Whether on the front line or in upper management, employees who span a wide range of industries are looking for benefits beyond traditional fringe benefits such as medical, dental, and vision. Those other benefits, known as soft benefits, include perks like remote work options and flex scheduling and are expected to increase in demand even more in 2022.
The level of impact on employee satisfaction, performance, and business outcomes will be partially based on how often or how quickly you as an employer can pivot. To that end, imagine employees ask you, as their manager, for support as they figure out how to navigate professional development or advancement opportunities within your company. Your initial thought might be that there aren’t enough hours in the day. Or, will you offer tuition reimbursement or time off for additional courses or provide the necessary coaching that sends the message that you value and need the employees’ skills and that they are an asset, the latter being a benefit that costs nothing?
As times change, so will the requests and expectations of employees. Employees at all levels are much more tech-savvy and aware of their rights and thus more demanding of what works best for them personally and professionally. And the benefits they receive will be no exception.
Let’s explore several ways employers can set themselves apart and begin to offer soft benefits that won’t bust the budget but will fulfill the need to retain employees during unprecedented times, which have changed how employees value benefits.
In 2022, consistent trends point toward soft benefits’ growing even more popular to help combat the effects of current events, and they may look more like the following:
Loosen the Reigns With PTO
As the coronavirus pandemic enters its second year, employees are now making life-altering decisions, are more outspoken about their demands, and have the courage to address their mental health. Be prepared to see employees make better use of their paid time off (PTO) increase in lieu of rolling overtime or loss of accrued time, as in years past. In response, consider a part of your company’s PTO policy a temporary or permanent practice of “no questions asked.” This essentially says that if employees have the time to accrue, they can take time off with no questions. Plan accordingly for business continuity purposes, and ensure there are employees in place to maintain critical business functions when others are out. Planning, incorporating, and offering companywide mental health days is another option that will positively impact productivity and creativity.
More Flexibility For Working Hours and Location
Work/life balance ebbs and flows, going in cycles for companies and their employees. However, hybrid roles (those working partially remotely and partially in the office) and roles that allow for flex 30- to 40-plus hours per week are becoming popular. Allowing employees to have flexibility with their hours while remaining eligible for benefits demonstrates a level of trust that will pay off in productivity and time management while attracting and retaining solid, high-performing talent. It’s all about growing the business and being efficient.
Increases in Employee Recognition
Recognition is key to keeping employees engaged in their work, so be sure to recognize team members for large and small wins. Remember, it’s not the recognition that counts but the effort. While some employees phase out of their roles, others leave and resign on their own. That said, recognize, encourage, and give them a reason to stay!
Allow Employees to Explore Their Creativity
The pandemic has created a new reality in which employees recognize they can no longer take time for granted. They may now want to dive deeper into the dreams and opportunities they have thought about and put off for years. Giving employees the green light to truly be creative and innovative costs nothing. Why not allow them to lead and take on new projects, implement their ideas, or start a new employee resource group? Help them see the “benefit” in this approach, which can be presented in the form of contests, challenges, etc. It strengthens skills, provides visibility, and creates a culture that embraces differences in thought leadership.
It’s a new day. As an employer, providing soft benefits can be as simple as you make it. The key will be to listen and be attentive and flexible regarding your employees’ needs. More importantly, figure out how to say yes, and create a win-win on both sides. You will be glad you did.
Angela L. Harris is a Human Resources Client Executive at OneDigital.