactive in creating programs that match mentees with a mentor at the company, and then provide them both with the time and resources needed to develop that connection.
Think financial stress isn’t a big deal for your employees? According to a Ceridian study, 82% of workers think about their personal financial stress at work, which loses employers a collective $644 billion in productivity.
A retirement plan is a fairly standard option at most employers, whether it’s providing an employer-run IRA or 401(k) program that allows employees to deposit money from their earnings into a retirement savings account.
In 2023, having a retirement plan is important, and considering some kind of match for employers is also a good move in order to stay competitive with the market.
Employees who work for both public and private companies might be offered employee stock purchase plans, or stock options, as part of their benefits package. These programs allow employees to purchase a preset number of company shares at a discounted price, which can often present a good investment opportunity for staff.
If 82% of workers are thinking about personal financial problems at work (and they are), then it’s probably safe to assume that those workers are dealing with unexpected financial burdens or emergencies. Financial advisors suggest creating emergency savings funds that can help alleviate some of this stress, but according to recent research, more than 40% of respondents in their prime working years (ages 27 through 58) say they have more credit card debt than short-term savings.
Employer-sponsored emergency savings plans can be a significant way to alleviate this stress. Participation in these plans tends to be high (more than 60%), and employers who offer a match for a certain contribution level can help increase employee engagement while simultaneously strengthening the safety net for their workers.
SecureSave is one program that both employers and employees love: The funds are deposited post-tax into an account that can be easily accessed at any time, for any reason.
Financial literacy doesn’t come naturally to some employees, and offering classes on basic skills, such as creating a budget can not only help alleviate financial stress for employees, but can also help them feel more empowered and in control of their lives.
In 2021, most college graduates with newly minted bachelor’s degrees (54%) graduated with debt: an average of $29,100. Current and former students will likely appreciate employers’ offers to match or subsidize those student loan payments.
Some companies provide these two benefits in separate time banks, while others combine them as blanket paid time off (PTO) days that can be used for anything from travel to dealing with nausea to mental health days. Some companies, such as Netflix, offer unlimited PTO programs, meaning workers can take off as many days as they need to each year, without any penalty.
Unlimited PTO might not be reasonable or realistic for your company, but providing some kind of PTO bank for employees who need time off can be a smart move, especially in industries where PTO is not standard (such as the service industry). Increasing PTO for long-term employees can also be useful for incentivizing top talent to stay put.
Some companies offer as much as 16 weeks of parental leave, but even one or two weeks of paid time off can mean a lot to a new parent. And there are companies that allow employees to donate their own PTO toward a colleague’s parental leave.
To be clear, it’s unlikely that any employer (even Google) is offering every single one of these benefits in 2023. But there’s a lot of opportunity to increase your own benefits package and entice the best talent to come work for you — and then to stay for a while.