January 5, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As workplaces adapt to the changing times, it’s important for employers to re-examine the range of benefits available to their employees. Companies can no longer afford to offer medical, dental, and vision benefits alone if they expect to dominate the marketplace for the most talented employees. A strong slate of benefit offerings isn’t just a useful tool for attracting and retaining talent, but for boosting your employees’ peace of mind in a world of uncertainty.
What’s the best way to pivot your employer-sponsored benefits in 2021? These four offerings are particularly relevant in today’s workplace ― and are already gaining in popularity.
1. A managed fertility benefit
Some couples who struggle with infertility are willing to mortgage their homes ― literally ― in order to start a family. With that demand in mind, employers across multiple economic sectors and regions now help sponsor fertility treatments for employees and their partners.
According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management, fertility clinics were among the most popular specialty centers to sign direct contracts with employers in 2019. That continued a trend: in 2018, 31 percent of employers with 500 or more employees offered some kind of fertility benefit, up from 24 percent in 2016.
Employers and employees will get the most from a managed fertility benefit. It helps reduce a company’s bottom line, and saves employees time and money, compared to an unmanaged fertility benefit. Under this benefit structure, clinical experts connect with employees throughout their fertility journey, recommending the most appropriate network doctors, medical treatments and drugs, purchased at the lowest unit cost.
“We see an increasing number of companies offering managed fertility benefits because they are recognizing that this approach can produce improved clinical outcomes, like increased pregnancy rates and reduced high order multiple gestations while reducing costs which is especially important as interest in family building benefits grows,” says Roger Shedlin, M.D., CEO of WINfertility.
2. A mental health benefit
Prior to the global health crisis, one-third of large employers — those with 5,000 or more employees — planned to offer on-site behavioral-health counseling in 2020. That was up from one-quarter of those companies in 2019 and less than one-fifth in 2018, according to a survey from the Business Group on Health. In recent months, many of those counseling services shifted online.
Not all professionals face the same needs. Veterinarians are at a much higher risk of suicide than the general population. Lawyers are about four times as likely to suffer from depression as people in other professions, according to a Johns Hopkins University study. Tech workers face a higher risk of substance-abuse disorders. Now more than ever, it’s important to offer mental health benefits with a robust online component. Many platforms feature videos from credentialed clinical psychologists, nutritionists, and physical fitness and rehabilitation experts.
3. Pet insurance
Any company with a younger workforce ― those in their 20s and 30s ― might be surprised at the popularity of employer-sponsored pet insurance. For employees without children of their own, pet insurance is akin to insuring your family.
The shift to working from home led to a boom in pet adoptions and fosters in 2020. According to Shelter Animals Count, 89 percent of homeless dogs and cats left shelters alive from March through June, compared to 86 percent during the same period in 2019. In effect, tens of thousands fewer homeless dogs and cats lost their lives across the country this spring compared to the year before.
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The American Pet Products Association projects Americans will spend $99 billion on their pets in 2020, including everything from food to veterinary care. A strong pet insurance benefit will cover even routine check-ups.
Pet insurance offers a hidden mental health benefit, too. An APPA survey found that pets helped reduce stress and increase a sense of well-being among their owners. The major players in the space ― Healthy Paws, Nationwide, Trupanion, Petplan, Embrace, Pumpkin ― effectively offer peace of mind for an employee’s peace of mind.
4. Tuition assistance
Supporting an employee’s postgraduate skills training is perhaps the most basic tenet of human resources. In a rapidly shifting economy, what will that look like for the American workforce in 2021?
Sponsoring all or part of an employee’s undergraduate or graduate tuition is declining in popularity. Meanwhile, according to the SHRM, one alternative is to directly pay employee tuition for courses in specific programs at designated schools. This has the potential to reduce the cost of a tuition benefit to employers, and allows employees to focus on skills that are relevant to their work.
As artificial intelligence becomes a more practical tool across many sectors, the demand for AI-specific jobs stands to increase. IBM postulates that “nanodegrees” ― specialized online programs that help transition employees to AI careers ― offer a practical route for employers and employees and a logical space for employer-sponsored tuition.
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Brick-and-mortar college tuition rates have skyrocketed, so employers might want to take a more hands-on approach to skills training. Google has partnered with Coursera on an IT training program, and even offered public access to the courses in recent years.