Over the last decade, workplace flexibility has become a hot topic and a priority for many employees. Now that workers have options like telecommuting, alternative scheduling, and freelancing, they’re looking for flexibility in their benefits, too.
Employers spend an average of $693 on “wellness-based incentives” like yoga, according to a joint survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments. From budding start-ups to Google, organizations are investing in these wellness options to diversify their benefits and help their employees.
Additionally, implementing flexible benefits for your employees should go beyond yoga classes and work-from-home days.
Flexible benefit plans recognize that employees have different needs and, therefore, desire unique benefits tailored to them. Flexible plans may include standard options like health insurance and 401(k)s, as well as other options like financial wellness, student loan payment matches, or dependent care.
Before choosing benefits for the workforce, employers need to understand employee demographics and plan their benefits accordingly.
Demographics within the workforce can cover a wide array of variables, such as gender, marriage status, ethnicity, etc. One demographic that can easily show how different employee needs can be is generational.
According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, almost three-quarters of Millennials are not currently saving for retirement. If an organization has many younger employees, management may be surprised to learn that this demographic tends to be more concerned with keeping their current bills paid than saving for the future.
This stems from the fact that 63% of Millennials carry more than $10,000 in student loan debt, with an average debt load of $30,000 per person.
As companies identify the right benefits for their Millennial employees, they should recognize these employees, in general, may be more focused on Student Loan Repayment or starting a family than contributing to their retirement plan.
Many people in Gen X are taking care of their children and aging parents and need benefits that reflect this. They desire a flexible workplace in terms of location and hours—making it easier to pick a sick child up from school or go visit an elderly parent.
Key priorities may include child care, financial protection and education, well-being support, and excellent health insurance. Gen X also values advancement opportunities, as well as an independent role with an opportunity to grow their skills.
Examples of Flexible Benefits
The need for more targeted employee benefits hasn’t gone unnoticed. Some benefit providers like Gusto and Gradifi are rethinking how employers can administer their employee benefits to better address employee needs.
Gusto is rethinking payroll processing with Flexible Pay, a new service that lets employees withdraw their paychecks on their own schedule. Getting paid every 2 weeks no longer makes sense for many employees. Having the flexibility to withdraw money as they earn their wages, daily or weekly, allows employees to avoid the predatory loan practices of payday lenders and avoid unnecessary debt, which is especially important for low-wage workers.
Gradifi helps employees pay down their student loans faster by giving employers the tools to administer and monitor student loan repayment. Student loan repayment benefits have helped employees pay down their loans 30% faster than paying them by themselves. Employers are leveraging services like Gradifi to offer student loan repayment as an employee benefit.
Some employees spend half their time at work feeling stressed about financial and personal issues. As employers rethink benefits plans, providing more targeted guidance and resources to employees will create not only happier and healthier employees but also long-term boosts to the bottom line.
Offering and Communicating Flexible Benefits
There is a strong need for targeted employee benefits in the workplace, and companies should strive to offer a benefits package that includes options for various groups. There may not be one benefit that works for all employees, but the goal should be to offer a variety of benefit options that address the needs of the different demographics.
As companies increasingly recognize the different needs and goals of each demographic and offer more targeted benefits to employees, HR managers can also send targeted messaging to those employee groups to better engage them. For some employees, e-mail communication is still the most effective way to communicate, while other groups may prefer periodic text reminders or posters around the office.
While yoga requires flexibility, flexible benefits don’t require yoga (though if it were offered, employees may be eager to participate). In order to successfully implement the right kinds of flexible benefits, talk to employees and understand their needs.
Chris Whitlow is the founder and CEO of Edukate, a platform that amplifies financial wellness efforts through data-driven insights and solutions. Edukate drives user engagement, scales with any size organization, and integrates with a company’s existing benefit providers and other third-party solutions to meet individual needs. Edukate is a one-stop destination for employees, providing guidance for challenges they are currently facing and connecting them with the employer benefits that matter to them most—all while cultivating a culture of positive financial awareness.
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