Employee Benefits Versus Moments That Matter
Working for a paycheck is no longer enough. Employees are demanding more. And with a huge demand for talented employees, employers are stepping up. But are employees actually using the benefits offered or participating in office perks? And are these benefits actually making a difference?
It’s hard to tell.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that employees who use corporate wellness programs tended to be healthier and more capable before participating. Corporate wellness simply reduced their costs to participate in activities they were already doing. The article cited research indicating that wellness programs don’t lead to better employee health. This is consistent with a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A joint study conducted by researchers at Harvard and University of Chicago showed that even when employees participated in wellness programs, no health benefits were realized. That is, clinical health metrics, self-reported health and behaviors, health care spending and utilization, and employment outcomes (absenteeism) remained the same between those who participated and those that did not. This is despite the significant finding that 13.6% of employees reported actively managing their weight and 8.3% reported engaging in regular exercise. Yet, corporate wellness is a 2022 trend – with 53% of small employers and 81% of large employers offering wellness programs.
Financial wellness is another perk many employers offer
According to the 2021 Wellness Barometer Survey, financial stress costs employers 15.3 hours of reduced productivity each week with an estimated $4.7 billion loss weekly. Across all ethnicities, nearly half of employees surveyed reported a reduction in their emergency savings during the pandemic, and 65% reported feeling stressed about their financial position. Signs of financial stress include payday advances, frequent requests for overtime hours, withdrawal of retirement funds, and taking a second job. A recent Employee Financial Wellness Survey showed that employees with access to a financial wellness program, used them. Employees used financial wellness benefits to plan for retirement, get spending under control, pay off debt, increase savings and asset allocation, and manage healthcare expenses. Other benefits of offering financial wellness programs include reduced employee turnover and on-time retirements. The survey reports a strong return on investment for employers with a 23% decrease in financial stress over a 12-month period.
Despite research on efficacy and use, employers continue to offer more and more benefits and employees continue to make demands. A Gallup survey reported that 63% of employees believe it was “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that they could replace the job they have, and 51% were actively seeking a new job. This raises the question: How will employers bring workers back to the office, attract new talent and retain the employees they have?
It turns out, employees want “moments that matter” over benefits
While they are asking for benefits, what makes a difference is having coffee with the CEO, enjoying a free meal, and pet care for their fur babies. Most interesting is that a clear distinction is drawn between companies offering free coffee and snacks and having coffee with the CEO. It seems that employees want the experience of being able to chat with the head cheese. And of the moments that matter most, like coffee with the CEO, game rooms with free time for use, outdoor walking paths, monthly food trucks, quiet space and pop-up vendors, they cost the least to implement.
The Gallup survey reported that employees want experiences – the sum of their interactions with the employers from pre recruitment to post-exit. The employee experience includes career milestones as well as personal relationships. These moments play a role in how workers feel about their employer’s purpose, brand and culture. The survey found that one-third of employees agree that the mission and purpose of the company increases feelings of job importance. The ROI on making this happen? Companies realized a 51% reduction in absenteeism, 64% drop in safety incidents, and a 29% improvement in quality.
This shows that moments that matter are more important than the benefits money can buy.