Employers are revamping benefits strategies to outmaneuver competitors and become destination employers

As the U.S. unemployment rate drops, the battle to recruit and retain top talent has only intensified. Becoming a destination employer is not only crucial for the competitiveness of individual organizations, it also impacts the economy. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are currently 5.7 million job openings. If all of those positions were filled, the nation’s GDP growth rate could significantly increase.

The heightened need for strong benefits and compensation packages is a resonating theme throughout the 2017 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (Gallagher) Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey, which collected data from 4,226 organizations across the U.S. The survey examined how employers were using benefits and compensation to differentiate their organization in the war for talent. Notable findings from this year’s research show a growing emphasis on addressing the needs of the whole employee, integrating emotional, financial, social and career wellbeing with physical health.

Shift in employer thinking from wellness to wellbeing.

Historically, wellness programs have focused on improving physical health as an extension of medical benefits. While reducing healthcare costs remains the main driver for offering a wellness program (60 percent), employers also cite investing in the organization’s culture (43 percent) and improving employees’ work experience and satisfaction (37 percent) as other top motivators. This broader, more holistic approach is also demonstrated by the increase in programs now covering financial wellbeing (34 percent), volunteer opportunities (28 percent) and community engagement (27 percent).

“This shift in thinking is one of the reasons we expect 70 percent of organizations will offer wellness programs by 2019,” said William F. Ziebell, President, Gallagher Employee Benefits Consulting and Brokerage. “When employers rebalance their priorities to include benefits like professional development and a workplace culture that promotes employee engagement and total wellbeing, they differentiate themselves in the talent marketplace.”

Leave policies play role in attraction, retention.

The need to appeal to younger workers with parental leave policies has prompted a discussion about supporting the total wellbeing of employees as they try to solve the work-life equation. Despite headlines showcasing generous maternity and paternity leave policies, a vast majority (64 percent) of organizations do not offer paid parental leave apart from short-term disability. In fact, only 22 percent offer this benefit to both mothers and fathers.

Retirement readiness.

Retirement benefits better equip employees for their financial future and give them peace of mind in the present. While it is encouraging that nearly half (48 percent) of employers use auto-enrollment in retirement plans to help employees improve savings, only 37 percent are measuring retirement readiness.

“During every life stage, employees encounter financial obstacles like paying student loans, buying a home, or paying for daycare,” Ziebell said. “These impact retirement savings and can result in employees needing to stay on the job longer than they’d like. An aging population often has higher healthcare costs and limits opportunities for younger employees to advance. So when organizations help their employees identify and manage these financial stressors, it often results in higher productivity and engagement.”

Importance of taking a 360-degree view.

The survey underscores the importance of taking a 360-degree view of an organization’s benefits and compensation strategy, specifically through the lens of employee attraction and retention. Micro and macro-economic factors, such as the tightening labor market and shrinking candidate pool, make it even more imperative. As employers gain a deeper understanding of how these different elements work together, they can see more clearly how to align human resource and organizational strategies to drive better business results.

SOURCE: Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

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