Benefits Then and Now

Employment benefits are in flux. The political landscape has made the future of health care ambiguous, except for the certainty that costs won’t be going down anytime soon. Retirement benefits are almost exclusively built around 401(k)s or similar defined contribution plans, relying on investment options that are increasingly uncertain.

The workforce, too, is changing. The first members of the generation following the Millennials, still known by names such as Generation Z, iGen, and Centennials, were born in 1996 and will be turning 21 in 2017. Additionally, articles with titles like, “Is 70 the New 65?” proclaim that almost a third of those 60 and older plan to stay in the workforce until age 70. Faced with expectations of living longer, many older workers continue to explore career options. Employers can expect to see four generations, each with its own idea of the best benefits package, in the workplace for the foreseeable future.

With the unpredictability of traditional benefits and an ongoing need to differentiate themselves to attract the best employees, organizations are expanding their definition of benefits. Benefits we didn’t see 20 years ago are now routinely available. These include reimbursement for personal communication devices, like cell phones and tablets (or just providing employees with phones), flexible work arrangements, pet insurance, and concierge services. Even with the growing assortment of services and opportunities employers are providing to employees, there is a need to maximize what organizations have to offer.

Employers have begun turning to the creation of an employee value proposition (EVP). An EVP is the unique set of benefits an employee receives in return for the knowledge, skills, and abilities he or she brings to an employer. These benefits go beyond a tangible service or thing employees receive and extend to the intangible. Career opportunities; the employer’s reputation and standing in the community; the desirability of the organization as an employer; its culture; the trustworthiness and accessibility of the organization’s leadership—all are intangible parts of the work experience now considered benefits employees value. As employers consider the maintenance of their legacy employee benefit plans, they should consider what unique value employees will experience working for their organization and how the organization will grow those attributes.