Person on laptop surrounded by app icons Financial security is top of mind for many employees andis a big part of creating a positive long-term effect on theirlives and well-being. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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As health care and related core benefit costs increase, so doesthe financial squeeze on your company and your employees. Add tothe mix a competitive job market, with unemployment holding steadyat 3.8 percent, you're faced to up the ante of your recruitment andhiring strategies. Now is definitely the time to embrace new,creative ways to get and keep that top talent through progressivebenefits, while offsetting the rising cost of healthcare.

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For the past six years the year-over-year increase in healthcare premiums has held steady at 5 percent, making the totalincrease 55 percent for average family premiums. Who can keep upwith this? Health care costs are inflating faster than wages aregrowing and now represent 12 percent of total take homewages—that's a 100 percent increase from 30 years ago.

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Related: Americans fear health care costs could bankruptthem, hurt economy

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Rising health care costs intensify the financial worries ofemployees, and the collateral damage of personal financial stress often bleeds into theworkplace — reducing productivity and directly impacting yourorganization's bottom line. A Price Waterhouse Cooper report found thatnearly 50 percent of employees who are worried about theirfinancial health spend at least three hours each week dealing withpersonal financial issues on company time. And, only 39 percent ofAmericans said they would be able to cover an unplanned expensecosting $1,000.

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It's no surprise that employees believe basic benefits, such ashealthcare, should just be part of their compensation package.However, the amount that organizations are paying toward thisbenefit continues to skyrocket, companies who pay a lowerpercentage of health insurance premiums versus theircompetitors will likely experience a negative impact ontheir employee recruitment and retention efforts. So how can youdifferentiate in a smart, fiscally responsible manner?

When progressive benefits go viral

Finding and matching creative, progressive benefits to thepersonal goals of your employees has been shown to help fueloptimum engagement and enrollment rates. To achieve this, it'scritical to involve and empower your entire team as you evaluateand select new benefits. You'll find that their needs will varydepending on age, family status, and career experience — and youmight be surprised to hear what actually is most important tothem.

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If you've been following the news lately you may be familiarwith the Amazon employees calling themselves “Momazonians.” These employees are petitioningfor a back-up childcare benefit, which they believe will enablewomen to advance in the workplace if they are not the ones whoconstantly have to juggle time in the office versus time caring forchildren because of daycare, illnesses, school closures, or anynumber of other situations where one parent needs to stay home witha child rather than go into the office. And, their message has goneviral.

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Childcare is just one example of a progressive benefit that someof the most in-demand companies to work for are exploring tosupport their employees, including Microsoft, Apple, and Starbucks.Willis Towers Watson reports that 69 percent of employers considerprogressive benefits to be a very important part of a compensationpackage. This research also categorized critical-illness insurance,identity theft protection, pet insurance, and student loanrefinancing and consolidation programs all in high-demand and areoften part of an expanding selection of voluntary and supplementalbenefits.

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These progressive benefits all have one thing in common — theyhelp employees safeguard their financial security, an issue that istop of mind for many employees and is a big part of creating apositive long-term effect on their lives and well-being.

Profitable progressive benefits

Personally appealing benefits that are tailored to employeesneeds have the biggest impact on employee happiness. Ninety-onepercent of employees rate non-traditional benefits as importantpart of their job satisfaction. In fact, 73 percent say benefitsthat fit their lifestyle needs increase their loyalty to employers,according to Willis Towers Watson's 2018 Emerging Trends Survey. Most of all,employees want benefits that help them avoid the stress and anxietythat result from balancing work and personal priorities.

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One offering in this area that continues to rise to the top isidentity theft protection. This is because an identity or cybercrime can wreak havoc on anyone's life — it's a highly personalattack, and, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), thereare two new victims every second. It can take up to six months andhundreds of hours to recover after an identity theft incident—timeand distraction that can directly impact an employee'sproductivity, as well as that of their team members. Victims alsoreport feeling severe emotional stress and depression, often inaddition to suffering a financial loss.

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Employees and their employers are becoming increasinglyvulnerable to these types of crimes through Bring Your OwnDevice (BYOD) policies, and the general ubiquity of mobile-firststrategies. Malware that targets mobile device is one of thefastest growing threats to cybersecurity, and human error hasbecome the top cause of data breaches within an organization.

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So, what can you do to protect your employees' well-being andfinancial and digital profile?  An effectiveprogram of identity theft protection coupled with mobile cybersecurity can empower employees to thwart identity thieves and avoidthe years of frustration and financial ruin that can ensue. And,when an identity crime does happen, you'll want your employees tohave access to an elite team of certified experts who know how torecover their identity back to pre-event condition. Show youremployees that you are looking out for their best interest and notjust protecting their identity, but also, the digital fibers of whothey are and all that they've built.

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Donna Parent is the chief marketing officerof EZShield + IdentityForce, a digital identity protection andcybersecurity solution provider. 


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