Competitive total rewards packages are a key battleground in the scramble for talent today. Yet many organizations still rely on outdated approaches when communicating rewards through the hiring process, focusing too much on compensation while neglecting benefits. This is becoming more difficult as salary budgets continue to stagnate: Recent salary surveys suggest that cash wages in the US are unlikely to grow much faster in the coming year than they have in 2018, despite a strong economy and a tight labor market.
While compensation is consistently a top driver of candidate attraction anywhere in the world, we know that candidates are also attracted to tangible benefits like health insurance and paid leave, as well as intangible benefits like flexible scheduling and remote work options. Even as wage growth falls short of expectations, we have seen major US employers investing more in benefits like paid family and sick leave, health insurance, and education benefits like tuition assistance and help with paying off student loans.
To better understand how employers can use their benefit offerings as talent attractors, Gartner’s Total Rewards team worked with data from our talent market intelligence portal TalentNeuron, looking for a connection between how organizations pitch their benefits in job postings and how quickly they are able to fill posted roles. Organizations that don’t leverage their benefits offerings in this way, we found, may be missing out on an opportunity to meaningfully boost their appeal to candidates.
Over the past few years, we have seen a growing number of organizations in the US and around the world introduce or expand parental leave benefits for new fathers in their workforce, as well as new mothers, in response to increasing demand for paternity leave and greater work-life balance for working parents in general, particularly among millennials who are starting families. Recent court cases both in the US and in the UK have advanced the argument that granting more parental leave to mothers than to fathers (beyond the additional medical leave to which women who have just given birth are entitled) constitutes gender discrimination.
These lawsuits point to the increasing importance of paternity leave in employee perceptions of their total rewards packages. Our research at CEB (now Gartner) shows that employees are sensitive to changes in both maternity and paternity leave. However, increasing paternity leave actually has a slightly greater impact on employee perceptions of rewards than increasing maternity leave, likely because paternity leave is rarer and more variable across companies.
As a forthcoming benchmark report on employee rewards preferences will show, employees globally also tend to get more utility out of lower levels of paternity leave than maternity leave. That is, employees are more sensitive to an additional two weeks of paternity leave than they are to the same additional amount of maternity leave.
Yet this does not mean that maternity leave is not valuable or important!
Mothers in Switzerland are entitled to 14 weeks or 98 days of maternity leave, paid at no less than 80 percent of their average income. In contrast to other European countries, however, Swiss employers are not required to grant paternity leave to new fathers. An initiative is underway to change that, however, and a petition to mandate four weeks of paid paternity leave has garnered the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a national referendum, Ivana Kottasová reports at CNN Money:
The initiative, launched in July, calls for 20 days of paid leave for new fathers. Under the proposal, the dads must take five days off within the first 10 days after the birth of their child. The other 15 days could be taken at any point during the first six months of the baby’s life. They would receive 80% of their average income during the leave.
The Swiss parliament narrowly rejected a similar proposal in April 2016. That decision can now be overruled by the referendum. … The average paternity leave — paid and unpaid — across the EU is just over 12.5 days, so the proposed 20-day leave would be among the most generous in Europe.
Currently, Swiss fathers are allowed to take just one or two “special days off”—a generic form of paid leave for personal matters—after the birth of a child. Organizers of the petition say opinion polls show the vast majority of Swiss citizens are in favor of paid paternity leave, and that the annual cost of the mandate would be less than 1 percent what the country currently spends on pensions each year.
At Personnel Today, occupational physician Dr. Paul J. Nicholson offers a detailed criticism of research purporting to show a return on investment from workplace wellness programs. These studies, Nicholson argues, are seldom rigorous and often appear designed to “show what people wish to demonstrate”—i.e., a direct financial benefit from wellness or wellbeing programs, when the real benefits may be less tangible:
A systematic review of the methodological quality of 34 economic evaluations of occupational health interventions reported that less than half of the studies satisfied more than 50% of methodological quality criteria, and only three studies met more than 75% of the criteria. After all, workplace wellbeing programmes are conducted at work sites and not in controlled environments, hence several intervening factors might explain, to some extent, the results of an evaluation. …
Taking note of the small, diverse body of evidence with many methodological limitations and risk of publication bias, the most that we may be able to say currently is that studies graded as having low strength of evidence support the effectiveness of wellbeing interventions for improving some health behaviours (reduced tobacco use, improved diet and reduced sedentary work behaviour); evidence is insufficient or lacking for other outcomes of interest.
The methodological problems with these studies range from selection and attrition biases, to the absence of a control group, to limited timeframes and subjective metrics. Nicholson points out these flaws not to disparage employee wellbeing as a goal of management, but rather to stress that “cost-effectiveness is not the only driving force for providing access to occupational health and wellbeing services”:
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Lenny Sanicola at WorldatWork predicts that among the major rewards trends in the coming year, more employers will be using big data to target their benefits communications:
In order to further engage employees in their benefits and drive certain behaviors, both the approach to messaging and delivery will continue to evolve. We will see more employee segmentation with the goal of creating more targeted, personalized messaging that is delivered among a variety of social media platforms. Some companies are leveraging interactive communications and incorporating gamification elements to enhance messaging and drive engagement. Others are exploring the use of data mining and analytics to create relative and timely targeted messages to employees and family members.
Indeed, benefits communicators are presented with an ever-growing mix of communication options, as well as an increasingly “competitive” communication landscape in which employees are receiving more messages from more sources than ever before. Benefits teams then face important questions about how to use the right content and channels to communicate benefits, often with scarce time and money.
This year, the CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council surveyed over 10,000 employees globally to identify which of the many options employees are most responsive to—that is, which options have the greatest positive impact on their perceptions of rewards—and found that channels that mimic a “human touch” are the most effective.
The challenge for organizations is that delivering personalized communications can be costly and easily overdone with no real impact. The key to managing this challenge with a tight budget is personalization at scale: Organizations can often take advantage of channels already present in the organization, which employees already use, and that can be made to feel personal.
Mark Eltringham at Workplace Insight flags a new study that solidifies the connection between employee wellbeing initiatives and business performance:
A new report published by IZA World of Labor claims that a rise in workers’ happiness and wellbeing leads to an increase in productivity. The study from economist Dr Eugenio Proto, of the University of Warwick’s Department of Economics and Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) concludes that companies would profit from investment in their employees’ wellbeing. It cites the experience of large companies that have recently highlighted the importance of employee wellbeing in their company profiles. The authors claims that, until recently, evidence for a link between employee wellbeing and company performance has been sparse and that their own study shows a positive correlation between a rise in happiness and an increase in productivity. Proto believes that finding causal links between employee wellbeing and company performance is important for firms to justify spending corporate resources to provide a happier work environment for their employees and that the available evidence suggests that companies can be encouraged to introduce policies to increase employee happiness.
CEB research also supports this link. Our 2015 Plan Design Survey, which surveyed more than 7,000 global employees, found significant relationships between wellbeing offerings and employee outcomes.