HR trends 2021: which benefits do employees value most? Employees want benefits that better support their health and wellness after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benefits priorities are shifting considerably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Only 55 percent of employees believe their company is making the best decisions about their benefits, according to new research by The Hartford. Just 44 percent think their benefits package is above average compared to what other employers are offering.

“The pandemic has put pressure on the American workforce in ways few could have predicted and employees need support more than ever,” said Jonathan Bennett, head of Group Benefits at The Hartford. “Now is the perfect time for employers to address employees’ changing attitudes about benefits.”

HR Trends 2021: Which Benefits Do Employees Value Most?

These are the benefits and services that employers are adding to bring their benefits plans closer to their employees’ values:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) (56 percent)
  • Paid Time Off (52 percent)
  • Wellness Benefits (51 percent)
  • Behavioral/Mental Health Services (51 percent) 
  • Critical Illness Insurance (50 percent)
  • Hospital Indemnity Insurance (48 percent) 
  • Paid Time Off for Volunteering (42 percent)
  • Student Loan Repayment Plans (38 percent)
  • Paid Sabbatical (38 percent)
  • Pet Insurance (29 Percent)

Many of the most highly sought after benefits are centered around employee health, including their physical, mental, financial health as well as the health of their loved ones and their communities. Health and wellness has been an HR trend for quite some time but the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the employee demand for these types of benefits is as strong as ever.

The Importance of Benefits Communication

More employers are recognizing how important communication is to the success of any benefits program. Up from 63 percent at the start of the pandemic, 69 percent of employers told The Hartford they’re mostly or fully responsible for making sure employees understand the benefits offered.

In other surveys, employees have admitted that they don’t understand all the benefits their organization offers or that the programs available don’t meet their needs or are too difficult to understand

Employers can improve benefits communication in three steps:

  1. Send shorter, bite-sized benefits communications over a longer period of time rather than the traditional method of dumping it in an employee handbook or an annual employee benefits email. 
  2. Test different methods of communication, like text messaging, phone calls and instant messenger in addition to emails or meetings. 
  3. Track participation, open and click rates to see which method is the best way to reach your employees.

It’s not enough to follow the latest HR trends and make changes accordingly, employers need to work with their employees to determine what benefits are most valuable to them, which programs fit their needs and how they can make it easier for them to access their benefits.

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