Emerging benefit trends – staying ahead of the curve as employees' expectations shift

By Andrew Simpson and Saba Haran.

Today’s workplace is in a state of flux. Recent years have seen the emergence of new ways of working, supported by a proliferation of technology and software designed to enable a more digital future.

At the same time, the workforce itself is changing, marked by the arrival of younger generations with fresh ideas, needs, and expectations that will come to shape recruitment and retention strategies in the coming decades.

To appeal to this future workforce, employers need to understand who those employees are, and what is important to them.

New workforce, new values

Millennials (those born 1981-1996),are set to dominate the global workforce in the coming years. According to figures from Deloitte, the cohort is set to represent 75% of the global workforce by 2025 (opens a new window), and the next generation – ‘Gen Z’ (those born 1997-2012) – are hot on their heels.

With new generations come new experiences and different priorities. Moreso than the baby boomers they’re replacing, millennials and Gen Z have been hit hard by the current cost-of-living crisis, are more likely to suffer financial stress and anxiety (opens a new window), and may lack awareness when it comes to products like savings, ISAs, and pensions.

At the same time, these generations are showing to be more mindful of the world and their impact on it. Although pay will remain a priority, this will be weighed against environmental and social concerns, and how closely an employer aligns with their values.

Post-pandemic, the opportunity for remote or hybrid work will also be central to reducing geographical barriers and providing greater working flexibility.

By contrast, employers who aren’t aligned with these trends may find an increased readiness among their employees to move on in search of pastures new.

Wellbeing is key

When preparing for the workforce of tomorrow, one of the most significant factors is wellbeing. More than a measure of physical health, the term also encompasses an employee’s mental and financial health, and a recognition of the fact that each is interconnected.

According to a 2022 Deloitte study, 46% of Gen Zs and 38% of millennials describe themselves as stressed all or most of the time (opens a new window). Long-term finances were the most frequently cited cause of stress, followed by day-to-day finances, and family health and welfare.

45% of both cohorts also reported that they feel burned out due to the intensity of their workload, while 22% believed that their employer wasn’t treating burnout among employees as a serious issue.

Burnout is costly. Not only does employee happiness suffer, but so do employers – with poor mental health costing between £1,205 and £1,560 per employee per year (opens a new window). This figure includes the whole workforce, not just those employees who are ill.

Engagement & communication

As hybrid and remote work increases in volume, employers will need to find better ways to engage and communicate with their employees.

Defining ‘engagement’ is not easy. The term generally refers to an employee’s involvement and enthusiasm for their workplace.

Nevertheless, failure to engage employees has significant consequences – including reducing productivity and increasing absenteeism. According to the Gallup Organisation, just 21% of employees are engaged at work (opens a new window), at a cost of USD7.8 trillion to the global economy.

When employees are not engaged, it can also impact upon their more engaged colleagues who, for instance, may lose morale, alter their behaviour, or be driven away from the company altogether. For employers, this means increased time and spend on recruitment and training.

Employers must respond to expectations

As the workplace evolves and competition for talent remains high, it is vital that employers stay ahead of the curve when it comes to supporting their employees. To do this, they need to know who those employees are, understand their values, and tailor benefits packages accordingly.

Flexibility and work-life balance are a major priority and, for many employees, have become an expectation. Opportunities for career development as well as the chance to make a difference and to feel valued will also be key to maintaining wellbeing and keeping employees engaged.

Crucially, however, employers need to realise that, for their employees, it’s no longer about offering as many benefits as you can afford. Rather, it is necessary to approach benefits through a more holistic lens, focused on what type of employer you want to be.

Once a strategy has been identified, it needs to be aligned to a company’s core values, driven from the top down, and instilled within the fabric of an organisation. It’s this, as well as the financial reward, that will make up your employee value proposition and allow you to attract the talent of the future.

For more information on the content in this article or on how Lockton People Solutions can support your business, please contact:

Andrew Simpson, VP Employee Benefits

People Solutions

T: +44 7584 261 949

E: andrew.simpson@lockton.com (opens a new window)