By Heather Garbers

As the U.S. labor market continues to tighten, employers are seizing on every advantage to help them stand out in the war for talent.

It’s leading them to take a more strategic approach to their benefits, and there’s a reason for that. Organizations that use their benefits offering as a key recruitment and retention tool are almost twice as likely to have more satisfied employees and outperform those with a less strategic focus to their benefits programs.

It’s helped shape three voluntary benefits trends shape up for 2019:

  • Holistic wellness solutions take front and center role
    Employers increasingly see holistic wellness as a critical recruitment and retention tool, and they’re honing in on three interrelated areas to meet the needs of their employee population: financial, mental and physical health.
    • Financial: The goal is to fill the gaps in existing benefits, starting with analyzing the types of debts employees are grappling with, the best solutions (like student loan repayment assistance or paycheck advance services), accompanied by resources and education to address the issues long term.
    • Mental: There’s a growing call for more resources, cost effectively delivered, as traditional health plans tend to be limited in how they provide these services. We’re seeing telemedicine programs respond by adapting their benefit with added mental health services for a more robust solution.
    • Physical: This is another area employers have identified where more resources need to be provided. Even as they incentivize their workers to complete biometric screenings, they also are providing better tools and support programs to help employees better tackle health issues like weight loss and smoking cessation.
  • Executive benefits are a winning play for senior talent
    It’s the whole package that attracts executive talent and that means more than money and perks. Some of the executive benefits taking on more luster include:
    • Individual Disability Insurance (IDI): This protection is absolutely essential for any employee earning over $200,000 annually as standard disability only covers 60 percent of base salary up to $10,000 a month - and doesn’t cover commissions or bonus at all. In addition, it is key for skilled Employees such as Physician’s whose income earning potential would be significantly decreased based on a broad definition of disability. Since 78 percent of employers don’t cover this gap, offering IDI is a great differentiator that speaks to the value an organization places on its executive talent.
    • Employer-funded long-term care coverage: Providing for – and funding – insurance covering the costs of long-term care is a good value-added benefit for senior management. There’s also value in general to tax-qualified long-term care insurance, starting with benefits that are payable tax-free and with premium deductibility features, too.
    • Employer-paid legal coverage: This is a more traditional benefit and an important one for executives who have a higher net worth than average workers and different needs. This benefit would provide coverage for them for legal planning needs such as wills, trusts and estate planning.
    • Employer-paid identity theft protection: Higher-paid management, with more disposable income, can be more vulnerable to identify theft. Additionally, corporate officers, with corporate credit cards and sometimes with access to corporate accounts, are also targets because of who they are with the company. If an employee’s identity has been breached, it risks the security of the entire company which is even more important for higher ranking executives. Identity theft insurance protects everyone’s interests.
    • Senior support programs: Such programs speak to the employer’s recognition that their executives may have personal stressors, and those in the “sandwich” generation may need support caring for older parents. These programs are inexpensive and can provide significant ROI back to your bottom line.
  • Data analytics guide benefits strategy and design
    Organizations are increasingly tapping into the vast amount of data they have about their employees (composition, age, demographics, claim history) to build more effective voluntary benefits strategies. Using data is not new. What is new is how data is being used – to uncover trends and inform a more responsive, targeted benefits strategy. This data can be used to create a benefits offering targeted at engaging a specific demographic of employees – maybe one that doesn’t typically engage with your existing benefits offering. It can also be used to drive behavior and innovate your overall benefits strategy.

Voluntary benefits may prove to be a critical game changer for employers in the ongoing battle to win and keep good people. It’s important to think more strategically about them in 2019 and beyond.

HUB International’s team of employee benefits consultants is ready to work with your organization on ways you can leverage voluntary benefits trends to meet the diverse needs of your workforce.