Even as companies have pared back core benefits in recent years, the number of different benefits they offer has exploded, according to a new analysis.
The study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that the total number of benefits offered by employers it surveyed has increased from 60 in 1996 to 344 in 2016.
Much of the explosion in benefit offerings comes from a much greater variety of health plans. Many employers are offering workers multiple plans to pick from, often in addition to the classic HMO or preferred provider organization options. High-deductible plans and consumer-driven health plans have become more common, as have health savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts.
However, employers have also added entirely new types of benefits to their compensation plans.
They have sought to attract increasingly indebted millennials to their organizations by offering programs to help employees pay their student loans and they have offered tuition reimbursement programs for workers interested in pursuing further education.
Employers are also increasingly touting benefits that don’t necessarily require major spending on their part, such as flexible work schedules. The SHRM study found that the percentage of employers allowing workers to telecommute rose from 20 percent to 60 percent over the past two decades.
Wellness programs have also skyrocketed since the 1990s. Although they were originally touted as a way for employers to reduce spending on health insurance, wellness programs are increasingly framed as a way to boost employee engagement, perhaps because very little evidence has been produced to prove that companies can actually save money through such initiatives.
Similarly, in recognition of the challenges that employees face in planning their retirement and other major financial events, many employers have begun offering financial planning programs or “financial wellness” resources.
Benefits for new parents have also changed dramatically in some workplaces. Major employers are making a point of offering a lengthy, paid leave for new parents — not just mothers — after the birth or adoption of a child.