Beefing Up Benefits as War for Talent Intensifies

Posted on Wednesday, March 06, 2019

In a tightening labor market, employers across the country are reporting that it's becoming tougher and tougher to fill important job vacancies. In fact, some are seeking to improve their ability to compete for talent by shoring up their employee benefits.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management 2015 Strategic Benefit Survey, recruiting workers is a problem. Of human resource professionals surveyed, 40% say their organizations are finding recruitment at all levels in the organization to be a challenge. Not surprisingly, filling highly skilled positions (and retaining these workers) is even harder, with more than half of survey respondents naming this as a challenge.

What's the Answer?

To compete, more and more employers are boosting their benefit offerings. Of employers participating in the survey, 38% said they had sweetened their employee benefit packages over the previous year. That's not a majority, but it's a sharp increase from the 2012 and 2013 Strategic Benefit Surveys — 29% and 26%, respectively.

"While the competition for talented workers has heated up, there's been little change in base salaries. So HR has made a strategic turn to benefits in order to attract — and keep — skilled professionals," commented Evren Esen, director of SHRM's survey programs. "From unlimited vacation to unusual perks such as electric car charging stations, companies are using benefits to set themselves apart from the competition."

Not unexpectedly, when it comes to attracting highly skilled workers, health insurance benefits are taking center stage. Two thirds of all human resources professionals who responded to the survey reported that health insurance was becoming an increasingly important retention tool. Most expect the same for retirement benefits over the next several years, as well as for career development benefits, and flexible working hours. Respondents are also seeing increases in cash compensation in the future.

On average, employers are paying 76% of employee health insurance premiums, though 46% report that the employee share of premiums has been increasing over the previous twelve months.

According to the SHRM spokesperson, "Health care is the benefit most highly valued by employees. Maintaining coverage is an effective tool for recruitment and retention. In coming years, retirement savings, compensation, flexible work and career development also will play increasingly important roles in recruiting strategies."

What Else are Workers Seeking?

In other findings, the SHRM researchers report that 42% of respondents indicated that employee wellness initiatives and programs and preventive health programs would also increase in importance as part of the overall employee benefits package. This represents a decline from last year, when 63% of employers expected to see an increase in benefit offerings in these areas.

Benefits described as "family friendly" seem to be waning in importance, according to the Strategic Benefit Survey's authors, with just one out of five respondents expecting to see increases in these perks. In 2013 and 2014, half of those surveyed expected to see increases in family-friendly benefits.

The Strategic Benefit Survey is a follow-up to the annual Society of Human Resource Management Employee Benefits Survey, which provides additional background information as well.

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