The latest “Getting Paid In America” survey from the American Payroll Association finds that 63 percent of US employees consider higher wages more important than better health benefits—more than the number who said so last year:
“A wage increase is easy for workers to understand. The value is clear and immediately apparent,” said Mike Trabold, director of compliance risk for Paychex. “In 2017, considering today’s unpredictable regulatory environment, the same can’t be said for better benefits.”
The annual APA survey asked, “What’s more important to you, better health benefits or higher wages?” Sixty-three percent of respondents indicated higher wages are more important than health benefits. The number of survey participants with this preference rose 12.5% from the 2016 results for the same question, which indicated only 56% of employees shared this sentiment.
Even if health benefits are less important than wages to American workers, our research at CEB, now Gartner, shows that they are still a priority. In fact, according to our Global Talent Monitor data, health benefits are the second most important attribute for US employees considering a potential employer. The first is compensation, which is consistently the leading driver of attraction worldwide.
But pay isn’t the only factor employees consider when deciding whether to take a new job or leave their current one. We consistently see that work-life balance and stability are also top drivers of attraction for job seekers. However, our research shows that departing employees cite future career opportunities as the number one driver of attrition. Employees consistently rank development opportunities and manager qualities as top reasons for quitting as well—in fact, on a global scale, these two attributes have been increasing in importance. While compensation is frequently cited as one of the top drivers of attrition, it is not in fact the “make-or-break” determinant of an employee’s perception of their career.
Some other global compensation trends the Global Talent Monitor identifies in the second quarter of 2017 revolve around shifting pay expectations for employees when they switch jobs (they’re expecting less than previous quarters) and emerging economies driving merit pay expectations up globally. Employees are also increasingly looking for employers who respect them and share their values, and this is particularly, though not exclusively, noticeable in the US.