You may be surprised which financial and other amenities are the most popular — and which are declining.

10-5-15_blog

During the global recession, as cost-cutting measures became a necessary part of ongoing operations, at some organizations, employee benefits were one of the first items on the chopping block.

The effect was detrimental. Combined with layoffs, benefit cuts dramatically lowered workers’ career and retirement expectations for the future, according to Towers Watson’s 2010 Global Workforce Study.

The economy, however, has improved in the past five years — and benefit use appears to also be increasing. Thirty-five percent of HR practitioners say their company is offering more employee benefits this year than last, according to a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Some of the most — and increasingly least — popular employee benefits, according to SHRM, include:

Benefits on the rise

  • Medical: HSAs/contributions to HSAs; mental health care coverage; contraception coverage; vision insurance and laser surgery
  • Retirement savings and financial benefits: Personal investment advice, Roth 401(k)s, spot bonuses and charitable donations
  • Services: Pet insurance and shopping discounts

Benefits that are declining

  • Medical: Flex spending accounts
  • Retirement savings and financial benefits: Defined contribution plan loans, auto subsidies and payroll advances
  • Services: Subsidized on-site cafeterias and executive club memberships

Employee amenities can have a huge impact on employee satisfaction — which can, in turn, influence retention levels. Fifty-three percent of workers view their overall benefits package as one of the top five very important factors in achieving job satisfaction according to SHRM’s job satisfaction and engagement report.

At many organizations, budgets won’t allow for endless amounts of health benefits, employee recognition programs and other perks. To maintain high satisfaction levels, companies have reacted in a number of ways.

Could any of the following strategies work at your organization?

For U.S. organizations employing multiple strategies to meter health care costs: Roughly 24 percent  of small businesses planned to increase employees’ share of insurance premiums or their copays this year, according to insurance provider Aflac. Monster suggests you ask your retirement plan provider to lower its fees, or  shop around for a new health insurance carrier that will cost less. You may be able to avoid passing additional expenses on to employees.

Consider adding smaller amenities, instead of a few costly larger ones: Sixty-six percent of employees at companies that offer 11 or more benefits say they’d recommend it as a great place to work — compared to just 46 percent at a company with no benefits, according to MetLife’s recent Employee Benefit Trends Study, and 53 percent at an organization with one to five. The study also found employees appreciate having a choice in their benefit offerings.

Clearly communicate employee benefits for maximum impact: Employees can’t appreciate what they don’t know they have. Different generations have different communication style preferences; MetLife found, for example, that Gen Y (generally around age 20-34) prefer to meet one-on-one and utilize other resources, such as a benefit provider’s website; baby boomers age 65 and up, on the other hand, are more likely to heavily rely on an employee benefits handbook. Conveying information the most appropriate way can help you ensure employees grasp some of the benefit products MetLife found were most commonly misunderstood — including financial planning and education workshops; legal services; and critical illness insurance.

Design a benefits package that directly addresses workers’ needs: Recent studies have shown some common requests, such as work-life balance, which consistently ranks high among employees. More than a third said they were unhappy with their level of work-life balance in 2014 — yet more than half  of workers who planned to stay at their job said a positive work-life balance was the reason, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Not sure what perks your employees would pick? Learn how to craft a highly effective company-wide survey to find out.

If funding at your organization won’t allow for many new employee benefits — or the continuation of pre-existing ones — employee recognition programs can be a cost-effective substitute.

Get tips on creating the ideal employee recognition program and 10 inexpensive ways you can improve your employee value proposition from our recent blog posts.