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Modern benefit strategies are changing the employee benefits industry. As demand for voluntary benefits increases, employers are quickly working towards delivering new programs designed to accommodate the lifestyles of their employees.   

The flexibility and customization of voluntary benefits contribute significant advantages to both employers and their employees. This customization could be instrumental in gaining higher levels of overall job satisfaction, which can, in turn, improve morale and employee retention. 

According to Forbes, by 2025 millennials will make up nearly 75 percent of the workforce. This shift in demographics within the workforce will have a tremendous impact on workplace expectations as salary alone will no longer drive employee retention.  

While there are a variety of voluntary benefits and programs for employers to offer, consider these voluntary benefit offerings in order to stand out from competitors: 

Student Loan Repayment Programs  

In recent years, student loan debt has reached record highs. Student loan repayment programs are currently one of the most desired voluntary benefits and are essential in attracting and retaining recent graduates. On average, more than 44 million borrowers collectively owe over $1.5 trillion in the US, making student loans the second-largest consumer debt category – just behind mortgage loan debt.   

Voluntary benefits, such as student loan repayment, are attractive to employees because of the significant savings they can lead to. With a refinancing option, employees have the potential to save thousands of dollars over time.   

The number of employers who offer student loan repayment programs have doubled over the last year and repayment programs are projected to continue to grow to at least 32 percent of US employers by 2021.   

With student loan debt creeping higher and higher, employers have recognized a crucial need to provide employees with options to help them manage and pay down their debt. Given that options like refinancing come at minimal cost when compared to other sought-after benefits, this benefit will likely become more popular. In the future, we can expect more employers to expand the availability of student loan repayment programs.   

Mental and behavioral health benefits  

With growing emphasis on mental health, offering mental and behavior health benefits (wellness benefits) is one way to provide an ongoing level of support to employees. With more than 73 percent of employers already offering wellness benefits, growth is projected to continue, adding focus on the importance of employee wellbeing, inside and outside of work. 

According to a recent report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, there has been a 26 percent increase in the number of employers who offer mental health benefits. The growing emphasis could be attributed to heightened levels of employee stress negatively impacting their productivity while at work.   

Offering programs that help workers monitor and reduce their stress levels is an added resource to help overcome issues that may affect their workplace performance. As more employers are making strides towards providing support for employees who may be facing mental health challenges, it is likely that we will see an increase in mental and behavioral health offerings.  

Financial Wellness  

Finances are among the top stressors for employees. One-third of employees say financial issues are a distraction for them at work and of those who struggle with financial stress, 78 percent say it negatively affects their productivity at work.   

Financial stress can also impact an employee’s overall health, which could lead to depression, anxiety, migraines, and other complications. 

Financial wellness programs are designed to educate employees and ultimately increase their financial well-being. The programs focus on promoting smarter financial decisions and calming anxiety, to help employees refocus on work.   

Although millennials workers are leading the demand for this particular voluntary benefit, older individuals are also highly interested in financial wellness programs. Younger workers are typically interested in the resources that can help plan for their futures, while older generations (55 and above) are interested in planning for retirement. Regardless of age, financial wellness programs are beneficial to everyone in the workforce.  

Childcare Benefits  

Modern families may have a variety of different makeups, but many will have one thing in common: young children. Childcare benefits are critical to employees with children. 

To help employees balance the demands of both their jobs and personal lives, childcare benefits provide extra assistance to help add stability when juggling work and family responsibilities.   

This benefit is especially important to working women. Nearly half of professional women will drop out of the workforce within the first year of having a baby, citing childcare reasons as the top indicator.  

Childcare assistance can be offered in a number of different ways including flexible schedules, childcare stipends, and/or childcare services offered on or off-site. 

Childcare can be extremely costly, but employers who offer this voluntary benefit have shown to have lower turnover rates, as they take the opportunity to support their employees through financially trying times. 

Continued Educational Training  

Through providing employees with continual professional and educational training, not only are you investing in your staff for the benefit of your organization, but you are showing them that you support their desire to grow. This type of training keeps employees up to date with ever-changing industry standards.  

Employees who are left to seek training opportunities on their own are at a significant disadvantage when compared to those who have access to training and development programs through their employer. Employees who are provided training opportunities have shown to have more appreciation and satisfaction with their job.  

Investing in continued educational training shows employees that they are valued. By providing this voluntary benefit, in return, you will see improved employee performance and development over time.   

In order to successfully attract and retain top talent, employers must continue to offer comprehensive, modernized voluntary benefits. Offering these in-demand benefit programs is a great way to stand out among competitors and fill gaps in core benefits plans.   

The workforce will continue to evolve, and benefit strategies will continue to change according to what employees find most desirable. Offering a variety of benefits will demonstrate your commitment to the staff’s wellbeing both inside and outside of work.  

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