A recent article in Employee Benefits News discusses the growing importance of “soft” benefits in recruiting and retaining talent. Hard benefits, traditionally defined as health insurance and retirement plans, used to be sufficient for employees, but as these benefits have become more mainstream, leading employers are expanding offerings to attract employees. The article reviews six emerging benefits that are increasingly being implemented as ammunition in the talent wars, and it should come as no surprise that five of the six benefits are related to employee wellness. The five wellness benefits that made the soft benefits list were:
- Subsidized gym memberships
- Activity tracker competitions
- Incentives for bicycle commuting
- Healthier food and beverage choices
- Flexible work arrangements
As a company that facilitates activity tracker competitions (a.k.a., wellness challenges), we were proud to see that the article mentioned the use of free smartphone apps. Employers do not need to purchase every employee an activity tracker to support these challenges. They can leverage free smartphone apps to track steps, distance, nutrition, and more.
Despite the popularity of wellness offerings in soft benefits, it should not be surprising that biometric screenings and health risks assessments did not make the list, as employees do not see these as attractive benefits. Valuable benefits are designed to offer employees highly sought solutions that impact their favorability rating toward their employer, encourage them to recommend their employer as a great place to work, and improve the quality of their life. Employees often feel uncomfortable sharing their personal health information with their employer. Also, they would rather see their own primary care physician than having their blood drawn by a stranger. Since the services of a biometrics screening are required to be covered under every health plan, providing onsite screenings offer no real benefit other than signaling to employees that their employers cares more about managing healthcare costs with an ineffective solution than truly caring for their employees.
The lesson here is that wellness benefits can go a long way in making sure a company has the right talent to succeed but not all wellness benefits are created equal.