Benefits Trends to Watch in 2019

 In Thinking

Hiring managers are going into 2019 with record-low unemployment numbers and a wage forecast that’s unlikely to budge. That’s an environment that makes current talent restless and their replacements tough to find.

And in growing, competitive organizations, it means benefits teams will be doing even more heavy lifting and keeping their ears even closer to the ground. The latest Aflac WorkForces report estimates that a whopping 45% of current employees are going to start looking for a new job in the next 12 months. However, the same report mentions one bright spotalmost as many (41%) say improving their benefits package is one thing employers can do to keep them from leaving.

So what changes should you consider in your benefits plan for next year, as you foster the workforce you want? Here are some trends to watch:

Flexibility, period

In a 2018 survey by Unum, paid family leave was noted as the “most coveted work perk” among a Top 15 list of benefits attractions, particularly for younger workers starting families. Aside from scheduling flexibility, other convenience benefits aimed at working parents are gaining popularity, and older workers with caregiving responsibilities figure into this picture as well.

But demand for flexibility goes well beyond employees with kids or aging relatives. The Unum study’s next three items all dealt with time-control benefits: remote work options, professional development, and sabbatical leave. In fact, millennials have been identified as a key group willing to trade pay for the ability to work wherever and whenever they want. Lest anyone wonder whether this is just about the freedom to work in one’s pajamas, accelerating economic factors are at play. For example, average U.S. commuting times are getting longer, and cost of living is rising in major metro areas. The number of workers making extreme commutes (90 minutes or more) is today’s fastest growing commuting demographic.

Keep an eye on the following trends related to this:

  • Permanent flexibility: A Mercer report declares that digital technology and more collaborative work philosophies have dismantled the walls between home and work, so companies need to develop stricter policies on onsite/offsite work.
  • Office/facility design: What new recruits see at an interview and after they’re hired means a lot. Flexibility isn’t just about clocking time; it’s increasingly about the messages physical spaces send, too.  
  • Better commuter support: As younger workers in many major cities are delaying buying cars, some employers are considering private shuttles or improving transit and parking benefits.

Financial wellnessand repair

A 2017 Willis Towers Watson survey shows that nearly half of U.S. employees are dealing with financial stress, a true mind/body issue that goes well beyond the wallet. It can affect workplace physical and mental health as a whole, damaging culture and productivity.

While financial planning resources only made Unum’s No. 9 spot among top employee-sought benefits, company-subsidized offerings like auto and home insurance are gaining steam as ways to make paychecks go further as inflation rises.

Yet many think 2019 could be the year employers start tackling their workers’ biggest financial elephant in the room: student debt. Now the second-biggest source of consumer debt behind home mortgages, benefits managers are seeing in-house student loan repayment benefits as both a recruitment tool and a way to assure full participation in retirement benefit programs.

What’s more, experts including MetLife and PwC say younger employees are hungry for tailored, employer-provided financial training. Predictive benefits technology could address this need.

Redefining worker health

The highest-ranking health perk on the earlier Unum study involves the all-important gym membership. But there are many other avenues of health gaining attention today, and for benefits managers, that could mean a number of things:

  • Fertility/family health: A Willis Towers Watson survey finds that 66% of employers plan to offer fertility benefits by 2019, up from 55% in 2017, with coverage for same-sex couples expected to reach 81%.
  • Voluntary health benefit choice: As part of an overall boom in targeted, voluntary benefits, cash-strapped employees want supplemental coverage to cover out-of-pocket costs for health emergencies, catastrophic illnesses, or hospital expenses not covered by their regular health plan.
  • Telemedicine: While medical liability and cost issues are just a few early adoption concerns, benefits advisors may want to take a closer look at how remote digital healthcare, otherwise known as telemedicine, may help their workers, particularly in the area of mental health.

What next?

Stay ahead of the curve with your benefits package as you start to recruit for 2019. And once you have the desired benefits in place, make sure that employee awareness is up. Learn how to connect the dots between those compelling benefits and the people in your organization who need them.

 

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