Generous health insurance and a retirement savings plan have long served as pillars of protection, but they’re now considered baseline offerings along the ever-changing employee benefits landscape. Forward-thinking employers realize that traditional ancillary plans such as dental, vision, disability and life insurance no longer serve as window dressing to draw top talent.
So they’re polling the workforce and getting creative, acknowledging mounting interest in more tangible, personalized and flexible benefits that strike a better work-life balance and improve financial wellness. There’s even an emerging category under the lifestyle moniker that grew out of the concierge-services movement that took shape decades ago.
Two of my recent magazine articles examined these developments in greater details.
Corporate America recently acknowledged these developments when nearly 200 chief executives belonging to the Business Roundtable pledged to provide more meaningful benefits, fair compensation, training and education. And in a rare moment of candor, captains of industry admitted that focusing only on shareholder value is a short-sighted strategy when they should be investing more in human capital. It comes when employment has never been stronger over the past century than it is today.
In the meantime, venture capital pours into startups and stalwarts that aim to make the workplace more responsive to the needs of working Americans as part of a holistic approach. One driving force is a demographic shift involving more women entering the workforce and senior-level roles while the population ages. An unintended consequence is that working parents in the so-called Club Sandwich Generation are tied down to both children and elderly parents and need a helping hand as never before.
Savvy employee benefit brokers and advisers who know core and ancillary group insurance products and services have become commoditized are freshening up their portfolios. Unusual and innovative offerings appeal to multiple generations with changing expectations about their employment contract.
One of my sources suggested that while the word lifestyle implies nice-to-have benefits, these offerings have actually become necessary in today’s competitive workplace. The category was built around the notion of employee wellbeing – an all-encompassing effort featuring physical, mental, emotional, social and financial components to pack a more powerful punch. Another expert described the benefits as a tangible way of delivering work-life balance and employee satisfaction.
Key trends include student loan refinancing and financial wellness programs that help people of all ages manage or avoid debt. There’s even a lifestyle spending account modeled after the health savings account, as well as growing interest in plans or apps that promote healthy living. It’s easy to see why: employee health benefit costs represent the largest P&L expense after payroll, while two-thirds of the nation is overweight.
Employers realize that healthier and happier employees are good for business on a number of levels. And the quest to reduce health care costs, absenteeism and presenteeism alongside improving productivity and morale for their most valuable asset (i.e., people) ultimately gives them a competitive edge.
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