5 Trends Reshaping Employee Benefits Programs Today
- As the pandemic subsides, new challenge for employers is to balance plans for returning to work with employee satisfaction
- Sourcing professionals should partner with HR leaders to ensure employee benefits programs are comprehensive, optimized and well socialized with the employee base
- They should identify opportunities with innovative suppliers to help transform benefits offerings
Two years of the pandemic has changed what employees expect from companies and what is being offered in employee benefits.
While hybrid working models, mental health and employee assistance programs offerings continue to evolve and become a standard offering, the new challenge for employers and HR leaders is to balance plans for returning to work with employee satisfaction.
As employees look for more stability, better benefits, the pressure on the companies have gone up to be more creative with their offerings to attract fresh talent and retain existing ones.
Mental Health and Stress Management Support
Two years of pandemic-related restrictions, chaos, and stress have increased anxiety and depression among employees. The mental health programs, counselors, and other psychological help programs were underutilized earlier. But now, these have become a critical part of employee benefits.
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Stress management has also been adopted widely with the work from home arrangement. In 2021, the global workplace stress management market was valued at $9.26 billion and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of over 8% in the 2022-2027 period.
The expectation of a shift to a flexible working model is currently high among the talent pool. Flexible working not only includes the hybrid model but also allow employees to choose when to visit the office along with flexibility in timings and remote working.
The last two years have made the employees understand that the fixed timings are not imperative for smooth working and hence now they would expect the same while working from office.
Wider healthcare coverage
Insurance and other healthcare-related benefits such as body checkup coverage and hospitalization support are important service offerings today. The pandemic has firmly shaped the mindset of people toward the importance of insurance and other healthcare benefits. Now the trend is moving toward the demand for a complete employer-paid insurance benefit.
What should HR and sourcing professionals do amid these changes?
The GEP Spend Category Outlook 2022 report recommends the following measures as companies look to manage changed employee expectations in benefits:
1. As the return to work materializes and changes the status quo, it necessary to reassess Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits. EAPs are typically funded fully by the employer and, when utilized, can offer benefits to employees through increased productivity, improved retention and health outcome improvements, resulting in overall healthcare cost savings.
Sourcing professionals should partner with HR leaders to ensure EAP benefits are comprehensive, optimized and well socialized with the employee base.
2. Companies should also spend more time to gather, analyze and generate insights to create wellness program and flexible benefits offering that fits the expectations and needs of a multi-generational and diverse workforce. Sourcing professionals in collaboration with HR should identify opportunities with innovative suppliers to help transform benefits offerings.
3. Organizations that are agile and drive meaningful changes to their total rewards programs will be able to attract and retain talent. To enable this, it is critical for HR leaders to collaborate with cross-functional teams to assess employee needs and rethink benefit programs to allow more flexibility, support and tools to their workforce. Customized benefit packages are now more important than ever as a diverse workforce returns to work and looks for support in managing workplace stress and mental health.
4. Healthcare offerings that metamorphized to virtually serve employees during the pandemic will continue to see further implementation and upgrades in the form of telemedicine and virtual therapy.Employers must recognize that the effects of the pandemic would continue to impact their workforce in the long term and only a robust and evolving healthcare plan can ensure basic employee wellbeing. In the foreseeable future, other offerings including mindfulness apps, EAP services and counseling and gym and fitness subscriptions will see greater inclusion in employee benefits. Floating holidays or extended weekends for burn-out recovery have also seen increased adoption.
5. Employees have started to gauge their financial health and look for avenues to hone their financial literacy. To that end, financial literacy options such as self-service tools, e-learning options, debt management counseling and interactive forums have gained popularity in the workplace, primarily offered through benefits. For individuals and families that fear potential educational loans in their future, corporates have started to offer low interest loans, tuition fee reimbursements and discounted education fees through partner colleges to attract talent looking at higher education or vocational courses.
The future of work is flexible, and employee benefits will need to evolve to cater to this. As economies globally recover, HR leaders are realizing that each segment of their multi-generational employee base has a unique set of needs, drawing a direct link to their health and welfare benefits. These needs today require a customized and accommodative benefits plan that offers the right mix and flexibility.