When it comes to employee benefits, no year is ever the same. But the past few years have made “different” seem like a vast understatement.
Expect more changes in 2022 in the midst of ongoing pandemic disruptions to employee health and finances, hybrid work arrangements, the Great Resignation and increasingly diverse, multigenerational workforces.
Let’s explore 10 areas in benefits that will see increased focus this year:
- Total well-being
- Mental health
- Professional development
- Creative compensation
- Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
- Care for the caregivers
- Decision support tools
- Multigenerational choices
- Strategic advisement
With the pandemic continuing to disrupt work and life, total well-being will be a focal point for 2022. Total well-being targets key elements of overall health, including:
- Physical — A top goal remains quality and affordable health coverage that encourages preventive care and adherence to medication. Employees are also growing more interested in options like disability, accident and critical illness insurance.
- Emotional — Workshops, personalized coaching and online courses will help employees build a growth mindset, resilience, adaptability and other skills to meet the challenges ahead.
- Financial — Through 2025, student loan repayment benefits can be provided tax-free up to $5,250 a year. Other in-demand financial wellness benefits include budgeting information, financial and retirement education, and one-on-one meetings with financial advisers.
- Social — Organizations will be adding volunteer opportunities, community drives and office celebrations to draw people together and build goodwill.
Mental health benefits continue to grow in importance, with companies increasing awareness and usage of:
- Employee assistance programs
- Expanded in-network options for psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors
- Apps and online courses that teach life skills like resilience, meditation, healthy eating and sleep habits
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for stress, anxiety and depression
In addition, to combat the isolation that can come with increased remote and hybrid workforces, many employers will foster collaboration and human connection through:
- In-person onboarding
- Off-site entertainment and team-building events
- Regional get-togethers for workshops and conferences
- Office gatherings such as brainstorming days, outdoor picnics and department celebrations
To combat the Great Resignation, look for renewed efforts in internal mobility and career-long learning:
- In-house training for new skills and roles
- Industry certifications and custom education
- Mentoring and coaching
- Leadership development programs
- Tuition reimbursement
Many organizations are also moving toward skills-based hiring based on technical and transferrable skills rather than educational degrees, university reputations or prior experiences. Some companies are even doing away with education prerequisites in job descriptions.
These hiring practices can:
- Help internal and external candidates better understand required skills
- Increase employee engagement and retention efforts
- Increase equity by prioritizing skills over similar connections or backgrounds
With high inflation and employee mobility at record levels, you can expect salary demands to continue growing. This will lead employers to find creative options for compensating employees without the long-term cost of salary increases, including:
- Bonuses — Expect to see more one-time, surprise or workload-based benefits this year. Bonuses provide an immediate reward without being tied into future inflation and percentage increases.
- Extra vacation days — Providing additional paid time off can improve the physical and mental health of your employees. Short-term losses in productivity will pay dividends in employee loyalty and long-term health benefits. Some organizations provide days off to select individuals, while others shut down the entire office to combat employee burnout.
- Reward trips — A paid vacation is another way to reward employees. You can send groups on team-building trips, or you can let individuals choose a destination for relaxation and rejuvenation.
- Enhanced office perks — The increase in remote and hybrid work is leading to enhanced office experiences through benefits such as snack and meal options, on-site fitness and educational classes, redesigned workspaces and more. Use surveys to give employees a voice and discover the office perks they value most.
With 9-to-5 office life in the rearview mirror, organizations will increasingly focus on:
- Managing in-person, remote and hybrid workforces
- Flexible schedules
- More predictable schedules for shift workers
- Job sharing
Allowing employees to choose when and where work gets done will be a must-have benefit for many organizations going forward. The increased geographic reach of remote work can also allow you to tap into a wider, more diverse candidate pool.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
Equality and human rights are becoming integral parts of the business world. In fact, 80% of employees want organizational values to align with their personal values, according to the survey Closing the Employee Expectations Gap. Use your DEI initiatives to:
- Enhance gender, racial and LGBTQ equality
- Increase equity in salaries and promotions
- Tackle workplace discrimination
- Improve working conditions
- Implement employee resource groups for minority employees to share conversations, experiences and insights with each other and company leaders
Care for the caregivers
The pandemic revealed a great need for caregiver benefits, with many employees trying to juggle workplace duties while caring for children or elderly loved ones — and millions of others leaving the workforce entirely because of those duties.
Popular caregiver benefits include:
- Subsidized and backup child care services
- Vetted resources for child care and elder care
- Tours of residential facilities and other elder care options
- Meetings with social workers
- Tutoring services
- Flexible hours
Decision support tools
Surveys reveal that employees typically spend less than 30 minutes picking their benefits each year. To increase awareness, appreciation and usage of benefits, more employers will turn to decision support tools to help employees select their benefits.
These tools often include:
- Interactive Q&A formats to increase engagement
- Artificial intelligence to guide employees to more optimal benefit selections
- Voiceovers to add a human element and appeal to auditory learners
- Compelling visuals of costs and risks to aid visual learners
- Different languages to reach diverse employee populations
With health care costs continuing to rise, employees and employers both benefit from the right dollars going toward the right benefits. In addition, support tools that streamline the open enrollment process can help free up valuable time for your human resources team.
Generations aren’t homogenous, but they do show unique trends and preferences. Meeting the benefit needs of all generations can help you get the best from each.
- Baby boomers provide valuable institutional knowledge and experience. They are looking for retirement planning and education.
- Gen X is often referred to as the forgotten generation, but they are increasingly moving into leadership roles and taking advantage of a wide range of benefits, including elder care, child care, financial education and tuition reimbursement.
- Since 2016, Millennials have made up the biggest percentage of the workforce. They have helped to usher in remote work, student loan benefits and work-life balance, and they will continue to shape organizations from top to bottom for decades to come.
- More members of Gen Z are entering the workplace each year, and the World Economic Forum predicts that they will make up over 25% of the workforce by 2025. This generation is seeking professional development, mental health days and more customized benefit options.
To meet the needs of varying generations, organizations will continue to expand voluntary benefits in 2022. These benefits, in which employees pay for some or all of the premium costs, allow you to meet the needs of a diverse workforce while saving health care dollars.
Common voluntary benefits include:
- Life insurance
- Disability, accident and critical illness insurance
- Legal insurance
- Long-term care insurance
- Financial education and planning
- Career development programs
- Identity theft protection
- Pet insurance
A 2021 LIMRA study on the future of benefits revealed that employers are increasingly asking for support from brokers and benefits advisers. Turn to us for information on:
- Plans, pricing and networks
- Employee engagement
- Benefit trends
- Legislation and regulations
- Compliance efforts
- Cost-saving initiatives
Talk with your benefits adviser throughout 2022. They can help you match your benefit dollars to your most pressing business and employee needs, now and for years to come.