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Study of 20 years of employee benefits trends finds important changes

Over the past 20 years, employers have increased and decreased benefits strategically in response to the needs of the workplace and employees, as well as to economic and technological changes. And some of these changes have been significant.

So finds “2016 Employee Benefits: Looking Back at 20 Years of Employee Benefits Offerings in the U.S.,” a recently released report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Why this research matters

While SHRM research sometimes focuses on large organizations, this study is important to medical offices and other small businesses because among the 3,490 organizations surveyed, 46 percent have 1 to 99 employees and 36 percent have 100 to 499 employees. That is, 82 percent of survey respondents are small or midsize businesses.

What’s more, 53 percent of responding organizations are privately owned businesses.

The survey also looks at more than 300 benefits.

What the research shows

The study finds employers are responding to worker—especially millennial—demands for better work/life balance with increased telecommuting, flextime, and other accommodations.

Since 1996, the percentage of organizations offering telecommuting has increased threefold (from 20 to 60 percent), and the percentage offering telecommuting on an ad hoc basis has increased from 45 percent in 2012 to 56 percent in 2016.

Additionally, while annual salary increases are a staple component of compensation plans, many employers have shifted toward monetary bonuses over the past five years to keep overall payroll costs stable. There have been increases for spot/bonus awards, sign-on bonuses for executives and non-executives, and retention bonuses for non-executives. Also, more than one-half (56 percent) of organizations currently offer service anniversary awards, 51 percent offer non-executive bonus plans, and 44 percent offer executive incentive bonus plans.

As a possible solution to the skills gap and heightened recruiting difficulty, employers have begun paying for more professional membership dues and opportunities. Currently, 88 percent of companies pay for professional membership dues compared to 65 percent in 1996.

Yet, not all benefits offerings have changed.

“The biggest surprise was that, overall, while the number and types of benefits offerings that organizations offer has grown over the past 20 years, there have not been many major changes in terms of coverage of core employee benefits. Benefits such as health care, retirement planning, and employee assistance programs are offered to employees at the same level as in 1996,” says Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM.

“The number of benefits employers are offering is consistent with recent years. However, employers are always looking for new and innovative benefits that are cost-effective and best fit their workforce.”

Among other key findings:

  • The percentage of organizations offering health savings accounts (HSAs) increased from 43 to 50 percent in the past year.
  • Wellness resources, which have been on the rise over the past several years, are now leveling off. Some individual wellness resources are changing as employers determine which wellness benefits best fit their workforce.
  • Sixty (60) percent of organizations report that the level of benefits they offer has remained the same in the past 12 months.
  • The percentage of organizations offering a stand-alone sick leave program increased from 33 percent in 2012 to 41 percent in 2016. These changes may be due to local and state legislation requiring paid sick leave for employees.
  • Overall, of the organizations that offer paid leave, 5 percent provide employees with some type of unlimited leave: 4 percent offer it as paid leave and 1 percent as unpaid leave.
  • Nearly one-quarter of organizations (23 percent) provide health care services such as diagnoses, treatment or prescriptions by phone or video.
  • Four percent of employers offer student loan repayment.

How does your practice compare?

Editor’s picks:

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The surprising answer to what your staff really wants

What’s the ’employee experience’ like at your medical practice?









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