Businessman's hands cutting a banknote in a dish with fork and knifeCan we talk about benefits for a minute? I know that they (benefits) fall squarely under the purview of HR but as talent acquisition starts to broaden (in both word and deed) smart recruiters take the attraction pieces of the puzzle into account when planning their hiring strategy.

When we start talking about a trend, there are two things to consider (actually there are a lot more than two things but for the purposes of this article let’s say there are two):

Market Perception and Demand Changes

When the market starts to tell you that something is wrong with the products you’re giving them it does so in a myriad of ways. If you’re a blogger, as I am, you see it in press releases, vendor studies and think tank summaries. If you’re a practitioner in HR, you start to see a simple decline of interest in things that formerly were quite popular with new hires or employees. When it comes to benefits, what is changing (even more rapidly than our national healthcare laws) are the kinds of benefits people want and when they want them.

It’s easy enough to see how this could take place when you consider that the very nature of work is changing. Going through the cumbersome open enrollment process has little appeal when the average tenure at a position is 2-3 years. And while having your company match your 401K contributions seems silly when retirement age is far less assured than it was just ten years ago. In the simplest terms, benefit timing is changing because work is changing.

What people want is also changing, which impacts the type of benefits people look for in employer packages. We’ve all heard that motivational tools are not as we all used to think: money, money and more money. In fact, benefits can be a huge part of compensation packages again, it just revolves around what kind. As health, comfort and family time enter the collective consciousness of many employees at a more important level than ever before, of course flex time and gym memberships will become more important than steak Fridays (Ed note: I just made that up but if someone wants to implement those at their company, I will come work there.)

Consider this from Mercer’s recent survey:

Given the choice, employees worldwide tend to select benefits that offer immediate gratification rather than those that potentially deliver value over the long term, according to a Mercer survey of 10,400 workers in ten key markets around the world.

In fact, an extra week of paid time off was among the top-three employee choices in seven of the ten markets surveyed (see Figure 1). Underscoring this trend of “immediacy” over longer- term benefits, employees selected a salary increase over all benefit offerings listed in the survey (except in Canada where paid time off edged out a salary increase.)

New Product Similarities

It’s hard for big companies to be innovative and pivot, let’s not argue about that because it’s a stone-cold fact. So usually when we see radically new products start to saturate a marketplace, they come from startups. When you see four-to-five startups all going in the same general direction with ancillary differences, you realize that the core idea is one that is going to stick. Combine that with the shifts seen above in market perception and demand and voila! Change is afoot. This is happening people.

One such company is specifically focusing on the finer things in life. Plum benefits made a strong showing at SHRM this past year in field brimming with recognition and benefits providers. With companies like Plum and Working Advantage, employees earn points and get to spend them on whatever they choose. In Plum’s case, it could be a pair of Broadway tickets or seats to tonight’s game. And keeping with market preferences of the 7 million employees they service, tons of wellness perks.

The interesting thing about companies like Plum is that they (like many vendors in the HR Technology space of late) mirror the consumer experience. Deals or “perks” that you can get at one of these benefit curators look very much like Groupon or LivingSocial but they only operate through your employer. Pay attention everyone, the consumerization of the enterprise is coming to benefits!

In fact, benefits are starting to look more like incentives every day. That’s in part because of the changing face of work and the employees who perform the work. As generations leave the workforce and new generations enter it, these shifts will only be easier to see and workplaces that have already begun to offer choices in benefits will be able to shift seamlessly forward.



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