Use Benefits to Counteract The Great Resignation



The Great Resignation has put insurance and benefits front and center. With today’s competitive labor market, employers are being forced to use every tool at their disposal to both recruit new talent, but also to retain their existing workforce.

Benefits plans, including employer-sponsored insurance, make up a sizable piece of that toolbox.

And while some tried-and-true options, such as health plans, remain best practices, other creative options are emerging as levers HR departments can pull as well.

In an environment of increasing salary budgets, finding creative, yet valuable options for employees when it comes to healthcare has become essential.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 71% of private industry workers have access to employer-sponsored healthcare benefits, meaning that any company not offering health plans now seems like an outlier to most prospective employees.

And according to the latest Benchmarking Report  published by the Society of Human Resources Management, the median employer covered 80% of those premiums in 2021, said SHRM knowledge advisor John Dooney.

While claims history is the primary variable driving healthcare plan costs, that doesn’t mean employers are simply at the mercy of their workers’ medical history when it comes to healthcare options.

According to Andrew Grove, executive vice president of sales and account management for SWBC Employee Benefits Consulting Group, ( employers often would do well to consider some lesser-known plan options, such as consumer-driven health plans. These plans allow employees access to tax-advantaged health savings accounts, to potentially bring down costs.

For their part, health reimbursement accounts let employers purchase plans with higher deductibles. That brings down premiums but also reimburses employees to reduce out-of-pocket expenses.
Finding ways to reduce the premiums for workers goes a long way toward employee retention, recruitment, and satisfaction.

Beyond healthcare
According to the BLS, other benefits beyond the traditional health plan are also taking hold in the market. For example, 77% of private workers now have access to paid sick leave — a benefit that took center stage during the pandemic.

Paid family leave is another emerging benefit, with 23% of private industry workers having access. But it is important to note that paid family leave seems to be reserved for full-time employees, because only 11% of part time workers had access to that benefit.

A full 43% of private employees participated in defined contribution retirement plans, such as 401(k)s or 403(b)s, making it another coveted benefit, especially among full time workers.

But one of the most important things to note is that some of the most popular benefits driving the labor market don’t strictly come with a direct cost.

One example is flexible work schedules. An estimated 13% of private workers have access to flexible hours in which they can do their work. Again, that is largely limited to the upper end of the income scale, with only 8% of workers in the lowest 25th percent of wages having access, while 23% of the highest 25th had access.

Generous vacation policies can also turn heads of potential candidates, as can education benefits, such as tuition reimbursement. With student loans taking such a prominent role in the headlines, offering student loan repayment assistance as an employee benefit has become another way to stand out.

Making a concerted, and well-publicized effort to promote from within the company can also help bolster employee morale and communicate that management thinks highly of the people who are already there.

And if the facilities allow for it, opening the office doors to all those pets who were adopted during the pandemic can go a long way toward raising the spirits of those new pet parents. A few companies are even taking the commitment to pets a step further and adding pet insurance to their benefits offerings.

If being in the office isn’t essential, some creative employers have begun offering stipends to help furnish or outfit the workers’ home offices. On the other end of the spectrum, when it comes time to return to work, some are offering stipends to make those cubicles feel more friendly and feel more like home.

Dooney said one of the bigger trends has been offering wellness programs, with total budgets for those increasing 22% in 2021.

With the stress of the pandemic, employee assistance programs have also taken a larger role, and some companies are going even further by offering space on site for clinics that employees and their dependents could have ready access to.

The HR managers who figure out the secret sauce for recruiting and retaining the best talent will be the ones who give their companies a competitive edge in today’s labor market.

Healthcare coverage continues to be the benefit that first rolls off the tongue, but other staples, such as retirement and vacation policies continue to make up winning offerings.

Following the cultural trends also may have some benefits, such as responding to the zeitgeist surrounding pets, returning to work and student loan burdens.

But in the end, one of the most forgotten aspects of a winning benefits package is putting in the time and effort to improve employee understanding of what is actually offered in the first place. Because, even if an employee has access to the best benefits package in the world, if the employer isn’t playing it up and communicating all their hard work, it may not make the difference they had hoped it would.

MICHAEL GIUSTI, MBA, is senior writer and analyst for