Our Generous Benefits team prides itself on following the trends and staying on top of what our clients may need based on industry data. The following annual reports are our “can’t miss” reads when it comes to healthcare benefits trends:
- PwC – Medical Cost Trends: Behind the Numbers 2022
- MetLife – 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Study
- SunLife – 2022 Trends in the Medical Stop-Loss Market
- Guardian – 11th Annual Workplace Benefits Study
While reading these reports, our team compiled our key takeaways:
> There is more of an emphasis on mental health and work-life balance since the pandemic. When COVID happened, the world slowed down and provided a new perspective on what is important. People are looking for jobs that understand that they are a person with other responsibilities before they are an employee of an organization. For example, more employers are realizing that flexibility such as work from home or hybrid schedules are allowing employees to be a “whole person”.
> The increase of mental health support to employees is substantial! Burnout affects employee retention, so employers adding or ensuring mental health benefits are available ideally should help, and per the numbers it seems ERs are taking this seriously.
> While we wish that mental and social health had been a bigger focus for employers before the pandemic, it is extremely encouraging that the focus is expanding now. We have seen this firsthand with some of our clients and partnered with them to use that focus in their benefit planning.
> Communication of benefits and perks needs to be pushed – employees won’t take advantage of what’s available to them if they aren’t fully aware of the options. It behooves employers to be transparent and informative of everything available to aid in employee retention. Employers can offer great benefits to their employees but it is critical for them to also offer employee education about the benefits.
> Many EAPs offer mental health support and counseling. Some organizations enhance their EAPs with additional services, such as legal support, credit counseling or grief counseling. Do employees know this? Is this communicated to them so they know their employer is offering these benefits? If not, there should be a renewed motivation to communicate this to employees so they know. These are great service that could address the mental and social health that employees are seeking, according to stats.
> The implication is clear: it’s not just the employer-provided benefits that matter to key talent outcomes, but also how those benefits are presented to employees and how workers are encouraged to take advantage of what’s available. Communication is key. How can we help/motivate our clients do a better job with this?
> It’s interesting, and honestly, a bit surprising how much is written about the change in employee/employer dynamic and prioritizing personal life over careers when the current daily narrative is companies speaking of “employees not wanting to work.“ Metlife has hit the nail on the head with how the workforce dynamic has changed drastically and empowered many to seek better.
> The push for transparency in the workplace has increased – the ‘open door’ policy doesn’t seem to suffice. Studies show employees wanting transparency in everything – benefits, support, leave. We agree with this, but to see this pushed as a recommendation shows great strides from the days of everyone and their benefits being siloed.
> The Guardian survey found that nearly 8 in 10 small firms said the pandemic accelerated their use of technology. This is a big pro that stemmed from the pandemic and was built out of necessity. Now technology is leveraged even more effectively.
> The survey results that show 66% of small businesses still have not made changes or plan to make changes to their offerings since COVID is a bit disheartening. It seems for many, the pandemic sped up the changes already coming, but there are still holdouts that don’t wish to reassess benefits.
> Small businesses expanded telecommuting and flexible work policies. Generous Benefits is the poster child for doing this effectively and efficiently.
> 7 in 10 employees rank work-life management benefits and programs like flexible hours, time-management programs and financial allowance for home office set-up in the top three offerings that would most improve their overall well-being. Why don’t more companies offer them?
> In 2018, just over 50% of small business said they planned to offer a better benefits package than their competitors compared to 69% in 2021. That’s a sizeable increase. Offering superior benefits packages is not only good for recruitment, it’s great for employee support and morale, leading to better, happier employees.
> “A rich employee experience – featuring purposeful work, strong and inclusive cultures, and attractive benefits, among other elements – is essential to achieve talent management goals in this new chapter of the employer-employee relationship.” Yes, employees should be valued and appreciated, and employers need to work harder to retain them. It is unfortunate that it took a pandemic for this to become a priority for some employers.
> Survey results showed that minority and women-owned business enterprises have a strong sense of responsibility toward employee well-being. And while it is terrific to see this supported in the data, it is not surprising at all and makes us especially happy.
> The downward turn in small-business worker job satisfaction and loyalty outlook isn’t shocking. Smaller firms are more susceptible to workers feeling the stress of an economic downturn. But the line about outlier small firms who are thriving are those investing in digitized benefits or exploring PEO structures seems a bit self-serving. I’d argue it was more a focus on employee engagement tools, streamlined ability for employees to work easier in multiple locations and help with navigating multiple taxing entities more than those specific technologies.
> The highlight of the jump in prioritizing a Wellness program for small employers who want to improve their employees’ health & wellness was actually surprising. The 13% jump from 67% in 2018 to 2021 says two things to me. First, this was always a priority that likely never got initiated in a satisfactory manner if the numbers have only grown. And second, if controlling costs is still ranking higher than health and wellness, I’m guessing the wellness aspect gets cut if there is no visible year-to-year ROI on any given wellness initiative.
> I think the MetLife Employee Benefit Trends Study is the best graphical and easy-to-read report made annually. First, unsurprisingly, the job satisfaction and loyalty reports mirror those of the Guardian study, and this one even covers more employer sizes. And the breakdown by industry is fascinating. But, more fascinating is the flip-side argument of the Must-Have benefit perspective of workers vs employers, especially on the Health and Wellness front with 550% of workers considering these programs a must-have, up 26% (double) from just two years ago.
As I reviewed the report, I feel validated and encouraged by the specific call out to the EAP programs. With over 82% of all employees reporting this as a must-have, I feel good that our firm has been prioritizing this conversation over the last three years. I still think that the programs are overlooked and underutilized as a whole, but I’m excited that they are becoming more and more of the norm, and I have seen an uptick in employer promotion of these programs and not just something that their benefits advisor throws in as a perk.
That’s a wrap on our healthcare benefits trends from 2022. Which ones are you most excited about?