CHICAGO — On day two of its largest-ever annual conference, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) released its 2018 Employee Benefits Survey. Generally, the respondent group of 3,518 SHRM-member HR professionals has adopted a more diverse set of benefits offerings over the last five-year period, SHRM vice president of research Trent Burner said during a panel analyzing the results.
Here are five key figures from the report to help HR understand the current benefits landscape, as indicated by respondents:
Sixty-seven individual benefit offerings were measured by the survey and are being offered by a larger number of employers in 2018 compared to 2017 data. Moreover, 34% of those organizations surveyed increased their benefits offerings in the past year.
But if costs are increasing across the board and HR is still being pushed to reduce business spend, what gives? "It's a lot more voluntary, a lot more choice — it's giving people a menu to select," Malinda Riley, senior principal at Korn Ferry Hay Group, said during the panel. "You need to offer that to get in the door but it's not necessarily saying pay them a lot more or subsidize it."
Sixty-two percent of employers offer "health care services such as diagnosis, treatment or prescriptions provided by phone or video," which is up a whopping 28 percentage points from last year's survey when just of over a third (34%) of employers reported offering the same category of benefits.
Burner said that a case study from his own experience working to implement virtual visits for a medium-sized employer last year demonstrated the utility of behavior data in addressing healthcare spending. For the cost of one physician visit, the employer could offer a virtual physician and a 90-day generic prescription.
"If I can save the [employer] significant money by changing behavior," he said, "I can then take those savings and reinvest them into other, higher cost areas."
More than two-thirds of organizations, or 70%, offer some form of telecommuting option to employees, be it on a full-time, part-time or ad/hoc basis, SHRM said. That's up from 62% in 2017 and up from 59% in 2014, according to past SHRM survey data.
"Work environment has become such a conversation point," David Scott, executive vice president and CHRO at Dish Network, said during the panel. "We saw the trends years ago with 'hoteling' and working from home and we've seen a national gravitation to people having their own workspace."
A total of six parental leave benefit categories saw increases in organizational offerings in 2018 compared to last year. Maternity is by far the most common, with 35% of respondents indicating that the benefit was offered at their organization, followed by paternity leave (29%), adoption leave (28%), parental leave (27%), foster child leave (21%) and surrogacy leave (12%). As an aside, paid leave benefits also rebounded to a level not seen since 2015 — 27% of employers.
Parental leave has been a fairly active news-maker in the past year, including Estee Lauder's announcement that it would offer 20 weeks of paid parental leave for both male and female employees. Employers are also paying attention to the processing of returning employees back to work; PwC said it would allow new parents to work 60% of their normal schedule at 100% of their pay for four weeks after returning to work. PwC also extended its allotted paid parental leave to eight weeks per employees.
Scott emphasized the importance of using annual or biannual employee surveys to gauge what employees want from their benefits, but also said that employers should not overreact to all of the headlines made by particularly generous leave offers.
"It's a great headline, but not where the majority of organizations are," he said. "Really being clear on who you are and who you want to be [as] an employer, helps you make these decisions on a daily basis."
Just 4% of respondents said they are offering a company-provided student loan repayment benefit. On the other hand, over one third (35%) are offering financial advice services online, and 34% are offering such sessions in a one-on-one type format.
Repayment benefits are not tax-exempt for employers, something that a handful of legislators have sought to change, but there remains no change on the issue. That employers are taking a second look at financial wellness is no surprise, however, due to the role that it plays in managing stress and improving both engagement and retention.