Future Look |

Options Galore: The Benefits Wave of the Future

Employers that can successfully deliver a holistic approach to benefits are poised to be ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting and retaining future talent.  


Organizations are becoming increasingly aware of this reality, as more than a third (37%) said they’re making changes to their benefits package or plan to do so in the near future, according to “Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey 2019.” While it would certainly make things easier, there’s no one-size-fits all approach to creating the benefits package of the future given the extreme multigenerational workforce that’s in place.

“You’ve got to look across your generations and survey your employees,” said Jon Shanahan, CEO of Businessolver, a benefits administration technology company. “That’s how you get things like different leave programs that employers hadn’t considered in the past. There are different leave options around life events, whether it’s elder care or different things around family leave outside of what state or federal regulations might have. So, I think you’re seeing innovation there.”

Part of building the right package, Shanahan said, is making sure to include plenty of voluntary options for employees. One of the most popular voluntary options is pet insurance, which WorldatWork’s “2019 Inventory of Total Rewards Programs & Practices” survey found 33% of employers offered in 2019. Another popular benefit that has exploded in recent years is student loan debt repayment programs, which went from being offered by 10% of employers in 2018 to 26% in 2019.

In that same ilk, Shanahan said consumer accounts and emergency savings programs have also become popular. These are employer-contributed accounts that often appeal to Millennials.

“It’s just the ability to think about the generations of employees that you have and the various needs that they have and reacting to that,” Shanahan said. “Are you thinking about someone who is pre-retirement and how they view benefits? And, are you thinking about folks that aren’t experiencing life events, so they’re maybe not as concerned about the health program, but more so they’re worried about time off and other spends in their life that hit them immediately? It’s that open view of being in tune with your employees and fine-tuning your benefits program so you can attract and retain talent.”

Aside from the voluntary benefits that are expected to continue to be popular moving forward, health-care benefits such as health savings accounts (HSAs) are becoming more standardized and proving to be highly valued by younger generations. According to a Benefitfocus report, employee participation in HSAs grew from 50% in 2017 to 81% in 2018.

David Vivero, CEO of a digital health company Amino, wrote in Forbes that HSAs are the most Millennial-friendly benefit. 

“It’s an excellent way to save money while you’re in your young, healthy years,” he wrote.
“Your Millennial employees will also appreciate the flexibility of an HSA, which can be used to pay for anything from acupuncture to contact lenses to medical supplies.”

Some other benefits employers are offering or plan to offer in the future include employee discount programs, long-term care insurance, commuter benefit programs and tax-advantaged options for commuter benefits.

Having a holistic approach to benefits will set an organization up for future success in attracting and retaining talent, but a key component to successful implementation is having user-friendly technology for employees to access and utilize said benefits, Shanahan noted.

“If you don’t have good technology, their first experience is bad,” Shanahan said. “For most benefits programs, the first way they’re going to interact with their benefits is through their mobile device or sitting down at their computer either before they start or on their first day.

“If it’s difficult to understand and if it’s not flexible and the platform doesn’t help the employee make a decision about their benefits, then it’s going to be a bad experience. But if the user experience is good, then they tend to think more favorably about their employer.”



The Wrong Benefits

Citing research on the topic, Emily Payne of Benefits Pro writes about why short-term benefits such as PTO are generally more attractive to employees than long-term benefits like employer contributions to a HSA. But, as the article points out, given the predicted cost of medical expenses later in life, employees should be more engaged with their long-term benefits such as HSAs. 

The Next Great Benefit: The Office

Iain Thompson proposes that businesses work extensively to provide their employees with an office that is on-demand, high-tech and personalized in this piece for TLNT. Thompson cites research that revealed the common pain points for employees when it comes to their office are that they don’t have enough control over their work environment and that their workplace is too slow in the adoption of digital technologies to improve their working life.

The Future of Behavioral Health

The employee benefits landscape has greatly shifted, and benefits programs look much different than they did 10 years ago, writes Dr. Joel Axler in this article for Benefits Pro. Dr. Axler asserts that employers must take a holistic approach to benefits plans, integrating robust physical, emotional and behavioral offerings into their health-care strategies.

Small Business Banking on Benefits

Jessica Dickler of CNBC writes about how more small businesses are leaning on benefits platform companies to level the playing field with their benefits offerings. Dickler’s article details how these platforms are not only assisting small businesses with their ability to attract and retain workers, but also handling the bulk of the benefits management work. 

About the Author

Brett Christie Bio Image

Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.

About WorldatWork

WorldatWork is a professional nonprofit association that sets the agenda and standard of excellence in the field of Total Rewards. Our membership, signature certifications, data, content, and conferences are designed to advance our members’ leadership, and to help them influence great outcomes for their own organizations.

About Membership

Membership provides access to practical resources, research, emerging trends, a professional network, and career-building education and certification. Learn more and join today.

Have Questions?


+1 877 951 9191

USA and Canada

+1 480 951 9191

Other Countries


Email Us