A modern workplace benefits program might include telecommuting, wellness resources, pet insurance, Lasik coverage, or recent additions, such as student loan repayment, expanded parental leave for both parents and unlimited paid time off.

Employee satisfaction

Chalk it up to economic and demographic influences, including stagnant wages, competition for skilled workers and the importance that employees place on benefits and work-life balance. In 1996, employers reported a mere 60 kinds of benefits. This year, more than 344 different employee benefits were noted.

Overall benefits are the third most important contributor to job satisfaction, with 60 percent of employees rating benefits as very important. Given the importance of benefits, employers have been expanding their benefits programs and moving from a one-size-fits-all approach to strategically offering a variety of benefits as a way to attract and keep high-performing employees.

HR professionals across industries are reporting that recruiting for skilled workers is becoming more challenging. When there is a war for talent, we see the most innovation in benefits offerings.

“In 1996, employers reported a mere 60 kinds of benefits. This year, more than 344 different employee benefits were noted.”

Why go above and beyond?

In the last few years, we’ve seen an advent of inventive benefits such as egg freezing (offered by 3 percent of U.S. employers), electric car charging stations (8 percent), student loan repayment (4 percent) and unlimited parental leave (5 percent), to name a few. These benefits stand out because, although they are offered by few organizations, they provide a return on investment by attracting and keeping the in-demand workers companies need.

Employers remain committed to a core menu of benefits that includes health care coverage, employee assistance programs and retirement preparation planning. What an employer offers its employees beyond this stable of core benefits is influenced by the makeup and needs of its workforce and its geographic location and industry, among other factors.

As an example, many workers want flexibility in their work lives. As a result, telecommuting has increased threefold in 20 years. Millennial workers say that growing their careers is important to them. This year, employers increased company-paid professional memberships and professional development opportunities.

Benefits are one way a workplace can distinguish itself, and employers believe that pays off not only in recruiting, but in retention. One-third of HR professionals said in a recent survey that they leveraged benefits to retain high-performing employees.