Businesses Continue to Beef Up Employee Benefits Packages

July 10, 2017

The market for top talent is tough… and employers nationwide are being forced to up their compensation game. According to the recently released Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) 2017 Employee Benefits Report, one out of every three employers increased overall benefit offerings within the last 12 months. Only 6 percent of employers reported they had reduced benefits overall during that same period.

The SHRM study took place over January and February of this year and received responses from 3,227 HR professionals representing a cross-section of employer sizes, industries and locations, and covered over 300 employee benefits.

Employee wellness programs topped the list of benefits that saw expansion over the last year, with 24 percent of employers reporting expanding employee wellness programs. It’s not hard to see why: Employers overwhelmingly reported a positive ROI on their investments in health-related employee benefits, with 77 percent of organizations saying their wellness programs were either somewhat effective or very effective in reducing their health care costs. Furthermore, nearly nine out of ten employers (88 percent) reported that their wellness initiatives were either somewhat effective or very effective at improving employee health.

Of all the employee health-related measures, the one that had the greatest implementation growth was perhaps the simplest: The standing desk. Just 13 percent of employers implemented standing desks in their workplaces just four years ago. Today, 44 percent of employers do.

Work-Life Balance Issues

15 percent of employers surveyed reported expanding flexible working benefits. These measures included telecommuting/remote working arrangements, job-sharing, flexible hours. SHRM identified these measures as budget-friendly and cost-effective ways for employers to enhance their value proposition to employees without having to commit a lot of scarce cash. This is particularly important in lower-margin businesses with lots of competition and high labor cost inputs, which may have less power to increase cash compensation and financial benefits without placing themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Even companies experiencing a down cycle in their business can manage this.

Getting down to specifics, 62 percent of employers reported allowing workers to telecommute, with 35 percent of them reporting allowing part-time telecommuting, while 59 percent of employers reported allowing or offering telecommuting on an ad hoc basis. Meanwhile, 57 percent reported offering flextime. 13 percent of employers offered a compressed work week (a four day work week of 32 hours or fewer) to all employees for at least part of the year.

42 percent of employers offered a separate on-site lactation/nursing room, an 8 percent increase compared to 2013. To count, the rooms had to be an improvement over the ACA-mandated bare minimum space that is shielded from view and free from intrusion.

When it comes to what employees report as being important, 91 percent of them rated health care benefits as at or near the top of the list, behind cash compensation. 40 percent of employers considered jumping ship in the last year, with most citing higher compensation or pay as the most important factor in the decision (56 percent) and 29 percent citing a better benefits package as an effective lure. 18 percent of them reported the ability to balance their working and personal lives as a big factor in considering switching to another employer. However, 34 percent cited the ability to balance their work and family/personal lives as an important reason for staying with their organizations, following only compensation/pay (44 percent) as a reason for staying put.

Cash and Cash-Equivalent Perks

More employers are offering sign-on bonuses, and this is true for executive employees (35 percent of employers) and non-executives (25 percent) alike. 54 percent of employers are offering service anniversary cash awards. 33 percent of companies offer shift premiums – a reduction from 2013-2014 levels, when 41 percent of employers reported offering them to entice workers to work less desirable shifts.

Tuition reimbursement and educational benefits are lower, but 53 percent of employers offer graduate level education assistance and 50 percent offer help with graduate programs. Companies can provide up to $5,250 per student in educational assistance without it becoming taxable to the employee as income. Four percent of employers report providing direct assistance with student loan debt – a number that has been growing steadily over the past few years.

The full 40-page SHRM report is available here.