Using employee benefits to attract and retain talent in today's job market

Dylan Blatt
January 23 2019
Using employee benefits to attract and retain talent in today's job marketcover

Employers are finally starting to take notice that perks like stock options and paid vacation days are no longer enough to recruit and retain, especially in the current, highly competitive war for talent.

With job openings popping up everywhere, and unemployment at all-time lows, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to land the most talented, highly desirable candidates. The strong labor market has also driven more Americans to quit their current job and switch employers.

“Comprehensive employee benefits packages have never been more important,” according to the benefits experts at EBN. Employers looking to hire highly qualified and diverse applicants must think about working towards parity in their benefit offerings, ensuring that any employee can feel satisfied with their company's plan. A study from HBR shows that nearly two-thirds of people cite benefit offerings as a key factor when deciding whether to accept a job offer.

While there are several benefit offerings that have become conventional among employers, such as health and dental coverage, retirement plans, and paid time off, it is becoming increasingly clear that employees expect these sorts of commonplace benefits as a baseline. As nearly half of privately owned firms in the U.S. offer health insurance and 79% of Americans work for an employer that sponsors a 401(k)-type of retirement plan.

Despite most employee groups having come to expect benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, that does not mean that every employer looking to hire top talent needs to offer lavish, Google-level perks like free meals and on-site haircuts. Glitzy perks may seem appealing on the surface, but employees seek more meaningful benefits that support their financial, physical, and mental wellbeing.

This sort of support can come in a variety of different forms. One example, which has been gaining significant traction lately, is more comprehensive parental leave benefits. More and more employees who are, or plan to be, new parents have been pushing their employers to give them the time they need to focus on their child. Despite most developed countries offering more than a year of paid parental leave, the U.S. has no such requirement. This means that the choice is left up to the employer, pushing down the U.S. national average of time-off after having a child to just 10 weeks.

These benefits are great and highly desirable for some, but because not everyone plans to have kids, offering a robust paid parental leave program is not enough to reach the “benefit parity” that is required to attract a wider array of talent. Employers need to push themselves to offer benefits that cover all aspects of life that employees want the support of their employer. This effort from employers to support the many aspects of their employees’ lives have resulted in an increased focus on using benefits to address and mitigate the negative effects of situations that cause a lot of additional stress. To do so, companies have turned towards a slew of financial wellness products that give their workforce meaningful benefits and peace of mind.

Financial wellness plans are an emerging class of employee benefits and help employees with everything from estate planning to identity theft protection. There is a sizable demand for such plans, which has been the driving force behind their growth, as well. According to PWC’s 2018 financial wellness survey, more than half of employees are stressed about their finances and want help. The study also showed that those who are stressed about their finances have lower productivity and take more days off.

Though financial wellness plans are highly practical benefits, the emotional benefit that is felt by employees has an equally significant impact on their abilities to work and desire to stick with a company. One financial wellness benefit that has cropped up and become particularly popular is student loan assistance. With 70% of new grads entering the workforce with student debt and the fastest growing demographic of student borrowers being 40-49 years old - typically parents taking out loans on behalf of their children - student loan assistance is an offering that a huge number of employees can benefit from. With massive debt loads causing stress, preventing employees from taking important life steps like starting a family, and preventing participation in other financial savings benefits like a 401(k), an employee’s student debt is often the biggest financial stressor of their lifetime. Benefits like Goodly, which enables monthly, employer-paid contributions towards employees’ student loan debt, provide companies with a turnkey platform that gives their employees a meaningful benefit that helps tackle this momentous financial and emotional stressor.

Whether an employee is taking out a mortgage to buy their first home or trying to navigate financing their child’s college education, having access to support and guidance that their company provides helps to alleviate that pressure and enables them to stay focused on their job at that company. At this point, employees have come to expect benefit offerings that support them through all stages of life.

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Dylan Blatt
January 23 2019