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Employee Wellbeing

Shifting Benefits to Meet Employee Needs

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest HR association, explores how the benefits landscape has transformed to meet employee needs in 2021 and beyond.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

President and CEO, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

What are the biggest changes to benefits offerings?  

Employers have had to take a hard look at their benefits offerings. Remote work was already trending upward, but the pandemic truly required employers to be innovative, agile, and flexible about how — and where — we work. 

SHRM research found 52 percent of employed Americans would choose to work from home permanently given the option, with over a third accepting a salary cut if it meant they could work remotely full-time. This is a significant change in employees’ perspective, and it requires organizations to reevaluate their benefits against a set of different employee retention and talent recruitment criteria. 

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How are employers learning to better support employees?

It sometimes takes a crisis to rethink the way business works. Employees’ unique needs have certainly become more visible to their employers in the last year. To that end, people managers and organization leadership are learning to support employees in new ways, including reshaping existing benefits and adding new ones, strengthening wellness coverage for staff, and creating a renewed focus on mental health resources. 

Supporting the mental health of employees is critical for many HR professionals — and this is a positive development and silver lining. HR must ensure employees understand the mental health resources available to them; they shouldn’t have to unearth these policies for themselves. 

Telehealth services and employee assistance programs are benefits many employees very well might be discovering for the first time. While EAPs typically provide clinical counseling, many workers may be unaware they can also include child or eldercare, referrals, legal and financial counseling, and even resources for pet care. 

What other employee benefit trends should we expect? 

Overall, I believe employees are seeking more support as we all figure out what the new world of work will ultimately look like. Workers will continue to look to HR for guidance to better understand their workplace benefits and how to use them effectively. 

We will also see additional changes to workplace policy to meet another need that ranks high among employees. Forty-one percent of HR professionals believe they can make an impact in 2021 by adapting flexible schedules and leave policies to better fit the needs of working parents, or those with eldercare responsibilities.

While some of the benefits I highlighted may be temporarily implemented at some organizations, I believe many will become a permanent fixture in benefits packages. HR professionals will continue to adapt, evolve, and innovate to better support our workforce today and into the future. HR will be there each step of the way, guiding workplaces through the ongoing change that is sure to remain.

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