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Top 4 must-have employee benefits in 2023

When it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, it’s no secret that organizations have their work cut out for them. In the post-COVID landscape, amid the reckoning brought on by the Great Resignation, employers have no choice but to step up their benefits offerings to meet candidates’ expectations and keep current employees satisfied.


"Employer-offered benefits provide organizations with a key opportunity to improve the employee experience and directly make a difference in their employees' lives," SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso said. "The COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting impacts on economic and public health have expedited the evolving nature of organizations, many of which now have access to wider talent pools through the possibility of remote work. Workers now have more options for where and when they will work, and these two factors together create a challenging talent landscape for organizations everywhere. These benefits can play an instrumental role in this competition for talent and, in some cases, may determine success or failure."


This open enrollment season, eliminate the uncertainty of knowing how your organization’s benefits offerings stack up against other employers. Here are the top 4 must-have employee benefits for the upcoming year, according to employee demand and employer reporting—and why you don’t want to miss out on them.


Flexible work benefits


“Flexibility” doesn’t just mean remote or working from home—it’s a whole new approach to supporting your staff. (Although remote work is an important part of the conversation, as at least half of employees expect to be able to work remotely at least part-time, according to Guardian.)


Flexibility means meeting employees where they are in ways that support their needs and the needs of your organization. In terms of where employees work, that can mean allowing employees to continue to work from home full-time, or a shift to hybrid work. 


And when employees clock in is an important consideration: does everyone need to be logged in during the same hours all day, or will your organization allow asynchronous work to accommodate the shifting demands of employees with families or other caregiving responsibilities? For some employees and top candidates, the ability to shift their working hours to a schedule that covers their life circumstances can be a make-or-break factor for whether they choose to work for your organization.


Flexible paid time off is another big piece of the puzzle when addressing flexible work benefits. Employees have unique needs when it comes to PTO. Some employees will need to take time off for holidays that don’t get the same level of recognition as Christmas or Thanksgiving, and not everyone needs the same amount of sick days. Offering flexible PTO means you don’t need to worry whether offering the day off for an employee’s birthday is enough to set you apart from the crowd. With flexible PTO, your bases are covered on multiple fronts, and employees will be happy they can take leave when they need it—or want it.


Holistic leave policies


If the pandemic revealed anything about the gap between what employees need and what employers have traditionally offered, it’s in the area of comprehensive leave policies. According to Guardian, 80% of employers say COVID-19 has raised senior leadership’s awareness of the importance of leave management, and 75% of employers changed their unpaid leave policies to paid as a result of the pandemic.


Think about it: if flexible work benefits are ways to meet your employees where they are on a daily basis, holistic leave policies are how you support employees during those unique times when daily flexibility isn’t enough. It’s how you keep your employees for the long-term—proactively helping them navigate challenging seasons of life when they need a little extra help.


From parental leave and other caregiving leaves of absence, to bereavement leave, and even time off to vote, employees now expect for their employer to support “work/life integration” with policies that accommodate needs and responsibilities outside of work.


To attract and retain talent, employers need to consider a spectrum of leave options, and clearly communicate the details of those policies so employees are confident that they’ll be supported when they need help.


Child care and family care benefits


Caregiving benefits are one of the most impactful ways to stand out with benefits that attract and retain top talent. Both employers and employees agree: caregiving benefits are absolutely essential. According to SHRM’s annual Employee Benefits Survey, 70% of employers say that child care, family care, and other caregiving benefits are “very” or “extremely” important. Kinside’s data shows that child care benefits are crucial for working parents: 81% of families rely on some type of child care outside the home. 


And families are making permanent career decisions due to a lack of child care, with working parents reporting the following:

  • 61% change work schedules
  • 41% find a new job
  • 30% turn down a job or promotion
  • 20% leave the workforce
  • 17% relocate their families.


The good news is that there are many ways employers can support their working parents with benefits, including strategies for helping parents find and pay for child care. 


Employers can offer a dependent care flexible spending account (59% of employers currently offer dependent care FSAs) or contribute funds into an employee’s DCFSA. Another benefit to help parents pay for child care is a child care stipend to offset the cost. Some employers even offer tuition discounts through child care benefits solutions such as Kinside, a child care marketplace that helps employees find care and partners with providers to offer exclusive discounts on the cost of care.


Other helpful benefits include on-site child care, allowing employees to bring children to work in an emergency, and addressing employees’ needs for elder care services.


Health and wellness


In the last few years, our conversations around workplace health and wellness have shifted from trivial offerings like healthy snacks in the break room to more substantial services like telehealth and access to virtual healthcare. (And 93% of employers surveyed by SHRM reported that they offer telemedicine as an employee benefit.)


Physical health benefits are still among the most important, as well as emotional health and mental health offerings. More than a quarter of American workers say that they have experienced increased anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues because of the pandemic, while more than 50% of employers say that they’re prioritizing their workforce’s use of mental and emotional health resources. Employers are investing in expanded health benefits that include mental health, and access to other mental health services such as apps that offer live counseling. 


And this one might come as a surprise because you’re not accustomed to seeing it through the lens of wellness, but it has a huge impact on employee wellbeing and peace of mind: retirement and savings benefits. These financial health offerings help employees plan for the future and stay on track with their financial goals—needs that are top-of-mind in the midst of record inflation. SHRM reports that 94% of employers offer a traditional 401(k) and 68% offer a Roth 401(k), with 83% and 76% of employers contributing to traditional 401(k)s and Roth 401(k)s, respectively.


The big picture


Looking at the big picture, it’s clear that employers can win big at attracting and retaining talent by offering benefits that meet employees’ core needs and responsibilities: 

  • Flexibility to work how and when an employee needs to
  • Coverage and confidence for taking leave during life’s important seasons
  • Secure, affordable child care and caregiving arrangements
  • Physical, mental, and financial health

And when you look at it that way, selecting the most competitive benefits can be a more streamlined, successful process for executives, HR buyers, and benefits brokers.


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