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Winning the Talent Wars: Expand Your Benefits to Engage a Diverse Workforce

Diversity and inclusion are key components of a thriving organizational culture. Diversity is multi-faceted, spanning multiple generations, cultures, income levels, lifestyles and life stages. Human resources leaders are tasked with creating an environment conducive to these different experiences and perspectives so that they can attract and retain talent and remain competitive in the market.

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Offering a suite of voluntary benefits and programs that serve and support this diverse employee community can be a compelling strategy to achieving that end. Consider that nearly two-thirds of job applicants evaluate benefits as much as salary before making a career move, according to Glassdoor. So, the stakes are high.

With a steady economy and low unemployment, it continues to be an employee’s market. Delivering a benefits scheme that goes beyond traditional medical, retirement savings and life insurance and enables employees to customize a plan to meet their individual needs, can help an employer distinguish itself. While everyone likes to have options, Millennials, the largest generation in the United States’ workforce, particularly value choice.

Wellness Check
Innovative employers take a holistic view of employee wellness, offering programs that help employees address physical, emotional and financial wellness. Left unchecked, all of these can result in higher absenteeism and lower productivity.

Financial well-being programs are among the top benefits employees are looking for in 2020 and 70% of employers offer well-being benefits, according to WorldatWork’s “Financial Well-Being Study.” These programs can be adapted to address the specific stressors for those in different generations and life stages. For example, optimizing retirement benefits may be paramount to Baby Boomers, many of whom are extending their working careers to account for their increased longevity and commensurate need for greater savings.

By contrast, younger employees could benefit from programs and guidance that can help them balance saving for the future and paying off their current student debt. That debt burden for Millennials and Gen Z is considerable, with an average of nearly $30,000 owed in student loans.

As for Gen X, they carry the heaviest credit card debt of all working generations, making their peak earning years their peak debt years. Not surprisingly, employees in this life stage tend to value financial protection and education, along with well-being support.

This pressing need across the workforce is being recognized in larger firms: 75% of organizations with 10,000+ employees offer some type of financial wellness program, according to EBRI research. In addition to retirement fund matching, some employers offer student loan repayment programs, college savings plans and a host of financial planning and education resources.

Having insurance is a major contributor to employee peace of mind. In addition to traditional medical, dental and life insurance, voluntary benefits like vision, pet insurance and legal insurance can help employees handle the unexpected across their working lives. An ARAG study found that Millennials, who aspire to financial stability and dislike risk, are more likely to purchase legal insurance (41% compared to 30% of all other generations) as a hedge strategy. 

Striking a Balance
Work-life balance continues to be an ongoing challenge, especially as technology contributes to an “always on” environment, further blurring the line between work and home life. That challenge becomes even more pronounced for employees who are balancing the day-to-day demands of a job along with the demanding role of a caregiver. That’s the reality faced by one in six employees today, as reported by AARP.

That caregiving role can take many forms — from a Gen X employee caring for their children and aging parents, to a spouse caring for a partner with a chronic illness, or an employee caring for a child with special needs. Across most scenarios, women shoulder a disproportionate share of these responsibilities. It can be mentally, physically and financially exhausting for the employee — which, in turn, impacts individual performance, productivity and retention.

Despite the toll on employees, caregiving assistance by employers is still rarely offered. WorldatWork’s “2019 Inventory of Total Rewards Programs & Practices” survey revealed that just 20% of employers offer paid caregiver leave and 4% offer on-site or virtual caregiver support.  

Providing workers with access to paid family leave and paid sick days can lessen the strain of caregiving, provide family caregivers with greater financial security, increase employee retention, and help maintain a productive workforce.

Flex-time or working remotely part-time could also offer some relief, to employers as well as their staff. Both options give workers added flexibility and improved work-life balance while boosting engagement and lowering operational cost. For example, freeing up office space can mean lower energy costs and up to $11,000 saved per employee who works remotely part-time. Flexible scheduling can not only benefit caregivers but also help new parents, employees with ongoing health issues and employees with long commutes. While there has been a massive increase in the number of teleworkers since 2005, only 7% of companies offer it to their staff.

Some large companies are providing caregiving assistance through third-party firms or through its legal insurance plan. For example, ARAG offers a legal plan that includes caregiving referral services to help find assistance or a care facility for your loved one. Importantly, plan members often have access to a comprehensive library of educational resources and “do-it-yourself” documents, as well as a network of attorneys that can be called on as needed.

Because of the potential impact on employees, companies have an opportunity to differentiate themselves by providing much-needed caregiving benefits.

Beneficial Opportunity
Meeting the unique needs of your diverse workforce means offering a suite of benefits that’s customizable to their particular situation, whether dictated by generation, lifestyle or life events.  Actively listen to your employees’ concerns and keep exploring options to remain competitive in the battle for talent. And, be ready to adapt your benefit offerings as your workforce and its needs continue to evolve. That agility will help you attract, engage and retain your valued employees.

About the Author

Dennis Healy Bio Image

Dennis Healy is a member of the ARAG executive team. Connect with him on LinkedIn.


About WorldatWork

WorldatWork is a professional nonprofit association that sets the agenda and standard of excellence in the field of Total Rewards. Our membership, signature certifications, data, content, and conferences are designed to advance our members’ leadership, and to help them influence great outcomes for their own organizations.

About Membership

Membership provides access to practical resources, research, emerging trends, a professional network, and career-building education and certification. Learn more and join today.