Which Employee Benefits are the Best Value?

Top talent in today’s job market value an excellent employee benefits package over a higher salary even. In fact, according to Glassdoor’s 2017 Employment Confidence Survey, nearly 80 percent of workers would prefer new or additional benefits to a pay increase. Among Millennials (18 to 34), a staggering 90 percent claimed they would prefer benefits over a pay raise. Recent data from a number of additional sources seem to confirm this trend toward prioritizing benefits, but how can employers offer a competitive benefits package that delivers value to the company itself?

Health Insurance

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $19,616 in 2018, with workers paying an average deductible of $5,547. The survey further reported that the average deductible among covered workers in a plan with a general annual deductible is $1,573 for single coverage. Ninety-eight percent of large firms offer health benefits to at least some of their workers, according to the survey, while 56 percent of small firms offer health benefits to at least some of their workers.

Although only 57 percent of companies overall offer health insurance to their employees, talent applying for certain higher-paying jobs have come to expect health insurance benefits as part of the deal. Since health insurance coverage is essentially expected of employers today, employers can’t exactly skirt this expense altogether, though these averages are negotiable. Certain companies have also made their own employee benefits packages more enticing by covering all of their employees’ healthcare premiums. For instance, Twitter does this, in addition to paying for mental health treatment, dental care, vision care, and prescription drug subsidies.



Tuition Reimbursement and Student Loan Assistance

According to personal finance expert Zach Friedman, student loan repayment was the “hottest” employee benefit in 2018. Student loan debt in 2019 is the highest it’s ever been, with more than 44 million borrowers collectively owing $1.5 trillion in the U.S. alone. According to the Federal Reserve, about 69 percent of students from the class of 2018 took out student debt, graduating with an average debt balance of $29,800. With this crisis only heightening with every passing year, it’s no surprise that some companies—valuing a highly educated workforce—are opting to cover at least part of the cost of their employees’ education.

For example, leading financial services company Fidelity offers employees at the manager level and below up to $2,000 per year (up to $10,000 total) toward repayment of their student loans. Since this is a monthly payment, employees who leave the company also do not have to repay the benefit. The healthcare company Aetna offers a similar program of up to $2,000 in matching student loan payments (up to $10,000) for full-time employees and $1,000 (up to $5,000) for part-time employees.

Paid Parental Leave

According to the Department of Labor, 58.6 percent of women age 16 and over in the U.S. were labor force participants, comprising 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force. Women are projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018. Although most adults today agree that parenting responsibilities should be split evenly between men and women, a 2016 Gallup poll 60 percent of women rated a greater work-life balance and better personal well-being (including paid parental leave) as a “very important” attribute in a new job, compared to 48 percent of men.

According to several paid leave research projects from the National Partnership for Women and Families, offering paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers as part of an employee benefits package led to healthier employees, healthier children, higher productivity levels, reduced turnover rates, and higher employee satisfaction overall. Since the US is the only industrialized nation without a paid leave policy, companies who offer the kind of feasible work-life balance that many younger employees prioritize could clearly stand out from the competition.

Every employee will have slightly different priorities in terms of which employee benefits they value most. However, recent data suggests that health insurance, tuition reimbursement, and paid parental leave are top priorities for most highly talented Millennial workers entering the job market today. To learn more about navigating this complex subject, download our helpful guide “5 Ways to Improve Your Benefits Without Increasing Your Cost” and call SMD at 510-895-4800 for any additional questions and guidance applying these tools to your workplace. Which employee benefits listed above do you think your employees will value the most?