COMPENSATION ~ WHAT EMPLOYEES REALLY WANT
by Ken Schmitt and Vicky Willenberg
Contrary to what you’ve heard, it ain’t “all about the Benjamins.”
In a tight labor market like ours, employers are looking for the juiciest carrots to dangle in front of potential candidates. But are they using the right bait? There was a time when salary was the deciding factor when a candidate was entertaining multiple offers. Today, however, they won’t even consider an offer if it isn’t at least 25+% above their current salary. That’s just for them to consider taking the job!
A robust benefits plan is the second course served to a potential hire. Flexible spending accounts, access to PPOs, vision coverage, and all-inclusive dental plans (even coverage for those dreaded braces!) were a hot commodity. Now? If you’re not planning to cover contact lenses and Sally’s four phases of orthodontics, expander included… don’t bother. These are no longer the gold standard. They are simply standard.
So what’s an employer supposed to do to attract top talent and lure star players from the competition? Give the people what they want…
Here’s what you need to know: According to the most recent data, Americans worked an average of 34.5 hours per week and 33% of them worked on weekends. While the number of hours may not have changed much over the years, where employees work has changed. In 2018, 24% of full-time employees spent at least part of their day at home. Less than 20% worked out of the office just a decade ago.
You’d think employees would be happy, right? On average they are working less than a full 8 hour day and have the option to work from home. What’s there to complain about? The biggest complaint is the amount of office time that has creeped into, what was supposed to be, time off. 36% of workers get after-hours emails from their supervisors. Some 9% say their bosses email them while they are on vacation and 6% say they get emails on the weekends.
The result? Personal time spent away from the office is no longer personal. With a few taps of your finger, management can reach employees and employees can access assignments. As much as we’ve pushed for a better work/life balance culturally, it isn’t happening. Well, it’s happening, but not in the way we expected. Employees aren’t necessarily getting more time at home, but they are getting financial assistance for the things they do at home.
First, understand Perks vs Benefits. The difference between them is significant in understanding compensation in today’s market. Benefits are non-wage compensation, things employees would typically fund themselves. Perks are the nice-to-have additions to salary and benefit packages.
In the past, employers bested the competition in the war for talent by offering perks. Gym memberships, free lunches, and on-site massage were popular for a while. Today’s job seekers, however, are savvier. They don’t want “extras” or “treats” they would never have bought for themselves. They want employers to pay for the things they continuously have to pay for themselves.
Here are a few creative compensation benefits today’s savvy employees are looking for:
Paid Family Leave
A recent survey conducted by Unum found that 58% of employees said time off for new parents is the most coveted employee benefit. We’re not just talking about a 6-week break and a promise to “hold your job or an equivalent one”. Employees are demanding (and employers are giving!) extended maternity leave, as well as, paternity leave. From 2016 to 2018, the percentage of employers offering paid maternity leave increased to 35% and paid paternity leave increased to 29%. Additionally, adoption, foster child, and surrogacy leave has also increased.
Student Loan Repayment
According to Forbes, student loan repayment assistance is the hottest employee benefit of 2018. “To attract and retain recent graduates, in particular, companies are expanding their employee benefit programs to help reduce student loan debt for their employees.” Considering there are 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loans, this is a brilliant benefit organizations can offer.
Healthcare cost reimbursement
As much as 22% of employees turn down coverage offered by employers. Some have opted out of traditional insurance for medi-share type programs. Others are covered by a spouse or partner’s plan. If a robust healthcare plan is part of an employer’s offer, and the candidate already has coverage they are happy with, where does that money go? Employees are demanding it go right into their pockets.
Family Planning Coverage
We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of organizations that cover fees for employees looking to grow their families through adoptions. Additionally, some are covering in vitro fertilization, as well.
Traditionally, employees categorized ‘wellness’ benefits as thing to improve the physical health of their employees. Company-sponsored exercise, nutrition seminars, weight loss support programs, and health screenings were the wellness programs of the past. In today’s market, employers can attract talent by offering to do more than manage an employee’s waistline. Investing in their emotional and psychological wellness is also important. Babysitter and nanny reimbursement relieves a significant burden employee-parents carry. Subsidizing house cleaners or gardeners, pool maintenance, and free dry-cleaning delivery are also part of the “new wellness” package.
Relocation and Travel Coverage
Moving from state to state (or continent to continent, in some cases) permanently or simply to visit a client isn’t cheap. And few are willing to do it if they’re expected to pay for it out of pocket. Employers looking to recruit from outside their surrounding area better be ready to help cover the costs to relocate. Also, travel compensation looks a little differently these days. Charging plane tickets and meals to the company account is only part of the equation. Many road warriors are expecting business class flight accommodations, rather than the economy.
Non-Traditional Family Leave
We can’t forget our four-legged, winged, and feathered family members. “There appears to be a trend towards men and women delaying marriage. Millennial women in their 20s and 30s have decided to stay single a lot longer than women did in the past. And instead of kids, they have pets. The new family profile today, indeed, may very well consist of a mom and Fluffy,” says Deborah McPhee for Conversation.com. We’re not just talking about pet-friendly offices. Pet parent employees are looking for the same benefits their child-parent counterparts are receiving. Reimbursement for dog-walkers, pet sitters, and Doggy Daycare is becoming less “new” and more “normal.” As any pet owner knows, pet insurance is extremely expensive. So why not include that in the benefits package? And last, but not least, you can not ignore the increase in Pawternity Leave. “Research from Petplan found that 5% of owners have been offered paid leave from their job to adjust to their pet-owning duties.” Just as new parents need time to adjust to baby’s erratic sleep schedule, new pet owner face many of the same challenges. Providing time off when a new pet becomes part of the family gives both pet and person time to bond and adjust.
At the end of the day, employers, investing in your employees’ financial, emotional, and psychological health is an investment in their contentment. That contentment yields a more positive work environment made up of happy, loyal, healthy, hardworking, and committed employees. These employees stay longer, improving your organization and, in the long run, save you the cost of replacing them.