Industry Trends: 2018 Benefits Outlook

Industry Trends: 2018 Benefits Outlook

The forecasted hot topic for 2018 in benefits leans toward a need for a more holistic view of financial security in the workplace.  While the main target appears to be younger employees who are facing massive debt from student loans, this financial security trend applies to a broader cross section of employees who struggle with overall debt compounded by higher healthcare cost responsibilities and retirement considerations.

Here are some other growing trends in the benefits landscape that should be points of discussion in the coming year:

Financial Wellness – According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), more organizations are offering programs that help employees with their finances.  Roughly half of the SHRM members polled in the latest annual employee benefits survey say they offer investment planning.  Overall financial advice as a benefit offering increased to 49% from 36% five years ago.  Although these benefits often appeal to older employees, millennials also are seeking this information because many would like to retire earlier than their parents, friends, and relatives.

Student Loan Assistance Employers are now looking at how they can help with the increasing employee issue of dealing with debt from student loans.  This issue has affected younger employees in the sense that it is imposing on their ability to save in retirements plans such as a 401K.  This is important as it shows just how many components to financial security there are beyond having adequate funds in a retirement plan.  This is leading HR managers to look at a more holistic view of benefits from a recruitment and retention perspective.  One idea being kicked around Capitol Hill is to allow employers to contribute into a retirement savings plan an amount that would match what employees pay each month in terms of student loans.  It is a creative way to not only help people with their student loan debt, but also see the value of retirement savings.  However, only 4% of SHRM survey respondents provide some kind of student loan repayment programs.  Right now, it has not reached a high level of popularity with employers due to the fact that it is a high cost benefit and it really has to fit the organizations strategy and culture.  That fit right now appears to be more tech and finance sectors.  But, if it fits a company’s philosophy, it is a well-received and great benefit for retention and recruitment.

Wellness at the Workplace – There is an uptick in wellness-type benefits that help offset or manage the rising healthcare costs that come with greater cost share and increased costs.  About 25% of employers in the latest SHRM benefits survey plan to increase their wellness benefits.  That is up over other popular categories, such as flexible work schedules, retirement, and family-friendly policies.  One interesting upgrade that dramatically increased was offering flexible workstations that allowed employees to stand.  That went up to 44% compared to only 13% in 2013 when data was first tracked.

Over the course of 2018, we will be certain to share more information about these topics and others that we feel important for our clients to stay on top of when it comes to not just offering competitive benefit packages but overall offerings and strategies that help recruit and retain the best and brightest talent for their workforce.