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Your 2018 benefits resolution? Getting the most out of what you have

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Organizations seem to understand, be it through past experience or passed-down wisdom, that employee benefits speak to the concept of “more.”

Workers want more. That’s a statistical reality; workers across age groups still cite higher pay as a top motivation to move from job to job. And yet, as the concept of work takes on an increasingly more non-traditional form and demographic trends shift toward an unprecedented, five-generation workforce, employers’ thinking often sticks to the same script when it comes to employment perks beyond cash.

That is to say, when it comes to the challenge of attracting talent, benefits are really just an addendum to cash — icing on the cake. Besides the benefits mandated by federal law and supplemented by state law, mid-size and large employers in 2018 generally have a growing mix of offerings, from conventional dental coverage to trendier pet insurance.

The problem with “more”

Despite the addition of these new bells and whistles, employers still waste billions on benefits that go underutilized or, much worse, unrecognized by employees. To make new fixtures truly work, employers may have to change their understanding of what benefits mean to the modern worker, said Gregor Teusch, VP of total rewards at Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

“In the old days, it really was about finding a better job, or finding a job with better pay or better benefits,” Teusch told HR Dive. “In the new age, we’re actually entering an era where your job is part of a better experience and better life.”

At stake is the ability to capture why perks are relevant to individual employees. A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis of employer spend on compensation during September 2017 showed an average benefits spend of $11.31 per hour worked. During that one month alone, benefits accounted for almost a third (31.7%) of all compensation costs.

“You have all this innovation occurring, and the solutions that are coming out in the market are basically being put at the door of the benefits departments,” said Robert Cavanaugh, president of field operations for Accolade. “This stuff can help, but it’s not working together.”

In short, failure to connect with workers is extremely wasteful. And the average employee is nothing if not confused by the complexity of his or her benefits. Experts within the employee benefits community believe industry trends towards personalization and ease-of-use provide a blueprint for making benefits actually work in the lives of workers.

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