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How “Employee” Benefits Are Transforming Into “Workforce” Benefits

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Quick Look: When it comes to benefits, what’s considered the standard in 2022? After two years (and counting) of navigating the pandemic rollercoaster, what’s emerged is a workforce asking for change. As small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) wrap their heads around what this entails for their companies, brokers can provide the guidance and solutions necessary to keep them competitive and help them hire the best.

Traditional employee benefits are changing. Mostly due to the fact traditional itself is an ever-evolving term. What is relevant today may not be applicable tomorrow. Rather than implementing the standard, across-the-board compensation packages, brokers can help their clients seek out employee benefit services better designed to meet the specific needs and wants of the current workforce.

So, what’s changing exactly?

First, the term “employee benefits” is no longer accurate, as it doesn’t account for the market complexity and the nuances of what “traditional” benefits must now include. Second, it’s an employee-led market, and candidates are being choosier than ever when it comes to who they work with and why. In addition to the standard of medical coverage, paid time-off, and 401Ks, there’s an increasing desire for non-medical benefits as well.

A co-authored study by EY and LIMRA reported non-medical workplace benefits are projected to grow by 20% over the next five years. Among the most popular of these are hybrid work opportunities, childcare benefits, and career development and professional growth.

Hybrid work opportunities

A switch to workplace benefits doesn’t mean a complete overhaul of “the before times” pre-pandemic but instead embraces an employee’s choice. A hybrid work model gives the option of both in-office, collaborative environments and at-home flexibility, giving employees an opportunity to decide which setup works best for them.

According to a PwC survey, 66% of employers plan to offer this option at no direct cost to their business. Furthermore, hybrid work setups help to reduce commuter traffic, allow working parents to leave the office early and finish the rest of the day to align with their children’s schedules, and give employees the flexibility they’re craving most.

Child care benefits

In early 2020, it was reported over 1.2 million parents, particularly women, were out of the workforce. And even as the economy began to reopen, the continuation of remote learning in schools combined with the lack of childcare benefits and accessibility left few choices for mothers to resume a full-time workload. In light of these circumstances, employers have begun to realize expanding benefits to include childcare is essential.

57% of senior leaders are focused on childcare benefits, while 63% plan to increase their already existing benefits. These include subsidized backup care and paid access to online platforms for finding childcare assistance. Expanding benefits to include the demographic of the workforce who are working parents will contribute to an employer’s ability to attract and retain quality employees.

Career development and professional growth

After the work furloughs and lay-offs forced upon many in 2020, 2021 was a time when people began reassessing their careers. As a result, many expanded their knowledge base and skill set, leading to an influx of voluntary job resignations and an imbalance in the workforce with businesses desperate to find help.

As part of the non-medical benefits candidates seek, an investment in their professional training and career growth is a priority. Through benefits like hands-on training, access to innovative technology, and education stipends, it helps employees advance and continually feel engaged with their companies. It’s become clear when people feel trapped or unsatisfied with their current roles, they’re less hesitant to leave a job without having a new one already in place.

Going beyond the basics of medical benefits

Despite the desired expansion of benefits beyond standard health coverage, health care still tops the list of importance for candidates applying for jobs. The difference is ensuring accessibility and distribution of benefits in an equitable way. Examples of this include:

  • TelehealthTelehealth options provide employees the care they need in a quicker, more convenient way.
  • Mental health – Mental health coverage has become a need-to-have benefit versus a nice-to-have perk, including everything from therapy sessions to meditation apps.
  • Provider diversityMatching a diverse workforce with a diverse provider network is essential in today’s workforce rather than a one-size-fits-all health plan.

How brokers can meet these changes head-on

Changes in the workforce mean brokers must respond accordingly to best serve their clients. Though the EY and LIMRA study reveals 64%-75% of employers are very or extremely satisfied with their broker-provided services, there’s a greater appreciation and advantage when brokers offer more than the typical benefits guidance.

A key way brokers can meet the growing needs of today’s SMB employers is by partnering with a professional employer organization (PEO) like ExtensisHR. ExtensisHR helps brokers amplify their value and provide their clients access to employee benefit services which create a well-rounded, competitive HR and benefits solution. With a customer-service approach and cutting-edge technology to drive performance in a customizable way, our PEO professionals can be the resource you need to maintain strong client relationships.

This industry shift is not a wait-and-see type of moment; following the way of how things have always been done is not the way forward. Job candidates are clear about what they want and expect, and it looks a lot different than it once did. SMB employers continue to face situations which require a delicate balance of maintaining compliance as well as aligning with what employees and candidates desire from the workplace.

The advantage of working with a PEO provides brokers a tailored avenue to help meet client goals and find long-lasting solutions to support business growth. Want to explore the benefits of a PEO solution for your clients? Our HR experts are here to help.

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