The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently published their 2017 employee benefit report, including a list of which benefits are trending. Here are some observations about what’s hot in the benefits world.
Employee “lifestyle” options are hot. One example is the standing desk, a hot-button item for active workers of all ages. Other benefits on the rise include support of lactation for working mothers, telecommuting, shift flexibility, flexible mealtimes and free coffee.
Coverage for same-sex spouses and domestic partners has leveled off as a trend, but only because 85 percent of surveyed employers offer coverage for same-sex spouses and more than half provide coverage to domestic partners, regardless of gender. As employees become increasingly diverse, work/life benefits have become very important.
Employees’ lifestyle interests go beyond work/life balance. It’s no accident voluntary nontraditional or lifestyle benefits such as ID theft protection, pet insurance, college loan repayment plans, and employee purchase plans have been growing faster than traditional insured plans.
Another area on the rise is employee financial advice and financial wellness. In a sense, this is also related to lifestyle preservation. Instead of the traditional benefit emphasis on protection, financial advice emphasizes employee education and self-improvement.
SHRM reports in 2017, 49 percent of employers offer financial advice benefits, up from 28 percent in 2014. Employers are increasingly aware employees’ medical and health-related needs should be balanced by support of financial well-being. These concepts are complemented by an increasing emphasis on providing and funding health savings accounts and offering Roth 401(k) options. Appropriate financial planning can help employees prepare for emergency expenses through savings or the purchase of appropriate voluntary protection products.
The financial wellness trend does not mean there will be less emphasis on physical wellness. A significant percentage of SHRM members plan to introduce general wellness programs, reward programs, annual health risk assessment programs and expanded opportunities for wellness education.
Formal mentoring programs for employee development are on the rise, as is executive and leadership coaching. Cross training of skills not directly related to people’s jobs has become popular, supporting an employee’s lifestyle and career potential, not just helping insure risks.
Let’s summarize the opportunities in these findings. First, don’t ignore lifestyle protection, which represents an area of interest for a significant subset of employees. Most employers want to offer a broad range of benefits to attract and retain diverse talent.
Financial wellness programs also make people aware of the risks they may not be able to fully budget for. Products like critical illness, accident and hospital indemnity protection can answer this need for pennies on the dollar. And paycheck protection in the form of disability income protection insurance is one of the most basic financial wellness needs, as is the provision of life insurance for the benefit of an employee’s dependents.