Kip Soteres

Amid Low Unemployment Rates, Health Insurance Could Be the Key to Employee Recruitment and Retention

In many ways, the 2018 economy has been marked by the optimism of bull markets and a low unemployment rate — the lowest, in fact, in 15 years, according to a 2018 study by Deft Research, which also found that nearly half of employers report greater difficulty attracting talent than in past years.

The Deft study showed that small businesses struggle with recruitment more than most, being four times as likely to report more difficulty recruiting than less. Meanwhile, though they may have more hiring resources, large employers are facing their own challenges. Nearly half of large firms are experiencing 11 percent or greater turnover.

This means that it’s more important than ever to offer strong benefits, starting with employer-sponsored health insurance. Salary increases aren’t enough — enhanced medical benefits like employer health insurance and supplemental coverage are critical tools for attracting and retaining talent.

Employees Want Health Benefits

While attracting and retaining talent involves a complex matrix of factors, many employees put a high value on health benefits. In fact, in a survey of 1,002 employed millennials by the Benenson Strategy Group, 85 percent of respondents said that health insurance is “absolutely essential” or “very important,” outranking other benefits like employer retirement contributions. If forced to choose between more comprehensive employer health insurance and a 10 percent raise, just over half of survey participants said they’d take the insurance.

And employers have taken notice. Deft Research reports that 44 percent of companies having difficulty attracting talent have attempted to boost recruiting efforts by improving medical benefits.

Similarly, what once were perks — for example life insurance and dental coverage — are now seen as necessities. Offering supplemental insurance is relatively a popular choice, with 30 percent of employers adopting or expanding this coverage, while 26 percent of employers have introduced new health and wellness programs as a way of attracting employees.

Saving Money With Health Care

The options just mentioned provide relatively affordable strategies for small businesses to win the battle for talent. Offering employees a supplemental plan to cover items like critical illness, vision, disability, long-term care or legal expenses can be a means of making coverage available without breaking the bank. At the same time, wellness programs don’t have to be expensive, and the good health habits they encourage can help prevent more expensive issues down the line.

Improving health care options for employees has other benefits, too. Healthy employees are more likely to be productive and take less time off. In fact, some experts have found that every dollar put toward employee wellness offers a 6-to-1 return on investment.

Businesses are changing the way they look at employee recruitment and retention. Benefits leaders are placing increased emphasis on understanding their organization’s employee population, and many have begun to engage employees directly to understand better the benefits they value. Growing HR communications roles have evolved to help communicate benefits holistically and promote organizational investments in workers. Low unemployment rate or not, offering great health insurance to employees may be the key to standing out to potential talent — and to making your business a success.

The Numbers Add Up

If there was any doubt that in 2018 it’s more important than ever to offer the benefits people want, the numbers speak for themselves:

  • 3.9 percent: The U.S. unemployment rate as of August 2018
  • 44 percent: The percentage of small businesses reporting more difficulty attracting talent today than in the past
  • 85 percent: The percentage of millennials who say that health insurance is an “absolutely essential” or “very important” benefit
  • 44 percent: The percentage of companies that have improved medical benefits as a strategy for attracting talent
  • 6 to 1: The return on investment for spending on employee wellness

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