Stephanie Dwilson

The Top Employer Benefits Trends of 2017

Studying benefits trends can give your business a good idea about what benefits to provide in the coming year. In the beginning of 2017, companies that increased their benefit offerings tended to focus on health and wellness in order to stay competitive when recruiting new talent, SHRM reported. That trend only increased as the year progressed, with companies focusing more and more on health plans, add-ons and benefits that help workers achieve a work-life balance, according to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and HBR.

Benefits That Grew in Popularity

The popularity of supplemental and voluntary benefits increased in 2017, which includes dental, vision, hospitalization, critical illness and even accident coverage. More companies also focused on wellness initiatives such as health and biometric screenings, along with programs such as smoking cessation, weight management and lifestyle coaching. Employees especially appreciated these unique benefits when coupled with incentives for reaching wellness goals, such as cash, health savings account contributions, lower premiums and the like.

In 2017, more companies sought health plans that provide multiple routes for getting medical help, such as retail clinics, telemedicine and nurse hotlines. In fact, flexibility was important not only in seeking health care but also in achieving a work-life balance. This flexibility was a top-valued benefit among employees in 2017, second only to health care itself. Your business can achieve this by offering flex time, remote work options and even unlimited paid time off.

Common Employee Benefits That Declined in Popularity

PPOs were still the most common plan in 2017, but their enrollment has fallen by eight percent in the last five years compared to high-deductible plans which have increased by nine percentage points. This may be partially due to the increase in premium costs overall. More expensive health plans with higher premiums were on the decline, while high deductible plans coupled with health savings accounts increased in popularity.

In 2017, employees were less interested in benefits that didn’t impact their finances or health, such as free food, free coffee, team bonding activities or retreats. Instead of spending money on these, you might consider offering an Employee Assistance Program that provides confidential counseling on issues like wellness, substance abuse, counseling and financial health. Other benefits on the decline in 2017, according to SHRM, were education assistance, anniversary awards, onsite cafeterias and automobile subsidies.

In the coming year, small businesses should keep in mind that employees not only want to be able to customize their health plans according to their goals but that they also value work-life balance and stress reduction more than ever. You can play to these benefits trends by offering flex hours and work-from-home opportunities, which some people find just as enticing as an expensive benefits package. You might also focus on offering a range of health plans based on how many employees are willing to contribute. This can include a high deductible plan for employees who prefer savings accounts to higher monthly premiums. By keeping a close eye on the 2017 benefits trends, you can offer a package for the coming year that matches modern trends and puts your business in high demand among top, new talent.


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