Meeting the Demands of a New Workforce: The Key to Employee Benefits in 2022
After close to two years of isolation and working from home, employees across Canada are completely disengaged. Even worse, they don’t feel loyal or connected to their employers. In fact, statistics show:
- 95% of the workforce is thinking about quitting
- 80% feels disengaged
- 60% of employees consider themselves a “free agent”
Employment numbers reflect this. Canadian employers reported 912,000 job vacancies in September 2021, a 5.4% vacancy rate. What’s more, 64% of businesses say the labour shortage is inhibiting business growth.
In this environment, employers can’t afford to sit back and wait. They will need to reshape benefits plans, placing potential employee needs and wants front and centre. If you haven’t yet considered wellbeing, career trajectory and DEI as an integral component of your employee benefits package, this is the time to do so.
The key to employee benefits in 2022 is personalization. Employers will need to adopt data analytics and competitor benchmarking to inform their decision-making. As a result, employees will have a real connection to their benefits, increasing satisfaction and driving engagement with the employer.
When reassessing your employee benefits in 2022, consider these areas of improvement:
1. Wellbeing Moves Centre Stage
The average workday is about 49 minutes longer than it was before the pandemic. The time employees have saved by avoiding their commute has simply been redirected to juggling additional tasks.
While much of that extra time comes from organizations being short-staffed and employees doing extra work just to keep the ship afloat, it also leads to a vicious cycle. Extra work leads to employee burnout, which leads to an increase in resignations – which leads to more extra work for those remaining.
In other years, employers have responded to this type of challenge with small adjustments to their benefits packages, such as increased access to mental health or paramedical services. But today, that’s not enough.
In 2022, employers must highlight options supporting employee wellbeing, including physical and mental health, financial wellness, career support and other areas which, if ignored, threaten workers’ productivity and engagement.
For instance, Canadian employers that offered upskilling opportunities during the pandemic have reported higher productivity and greater confidence in corporate leadership. Those attributes result in lower turnover and an organization that stands out to job candidates.
2. Support For Financial Wellbeing is in Demand
Canadians have become more cautious with their money over the last several years, with 25% reporting in 2020 that they were saving more because of reduced discretionary spending.
Financial anxiety has not abated in 2022. Financial stress often spills over to the workplace, since employees tend to be less productive when they are worried and may even spend time at work focusing on financial issues.
As a result, employers looking to increase engagement should make the effort to determine the best way to support their employees when it comes to financial wellbeing. For different employee segments, that may mean offering education on financial literacy, such as teaching basic budgeting, or it may mean a growing demand for programs that support savings efforts beyond retirement savings, including paying down debt or saving for a large purchase.
Organizations, in turn, will be relying on their benefits consultants and brokers to pave the way toward greater understanding of the employee base and finding how to deliver financial wellness. In terms of benefits, this can include access to financial planning, offering greater matching funds in a savings vehicle and providing debt counselling.
3. Data Analytics Will Drive Personalization
Because it’s an employee’s market – and because the pandemic has led many to prioritize lifestyle over salary – an organization seeking to differentiate itself will need to focus on personalization.
An organization that already has the technology to make data-driven decisions and offer personalized services is a step ahead, but that doesn’t mean you’ve already lost if your organization hasn’t yet adopted that technology. The trick isn’t adopting the technology; it’s leveraging it to deliver personalized benefits.
Personalizing benefits doesn’t mean offering more options to employees. Rather, it’s about improving how employees engage, access and experience their benefits. And that requires an understanding of what benefits will make a difference to specific employee segments and demographics.
Organizations that utilize data analytics have an opportunity to better understand benefits usage. The data can highlight gaps that voluntary benefits can bridge and underscore the importance of a sound benefits communications strategy. Similarly, benchmarking competitors can point to new ideas on developing personalized benefits. As a result, employee benefits can be better focused to include components that are relevant and skip the extraneous offerings – ensuring benefits are still cost-effective as well.
4. DEI isn’t just a buzzword
Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) not only helps an organization become more well-rounded, but can help drive positive business outcomes, especially when it’s a priority for the organization:
- 79% of employees think that a diverse organization attracts high-quality talent
- 71% prefer to work for a diverse organization that values inclusion
- 80% believe DEI initiatives improve the organization’s reputation.
However, while many (if not most) of Canadian employers say they support DEI, few have a concrete plan to achieve DEI goals. Instead, organizations are introducing single, one-off benefits that draw attention to the issues like paternity leave benefits or coverage for gender reassignment surgery.
However, that piecemeal approach is unlikely to result in diversity, equity and inclusion long-term. The answer is to develop a top-down approach to DEI, crafting a larger goal for the organization and evaluating the ways the organization’s policies and procedures support those goals. When it comes to employee benefits, each offering should be analyzed carefully to identify which benefits encourage or discourage those goals.
5. Action Plan for Organizations
Employee benefits may be the best way for an organization to differentiate itself from its competitors and drive engagement in the workplace. Organizations that fail to do this risk losing their most important assets – their people.
In 2022, differentiation will require personalized employee benefits, driven by in-depth data analysis into the employee base, identifying employee groups beyond age parameters and applying insights to deliver benefits that increase engagement.
With health and wellbeing a clear priority for many Canadians, it’s no surprise that organizations will have to demonstrate their care and concern for their employees as well. Organizations looking for help in this area should consult with their brokers and other trusted experts to determine the best way to attract and retain their people.
Faizal Mitha is Chief Sales and Innovation Officer for global insurance brokerage Hub International’s Employee Benefits division in Canada. Robert Taylor is Executive Vice President in Hub’s Group Benefits and Retirement Services leadership team in Canada.
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