Business Strategy

Not An Employer’s Market After All: Benefits You Must Offer to Retain Top Talent

Not An Employer's Market After All: Benefits You Must Offer to Retain Top Talent.

More than 92% of companies surveyed by Mercer report they’ll be providing more flexible work options for employees moving forward. More than half say they’ve implemented flexible hours for child care and adopted a more flexible approach to working remotely versus in the office.

These changes are likely here to stay but they’re not the only things organizations are doing to try to attract and keep their best employees.

The Big Benefits

The two most important benefits in survey after survey continue to be health insurance and paid time off. That’s no surprise. Once employees reach the professional level, these have become basic expectations.

Still, there’s a big difference between health plans. Managing costs and providing a solid health plan can go a long way with employees.

Since the average premium for family coverage has increased 54% over the past decades, employees today are very aware of their share of the premiums and the benefits they’re getting. A competitive health plan can be a big difference-maker in recruiting and retaining employees.

Customized Benefits Plans

Employers are also offering customized benefits plans that allow employees to chose which options they want. Rather than a one-size-fits-all package, employees pick what works for them. This can help both Baby Boomers and Millennials to tailor coverages for their stage of life.

Structured Incentive Plans

For professionals, structured incentive plans can help keep employees focused on company goals. They’re also powerful motivators. The type of high-performing employees you want will have the confidence to bet on themselves. When plans are well-structured and easy to understand, they can be very persuasive. Multi-year incentives plans, or plans that take to vest, can help with retention.

  • Performance bonuses (individual and/or team)
  • Retention bonuses
  • Stock incentives
  • Deferred compensation

Emerging Benefits & Perks

Besides the basics, we’re seeing an increase in specialized benefits from companies as they try to create a more flexible model for employees.

  • Increased family leave
    Paid leave to deal with family responsibilities is increasing and it’s having a positive effect on the diversity of the workforce. States that enacted paid-leave policies found 20% fewer female employees were leaving their job within a year of having a child.
  • Student loan assistance
    Whether it’s millennials in the workforce or boomers still paying off their child’s college loans, adding student loan debt reduction can be an attractive perk and help with retaining employees. A study done by the American Institute of Public Accounts showed the most coveted benefit by graduates was help with repaying loans.
  • Time off for volunteering
    Another emerging trend is allowing employees to take paid time off for volunteering in their community.
  • Unlimited time off
    While most employers offer vacation or PTO (paid time off), employers are increasingly offering unlimited PTO as a recruiting and retention tool. It’s a bit of a misnomer as it’s not really unlimited. Employees tend to take fewer PTO days when on an unlimited plan and companies can avoid paying out for vacation time if they’re in a state that considers it as accrued wages.
  • Financial programs
    While the days of pension as long-gone in the private sector, financial programs that encourage savings, help employees manage their finances, and provide strategic advice are gaining traction.
  • Profit Sharing
    A growing number of companies are trying performance to compensation. In some cases, they’re offering a percentage for performance above budgeted profits or making additional contributions to employee 401(k) plans for exceeding goals.

COVID Changed Employee Expectations

COVID changed people’s perspectives and the expectations they have of their employer. As people worked remotely, there was less of an emphasis on workplace perks, such as massage chairs, stocked kitchens, and ping pong tables.

As work habits and priorities shifted, so did employee expectations. Here are some of the benefits and perks that companies are adopting.

  • Tele-medicine
    43% of employers now offer telemedicine as part of their core benefits – a 48% increase from the year before.
  • Work hour flexibility
    Schools and daycares closing caused chaos for working parents. Flexible hours have helped employees juggle work and family responsibilities.
  • Remote and hybrid working environments
    It goes beyond the flexibility of work hours and now includes location flexibility. For example, only 12% of knowledge workers want to return to work full-time. Nearly three-quarters want a hybrid of office and at-home working environments.
  • Wellness programs
    Roughly a third of employees reported experiencing symptoms of depression regularly. 41% reported higher levels of burnout. Companies are addressing mental health and wellness in a more direct way.

Employee Benefits Are More Important than Ever

The majority of employees say their benefits package is more important than ever before. Unfortunately, a significant number of employees feel their current employer isn’t meeting their needs – especially in a changing environment. If that’s how your employees feel, you may need to make a few changes.

If you’re trying to recruit top talent, offering additional benefits may be just what you need to set you apart from the competition.


Want more business advice and insights? Find it on our blog!


About the Author

Paul Dughi has been in executive management positions in the media industry for the past 25 years. At age 55, he earned his MBA in Business Administration while working full-time as President of a multi-station TV group. He is the author of two books on Marketing and Management.