The U.S. has been experiencing turbulent shifts in the labor market. A worker shortage has created an environment in which employers must compete for talent and where employees can leverage their scarcity.
Since July 2021, more than 4 million people have been hired into new jobs every month, and 32% of job-switchers got a pay raise for it. Employees stayed with their current employers, too, but negotiated a higher salary to do so. In total, wages and salaries have increased by 5.3% from 2021 to 2022. Despite these pay bumps, some workers continue to express their dissatisfaction in their current job.
For businesses to remain competitive, employers must attract and retain talent by offering incentives that go beyond pay and standard benefits. Below, we highlight innovative benefits employers can consider offering to attract and retain talent.
Flexibility continues to be an alluring perk to attract and retain talent. The rise of remote work over the last two years has become a new normal for employees that many are unwilling to leave behind.
According to a McKinsey study, 87% of workers offered at least some remote work embrace the opportunity and spend an average of three days a week working from home. In addition to remote work, employees have indicated that flexible hours are attractive, too.
Many companies allow employees to work a pre-determined number of hours within a wide window. For example, a popular model asks employees to work any eight hours within a 6 AM to 7 PM window. This flexibility affords employees the ability to protect work hours while also prioritizing personal time commitments, like dropping kids off at school or making it to an afternoon workout.
2. Eldercare and Childcare Benefits
In the U.S. Chamber’s Data Deep Dive: A Decline of Women in the Workforce, we examined the gaps in childcare availability and accessibility in the U.S., and the significant impact the lack of childcare has on women’s labor force participation. U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Employer Roadmap: Childcare Solutions for Working Parents lays out ways in which employers can help bridge this gap through tactics like childcare vouchers, subsidies, and onsite care. Additionally, employers can partner with providers like KinderCare to help their workforce access childcare and early childhood education centers.
Aside from caring for children, nearly 1 in 5 Americans are providing care to an adult, many of whom are elderly parents or in-laws. Providing care to a family member or friend requires an average of 20 hours of a caregiver’s time per week.
Employers can help employees balance work and home responsibilities by offering flexible scheduling, accommodating certain time off needs through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or by including eldercare benefits such as Bright Horizons which aids employees in caring for elderly relatives. Providing these benefits can help ease the emotional stress and time restraints employees face, resulting in higher productivity and job retention.
3. Fertility Benefits
In the U.S., roughly 11% of women and 9% of men experience fertility issues, making fertility benefits increasingly top-of-mind. More people than ever are considering fertility treatments, such as egg retrieval and freezing, IVF treatments, intrauterine insemination, and even adoption stipends. These procedures are costly, but patients often forgo the treatments or pay out of pocket because few employers provide benefits to help cover these kinds of procedures.
Specifically, 80% of people seeking to freeze their eggs have minimal to no insurance coverage. A study by Carrot Fertility and Resolve found that 88% of respondents would consider changing jobs for access to fertility benefits, 77% of employees would stay at their job longer if their employer offered fertility benefits, and 59% reported their work has been impacted by fertility and family forming.
4. Adoption Assistance
Adoption benefits are also in demand. Adoption services are procedurally cumbersome and cost prohibitive for many families. Employers can support employees seeking to adopt by offering financial assistance, parental leave, and resources about licensed adoption agencies and support groups.
Thirty-seven percent of Americans who have not adopted are interested in doing so. Meanwhile, SHRM’s 2019 Employee Benefits Survey indicated that only one in 10 employers offer financial adoption assistance and nearly one in three offer paid adoption leave. In 2020, the number of employers offering paid adoption leave increased to 36%.
5. Homebuying Assistance
The cost of housing has been on a steep incline, and many are struggling to afford buying a home. In 2020, one third of all households reported that their cost of housing was unaffordable. Then over the course of one year, rent and home prices increased by 12% and 20.6% respectively, exacerbating home unaffordability to the point where 20% of all employees are postponing buying a home.
This issue has spurred interest in a new employee benefit: Homebuying assistance. For example, Fannie Mae offers a down payment assistance program known as the Employer Assisted Housing (EAH). EAH is a forgivable loan that covers down payments and closing costs for eligible employees, and is often comprised, in part, of employer-matched funds.
Aiding employees in the homebuying process can help ensure company’s workforce has stable housing in proximity to work. According to one report, employees who own a home stay with their employer longer and are less likely to miss work due to unknown reasons. Another study found that employees with a commute to work shorter than 30 minutes are more productive.
6. Mental Wellness
Mental health and wellness are a big part of employee health conversations. As more Americans become comfortable speaking about mental health, staggering statistics become available. One in 5 adults in the United States live with mental illness. A quarter (25%) of American employees report being highly or extremely stressed daily, and 21 million American Adults (8.4%) have experienced a major depressive episode.
Additionally, 40% of workers are feeling burnt out – a primary reason many workers have recently resigned. Although mental health and wellness effects tens of millions of employees across the United States, 40% of U.S. employees have difficulty accessing mental health services, and 11% of U.S. adults do not have mental health insurance coverage.
Employees struggling with the lack of mental health and wellness benefits are calling for better coverage, and employers are responding. A study shows 87% of employers will be prioritizing mental health and wellness benefits over the next two years. Promoting mental health and wellness not only enhances each person’s wellbeing, but has positive impacts for the employer, too. Nearly 90% of human resource professionals agree that having mental health benefits available to employees can increase productivity and improve employee retention.
There are a lot of options available to employers who want to boost their mental health and wellness services. In addition to traditional mental health providers, products like Ginger, Mindful, and Talkspace are valuable options employers can consider offering as part their benefits package.
7. Pet Insurance
In a Nationwide survey, nearly half of all Gen Z and Millennial respondents indicated that employer provided pet benefits would be a motivating factor in staying at one company or moving to another that did offer the benefits.
The most desired pet benefits include pet insurance, pet-oriented paid time off, offices that are pet friendly, and paw-ternity leave – time off for adopting a new pet. Even 50% of pet parents indicated they would be more willing to return to the office if their employer allowed pets at work. Despite the hunger for pet-friendly work benefits, 70% of Nationwide’s survey respondents indicated that they are not offered any pet benefits.
8. Digital Safety
Most adults are acquainted with the basics of digital safety and cybersecurity. Protecting private data and information, a critical component of business operations and priority for employers, has been entrusted to employees for over a decade. As such, many employees are familiar with phishing scams, best practices for passwords, and overall online presence.
Employers can go a step further from these standard training tools and offer employees enhanced digital safety services as part of an employee benefit program. Raise, for example, helps parents navigate digital safety for their children by offering content and advice for screentime, inappropriate webpages and apps, cyberbullying and predators.
Additionally, employers can consider offering employees identity and financial theft protection through providers like LifeLock. Providing bolstered digital safety services to the business’s workforce has the potential to not only help employees feel safer online at home but can also influence employees to champion best practices in the workplace.
9. Education Benefits
Employee education benefits, such as section 127 tuition assistance, can be an important tool for recruitment and retention – particularly as employers and their employees are looking to reskill or upskill and advance in their careers. According to the World Economic Forum, upskilling the global workforce could increase worldwide GDP by $6.5 billion. The workforce sees the value in upskilling, too. In a recent survey more than half of all workers regardless of employment status indicated they wanted reskilling and career development benefits.
The Chamber Foundation is partnering with SHRM to explore the current state of employee education benefits and how they might be reimagined and improved to better serve all stakeholders. The workgroup will study the current state, level of investment, and overall effectiveness of these benefits as well as how we might innovate to develop new products.
There are myriad additional benefits employers can provide in place of or in addition to traditional benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid leave. Nutrition and fitness programs, educational assistance and access to training, and financial wellness services are among the ranks of the most popular and meaningful benefits for employees. In a labor market with 10.1 million open jobs, including innovative benefits to employees can help keep employers competitive and prove as an effective tool in recruiting and retaining talent.
About the authors
Director, Global Employment Policy & Special Initiatives, U.S. Chamber of Commerce