A lot of things have changed since 1996. Cell phones are smaller and smarter, the Internet is a whole lot faster and superfoods like kale are now in everything from cookies to chocolate.
Welcome to the new age. It turns out that in the same 20 years employers have also made some big changes in the benefits they offer their employees. In its 2016 Employee Benefits research report, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) looked back at some of the changes in the industry since the organization started issuing these reports in 1996.
While it doesn’t mention a change in the number of office ping pong tables or La Croix-filled refrigerators, it does illustrate some big shifts in the benefits employers choose to focus on.
- Telecommuting. In 1996, only 20 percent of companies offered employees the opportunity to work remotely. Thanks to the internet, that number has tripled to 60 percent, giving employees more flexibility.
- Professional development opportunities and memberships. Three quarters of companies offered to cover additional training and education for their employees in 1996. Now 86 percent of employers offer this benefit, encouraging more workers to continue learning and adding to their skill sets. In addition, 88 percent of today’s employers cover the cost of membership to professional organizations and trade groups for their employees, up from 65 percent in 1996.
- Health Wellness benefits. Over half (54 percent) of employers offered some form of health wellness program in 1996. Now, 72 percent of employers offer such programs. Popular plans include giving discounts on insurance premiums or adding cash to health savings accounts (HSA) plans if certain health goals are met, such as reducing cholesterol and giving up smoking. In addition, nearly a third (31 percent) offer weight loss programs, up slightly from 29 percent in 1996.
- Employee stock purchase plans. Very few companies – just 9 percent – offer employees stock purchase plans in 2016, but more than a quarter (28 percent) did in 1996.
- Credit union membership. Employers in 1996 loved credit unions (they often offer lower interest rates and fees than other banks) and 70 percent offered credit union membership as an employee benefit. Today, only 23 percent offer these memberships.
- Health care premium flexible spending accounts. The health insurance industry has changed drastically since 1996, especially with the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and fewer employers are offering flex spending accounts to help employees cover their healthcare expenses. Only 39 percent of employers offer the benefit now, compared to 54 percent in 1996.
Most companies offer a handful of financial wellness programs, notably a 401(k) account. And, many employers will contribute to the employee’s account, usually in the form of a match or profit-sharing. But employers know that matching contributions doesn’t mean that employees will take advantage of what is essentially free money.
That’s why more than 90 percent of employers are looking to add to their financial wellness programs. Because while the programs are being offered, employees don’t have the cash leftover at the end of the month to participate.
At Best Money Moves, we believe employees are under tremendous financial pressures. So, we focus on helping employees take a deeper look at what’s causing their financial stress. And, then we dial it down by pushing relevant information, tools and calculators that can help solve the problems.
Here’s the good news for employers: If your workforce has less financial stress, they’ll be more productive and engaged, retention will rise and absenteeism will go down.
We can help. Email us at [email protected] for a free trial and to learn how we can help your employees be happier, healthier and more productive.