Employee Benefits Are Now Valued Nearly As Much as Salary

Three independent surveys from the past year show the growing importance of employee benefits in your recruitment and retention efforts.

Almost half of employees said their health benefits (48%) and retirement benefits (47%) were important factors in deciding to take their current job, up from 32% and 25% in 2010. That’s according to data from the global insurance broker Willis Towers Watson (WTW).

While salary remains the top draw for individuals looking for a new job, employee benefits now rank nearly as high. In a survey by the investment management firm Franklin Templeton, 51% cited salary and 49% pointed to benefits as the most important factor.

Employees ranked financial benefits as the most desirable offering, even ahead of extra vacation time, according to a survey by the financial advisory company Betterment.

Listening to employees

With record resignations and job openings tightening the labor market, it’s important to understand the benefits employees want. And there appears to be room for improvement. The Franklin Templeton survey noted that 64% of employees want more out of their current benefits package.

With that in mind, let’s highlight the top benefits sought by these employees:

  • Financial wellness
  • Flexible work
  • Physical and mental health care

Financial wellness

Employees are looking for prospective employers to provide an array of financial benefits, including:

  • Increased matching contributions to 401(k) accounts
  • Access to financial experts
  • Financial planning services
  • Savings recommendations and online dashboards
  • Financial education

The WTW data also shows the importance of financial benefits for retention. Of the employees surveyed, 60% said retirement benefits are important for staying with their current employer. This represents a nearly 20% jump from 2010.

Betterment reports that employees want financial help beyond just their retirement plan, including:

  • Wellness stipends
  • Employer-led emergency fund accounts
  • Student loan repayment benefits

Annuities may offer an opportunity for employers to differentiate themselves from competitors. According to the Franklin Templeton data, more than 80% of employees expressed interest in deferred annuities, even though only 2% of employers currently offer this option.

Flexible work

The WTW report listed flexible work second after retirement benefits. Employees said they wanted:

  • More paid time off
  • Increased sick leave
  • Remote work opportunities
  • The ability to set and change work schedules

Flexible work can also complement the physical and mental health benefits employees want. According to the benefits consulting firm The Olson Group, benefits of workplace flexibility include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved job engagement and satisfaction
  • Better health and self-care

Physical and mental health care

Employees value health care benefits so much that they are willing to help offset costs for improved benefits. According to WTW, nearly 60% of employees would be willing to pay for a bigger retirement benefit, and almost half would trade salary increases for better health care benefits.

Among the most desired physical health care benefits are:

  • Health screenings
  • Risk assessments
  • Increased dental benefits

Employees also want more benefits aimed at their emotional well-being. The WTW survey showed top priorities are:

  • Mental health days
  • Stress management training
  • Increased coverage for mental health medications and services

A moving target

The most desired benefits continue to evolve. Understanding what employees want is vital to your recruitment and retention efforts.

Retirement and health care will always be top draws, but there’s a lot of variability. As noted above, employees are looking for personalized offerings and education in their retirement benefits. And the desire for increased mental health initiatives and flexible work has skyrocketed in recent years, with no signs of slowing.

To stay on top of the most desired employee benefits, schedule regular talks with your insurance broker or benefits adviser. They can help you examine current and future benefit trends to make sure you’ve got the offerings to meet your employee and business needs.