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Expert Roundup: Employee Benefits and Wellness Trends in 2021

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Current economic situations, societal shifts, and pandemic life altogether has brought forth tremendous change in the way we do business and manage our personal lives.

One of the many notable considerations introduced in these conditions deals with changes in the workplace. Specifically, we have seen changes around employer benefit offerings and how employers are engaging with their employees.

In trying to better understand what these changes might look like from an employer and employee standpoint, we reached out to several influential HR leaders for their input and insight on employer benefits and responsibilities. We approached these experts with two questions: 

  1. What are some upcoming trends in the employer benefits space that you think we’ll see a lot of in 2021 and beyond?
  2. In your opinion, both personal and professional, how much responsibility should organizations have to improve the financial well-being of their employees?

We received answers from the 11 human resources professionals below:

We were impressed with some of the thoughts and insight provided, which we’ve summarized below.

A general consensus—employees’ needs are changing

As we were going through the answers provided by our experts, it was clear that there was a general consensus across the board—that employees’ needs are changing.

But it’s not just the needs of employees that continue to change. We’re seeing somewhat of an evolution in the way benefits are perceived by all stakeholders—employees, administrators, and the industry as a whole.

When it comes to thinking about employee benefits offerings, “employers want the most bang for their buck” says Cynthia Madden, Senior HR Manager at Housecall Doctors Medical Group. In other words, they’re looking to get the best return on their investment into employees.

However, as we’ve continually witnessed over the last twelve months, the economy is strained, and employees are burdened with a significant amount of stress. Traditional benefits simply aren’t cutting it, and modern “perks” such as catered lunches, games and nap pods, and other various “nice-to-have” are far-off from what employees are actually looking for.

Employees everywhere are becoming more educated about their benefits and are requesting more healthcare options, flexible work schedules, and financial wellness programs that make a significant impact on their overall wellbeing. As employers consider non-traditional benefit program options to attract and retain top talent, they’ll need to especially pay attention to their employee’s long-term goals.

When in a position to do so, employers should do more to support their employees. At least that’s what we’ve been told by our experts. This support includes things like understanding and caring for employee wellbeing both during and outside of work hours.

Despite the above, it isn’t all bad and there are some real upsides here. Employer-sponsored benefit programs have a real opportunity to help ease financial stress, build employee engagement, improve retention, and help employees build a better future for themselves.

7 notable employer benefit trends

Another significant takeaway from our experts was a better understanding of the current and future trends in the employee benefits space. It was reassuring that we saw many of the same answers and trends mentioned by our experts.

We were able to identify seven trends that stood out for employers to consider providing as benefits for their employees, if they aren’t already doing so:

  1. Professional development and coaching
  2. Bolstered healthcare benefits, including access to telemedicine 
  3. More flexible options to work from home
  4. Mental health and wellness
  5. Family and parental support
  6. Student debt and loan assistance
  7. Financial wellness and planning benefits

This, of course, is by no means an exhaustive list of the trends we’re seeing or the types of benefits employers can provide their employees. However, these are a few of the top trends identified as we spoke with experts and explored other resources. 

Financial wellness is on the rise

Perhaps one of the most intriguing takeaways was the prevalent need for financial wellness in the workplace. Based on many of the answers, it’s clear to see that financial health and wellness benefits for employees are on the rise.

Susan Heatherly, HR Director for Center on Halsted, the largest LGBTQ community center in the Midwest, believes that it’s important to an organization’s success to have a vested interest in improving the financial well-being of their employees. She later says, “Poor financial knowledge, planning or education can lead to employees not being engaged in their work or to being financially stressed by living paycheck to paycheck”.

Here are a few additional quotes provided by our experts on their perception of financial wellness:

  • Kathy Long describes it as an opportunity for employers to ensure their “employees are aware of the importance of saving and financial security and are well-prepared to take advantage”. 
  • Debbie Shotwell says “Education and learning are critical and employers should provide education on tax rules, benefits of tax advantages and ways to help employees save money and save for their families education and retirement.”
  • Cynthia Madden admits that while financial wellness isn’t new, it needs to be carried out better. “Many employers see financial wellness as a 401k contribution with a single goal in mind: retirement.  However, financial wellness plans help employees with every day financial planning before and after retirement”.
  • Rob Hall acknowledges that “The company should have plans in place to help people understand their finances and ability to plan for the future”.
  • Odett Garcia claims a similar perspective as the above by saying “The company should have plans in place to help people understand their finances and ability to plan for the future”.
  • Nicci Kushner makes it clear that financial wellness isn’t one particular avenue by saying “I do feel that a good employer understands that employee wellness is multi-faceted. Employers should consider offering a variety of tools for total wellness. Some of those tools should be focused around financial stability, such as learning how to budget, saving for the future, etc.”.
  • Gita P., recognizes that it is as much of an employer benefit as it is an employee benefit with the following, “If employees are not financially stable, this will not help employees’ productivity which will ultimately impact the employer”.

Despite financial wellness being recognized by both employer and employee, many of our experts acknowledged that more financial wellness needs to be done, and that when done properly, financial wellness can lead to positive outcomes in the workplace.

Our take on financial wellness in the workplace

Being a digital financial wellness and planning company, the topic of financial wellness is something that we love talking about for obvious reasons.

A large part of our many discussions is often around what exactly financial wellness is, how it can and should be delivered, and how to make it as effective as possible.

Our take is this—financial wellness is much more than a collection of financial education resources or basic budgeting tools. We believe effective financial wellness includes all of the following.

  1. Financial education and literacy.
  2. Tools and calculators as additional resources.
  3. Holistic financial planning tools that cover all areas of your financial life.
  4. Actionable items that provide next steps to reach financial goals.
  5. Personal support with financial professionals.

When it comes to the above, we’re not alone in thinking this way.  There are hundreds of studies demonstrating that financial education alone is not enough to make real positive changes. As a result, we’re seeing a big shift moving away from strictly financial education to more comprehensive wellness that considers education, tools, and resources, along with personalized planning. 

By recognizing this as a major trend, organizations have a real opportunity to win, or at least to do better, when it comes to delivering the types of benefits their employees both want and need.

Here at Savology, we’re proud of the work we’re doing for both households and employers across the country. We’re empowering employers to provide effective financial wellness and planning benefits for their employees. Ultimately, we’re helping employers win by providing tools that help them recruit top talent, retain top talent, engage with their employees, reduce stress, and increase productivity. 

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Article Author:
Kris Borghesan

Kris Borghesan

Kris comes from a background of entrepreneurship and marketing where he has previously helped startups and high-growth companies scale their marketing by creating content frameworks and driving real conversations with real people. Kris is currently the Director of Marketing here at Savology where he is focused on helping American households improve their financial well-being by providing fast and free financial planning for everyone.
Article Author:
Kris Borghesan

Kris Borghesan

Kris comes from a background of entrepreneurship and marketing where he has previously helped startups and high-growth companies scale their marketing by creating content frameworks and driving real conversations with real people. Kris is currently the Director of Marketing here at Savology where he is focused on helping American households improve their financial well-being by providing fast and free financial planning for everyone.

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