Benefits and Compensation

2019: The Year of Employee Benefits

Saturated with jobs and lacking enough people to fill them, the tight labor market continues to make headlines, and for employers it’s not just a news story. Instead, it is a new reality that will be here for the foreseeable future. Making your organization stand out from the crowd is increasingly important—and more challenging.


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For business leaders and HR professionals, the labor market situation is complicating employee recruiting and retention. One of the most effective ways to meet this growing challenge is to ensure that your company offers a benefits package that differentiates your organization and entices employees to join and stay.

But “benefits” can mean a lot of things, and while much of what constitutes a high-quality benefits package has remained constant—think health coverage and 401(k) contributions—our workforce now comprises five generations. With so many generations, one size does not fit all for your employees.

As you look for ways to attract and retain top talent, keep your eye on these three benefits trends for 2019:

Total Health + Well-Being

Employee wellness has been featured prominently in HR discussions over the past few years, particularly as wellness programs have exploded in popularity. But our notion of what “wellness” means is evolving—it’s no longer just about addressing physical health. We believe it’s truly about “holistic well-being,” which encompasses mental, financial, and physical well-being. In 2019, more organizations will take this approach to overall health, and it will be a major factor in improving the employee experience and attracting new recruits.

For example, including mental health coverage in your healthcare plan provides employees with valuable financial support for services such as counseling. But employers can offer more—flexible schedules and the ability to work remotely can significantly ease the burden on workers across generations. Gen Xers and older Millennials in the “Sandwich Generation” are caring for both children and aging relatives, while other Millennials have young children and are balancing child care with work.

Flextime and remote working help your employees manage their many responsibilities in and out of the office. Knowing they can care for a sick child or get an elderly parent to doctor’s appointments can ease an employee’s stress level, which in turn can reduce burnout and anxiety. With 56% of people who experience workplace anxiety reporting fatigue and lack of motivation, supporting your employees’ mental health can improve their productivity and morale.

Also, don’t overlook the importance of financial well-being. A recent survey shows that 25% of employees without financial benefits want access to unbiased financial counselors. Financial well-being impacts physical well-being, too: Over half (54%) of respondents to a recent poll said they’d delayed medical care because they couldn’t afford it. Offering the right financial benefits can assist employees with budgeting, building their emergency savings, and dealing with debt, which can help them be healthier and more engaged at work.

Putting the AI in HR

Artificial intelligence (AI) was one of the most exciting advances in HR tech last year, and in 2019, this technology will continue to revolutionize how HR professionals do their jobs. This year, AI moves beyond scanning résumés as machine learning becomes more integrated into benefits administration platforms to drive efficiencies and service levels.

Tools such as chatbots and virtual personal benefits assistants will utilize AI to help employees navigate the benefits selection process. Available at any time, and in any place, these technologies meet the needs of workers who don’t just think about benefits on a nine-to-five schedule. Employees also want access to mobile platforms so they can sign up for and manage their benefits in ways that are easy for them.

AI-driven solutions can deliver personalized communications as well, whether that means sending a text message to an employee or responding to speech-to-text communications in a language other than English.

These conveniences will make a difference to employees who, overall, don’t often spend a lot of time thinking about benefits and who want the enrollment and management processes to be as easy as possible. The potential for AI to make HR functions smoother and more personalized is endless, so expect to see more solutions utilizing this technology in 2019.

The Right Benefits Matter

Believe it or not, when asked if they wanted a job with benefits or job with no benefits but a 30% higher salary, 80% of respondents chose the job with benefits, not a bigger paycheck. This is just one example of the value that employees place on their benefits, and it demonstrates why a robust benefits package helps an employer stand out in today’s labor market.

Beyond traditional benefits such as health insurance and retirement matches, companies can offer voluntary benefits that make tangible positive impacts in their employees’ lives. Consider how student loan assistance grows more valuable each year, as Millennials now make up the largest part of the workforce, and Gen Z is right behind them.

Millennials with student loan debt owe an average of $33,000, so it’s no surprise that employer contributions to loan repayment benefits, like 401(k) matches but for debt instead of savings, are very attractive to these employees. Particularly if you’re recruiting new graduates, this benefit can make or break a job offer and compensation package.

Like student loan assistance, savings and spending accounts, such as health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs), help employees manage financial well-being by earmarking funds for categories of expenses. The ability to easily build an emergency fund through one’s employer is also becoming more critical. And financial well-being aids mental well-being: An estimated one in three absences is due to anxiety and/or stress, so reducing anxiety over finances can improve productivity and lower healthcare costs associated with anxiety, currently estimated at $42 billion a year.

Recruiting and retention will not be easy in 2019, but offering your employees the right benefits that demonstrably improve their quality of life will help your organization stand out. Be on the forefront of these trends, and show prospective and current employees why working for you is the right choice.

Jon Shanahan, President and CEO of Businessolver, leads this benefits administration technology provider that delivers market-changing solutions. Utilizing a secure SaaS platform, Businessolver’s programs and communications tools help their clients maximize benefits program investment, minimize risk exposure, and keep employees engaged with their benefits year-round.  Jon’s experience has equipped him with over 20 years of insights around benefits engagement and Human Resources priorities, which gives him unique perspective on the challenges currently facing employers in today’s job market.


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