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The Latest Research on Employee Pay, Benefits and Engagement-1

It might be difficult to believe, but we’re nearing the halfway point of 2019. And with that mark on the horizon, it’s a fine time to begin thinking about the year’s emerging trends in employee pay, benefits and engagement.

We’ve gathered the latest research on these topics, and while some of the findings indicate a continuation of trends from years past, there are insights that you may find surprising.


Don’t Underestimate the Paycheck

Benefits have the power to change your employees’ lives. But in today’s hyper-competitive job market they can also be the differentiator between a candidate taking a position at your company versus another.

While employees value their benefits greatly, research from both Washington State University and MetLife indicates that employees are willing to trade away some benefits for a higher salary. “Employees are highly focused on salary and would prefer more money over other benefits,” WSU’s “Business in the Northwest 2019” study says. “Across the board, salary is prioritized over benefits like paid or unpaid vacation time, a higher ranked title, a flexible work schedule, and a more manageable workload.”

Also, frequency of pay is becoming a benefit in itself. Some fast-food franchises are experimenting with same-day pay, demonstrating that traditional benefits aren’t the only place organizations can think creatively.

Work on Your Health Care Benefits

In our current healthcare system, employers play a large role in providing healthcare for their employees, and according to MetLife’s research, the percentage of employees who believe employers have an obligation to provide coverage is continuing to rise, from 68 percent in 2015 to 76 percent in 2019.

So what does this mean for employers? Frankly, it means that employees have greater expectations for their healthcare benefits — and there’s a disturbing trend on the rise. MetLife’s research also shows that the number of employees satisfied with their benefits has dropped 4 percent over the past year, from 71 percent to 67 percent.

While this is a small drop, it is a trend that is very likely to continue, unless employers work on providing better benefits. Ensure that you are providing what you need to be competitive in the marketplace — and don’t just think about your benefits in terms of insurance and retirement plans. WSU’s research shows that the benefits employees value are “healthcare, job security, and a manageable workload.”

In other words, how you treat your employees is a benefit in and of itself.

Engagement: It’s About More Than Just Work

The relationship employees have with the workplace is rapidly evolving. With the rise of technology, more employees have the ability to work remotely, and the line between professional and personal lives is growing murkier. To keep employees engaged, employers need to recognize this shift and ensure that they’re not just meeting their employees’ professional needs, but also their personal ones.

Salary and benefits play a large role in this, but employers must consider a well-rounded approach to how they engage with their employees. MetLife recommends focusing heavily on building a positive, supportive workplace culture; 90% of employees said workplace culture was a crucial part of their professional life.

Coupled with this is the growing expectation that employees have for flexible work schedules. And this same desire for flexibility also applies to employees’ careers, MetLife says. “More and more, employees are building nontraditional, nonlinear, and more malleable careers over the long term — creating significant opportunity for employers to position themselves as allies in their employees’ happiness,” MetLife says.

If you find ways to personally support your staff, your efforts are likely to be repaid. “Offering longer-term flexibility through structured programs like paid sabbaticals can not only help employees take the time to follow passions or recharge, but also give employees a sense of pride,” MetLife says.

But no matter what you do, make sure that your plans go beyond work — to make your employees more well-rounded people.

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