You don’t always need to follow the crowd, but it’s good to know where the crowd is going—especially if you work in benefits, or if you’re part of a tour group in a foreign country.

Here are five recent benefits trends to take seriously, some stats that back them up, and our thoughts on how to respond. Keep these in mind while you’re planning your benefits initiatives in the coming year.

Trend 1: As the job market gets more competitive, employers are bulking up their benefits

The facts:

#1. In 2018, 34% of organizations increased benefits offerings, while the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%.

Source: 2018 SHRM Employee Benefits Report

#2. In 2019, 43% of organizations increased benefits offerings, while the unemployment rate dropped to 3.7%.

Source: SunTrust Business Pulse Survey

#3. Of the organizations that increased benefits offerings in 2018…
• 51% increased health-related benefits
• 44% increased wellness-related benefits
• 39% increased employee programs and services
• 32% increased professional and career development benefits
• 28% increased leave, family-friend and flexible working benefits

Source: 2018 SHRM Employee Benefits Report

#4. The top reasons cited for increasing benefits in 2018 were to retain employees (72%) and to attract new talent (58%).

Source: 2018 SHRM Employee Benefits Report

#5. More than half (55%) of employees surveyed said they would be at least somewhat likely to accept a job with lower compensation but a more robust benefits package.

Source: 2018 Aflac Workforces Report

What it all means:

Unemployment is at a fifty-year low, and the job market is incredibly competitive. Companies are boosting their benefits to attract and retain top talent. Not only that, but companies are being more strategic about using benefits communications to ensure employees—current and prospective—appreciate the value of those benefits.

If you want to hold on to your high performers—and maybe even snatch a few more—you need to take a look at what’s out there, make sure you’re staying competitive, and make sure you’re throwing a spotlight on the benefits you offer with effective and engaging communication.

To see just how important great benefits communications is to attracting and keeping top talent, check out this article.

Trend 2: Employers are focusing on building a better “employee experience”

The facts:

#1. At companies with above-average customer experience scores, 79% of employees are highly engaged in their jobs.

Source: Gartner Customer Experience Survey

#2. At companies with average or below-average customer experiences scores, only 49% of employees of employees are highly engaged in their jobs.

Source: Gartner Customer Experience Survey

#3. Nearly 80% percent of executives rated employee experience as “important” or “very important,” but only 22% said that their companies were excellent at building an employee experience that differentiated them from their competition.

Source: Deloitte Survey

What it all means:

Employees now expect tailored and engaging communications from their employers—because that’s what they get when they shop online or browse social media. Employees that have a better “employee experience” are more committed to their work, and to their company. There’s a lot of different components to an “employee experience,” but helping employees choose and use their benefits is an essential piece. Here are three thoughts on how to do that well.

Trend 3: Paid leave is becoming a higher priority for Americans (particularly the ones looking for jobs)

The facts:

#1. 93% of Americans think mothers should receive paid parental leave and 85% think that fathers should receive paid parental leave.

Source: 2017 Mercer / World at Work Study

#2. 66% of employees said paid parental leave is an important factor when deciding on a job offer.

Source: JustWorks

#3. Only 13% of employers offer any form of paid parental leave.

Source: JustWorks

What it all means:

If you’re looking to invest in benefits that will give you a competitive advantage AND be highly valued by your employees, consider expanding your leave benefits. Not only are more companies following this trend, but so are states. In the last few years, eight states have passed statutory family or medical leave programs, and in 2019, twenty-three states introduced similar bills.

And if you do invest in leave benefits, make sure you also find a clear and helpful way to explain the leave process to your employees. Here’s a free guide on how to do that.

Trend 4: Health Savings Accounts are becoming more common, but HSA engagement remains lackluster

The facts:

#1. In mid-2019, the number of HSAs surpassed 25 million, holding $61.7 million in assets. This represents a 12% increase in the number of accounts, and a 20% increase in the value of those accounts.

Source: Denevir 2019 Midyear HSA Market Statistics & Trends report

#2. By the end of 2021, the number of HSAs will approach 30 million, and the value of those HSA assets approach $88 billion.

Source: Denevir 2019 Midyear HSA Market Statistics & Trends report

#3. In 2019, 15% of HSAs (almost 4 million accounts) were completely unfunded as of mid-year.

Source: Denevir 2019 Midyear HSA Market Statistics & Trends report

#4. Only 25% of employees consider saving in an HSA to be a top priority—even though 82% of employees regard medical expenses as their biggest financial challenge.

Source: Willis Towers Watson 2018 Health Accounts Employee Attitudes Survey

What it all means:

High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) have become more and more common, and so have the Health Savings Accounts that come with them. But even though HSA adoption and usage has increased in recent years, a significant percentage of employees still don’t understand the value of their HSA.

If you can communicate just how helpful an HSA can be—both for medical expenses and as a retirement vehicle—you’ll help both your employees and your employer pay less in taxes, and be more financial secure. Here are 3 HSA communication tips to help you do that.

Trend 5: Employees want more financial guidance (particularly from their employers)

The facts:

#1. 31% of employees want specific financial advice. 57% of employees are comfortable making their own decisions, but want someone with expertise to validate those decisions. Only 12% don’t want any help at all.

Source: PwC 8th Annual Financial Wellness Survey

#2. Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. employees would like their employers to provide more assistance to improve their financial health.

Source: 2019 National Business Group on Health survey

#3. The number one area that employees want financial help with is health care and prescription drug costs (34%).

Source: 2019 National Business Group on Health survey

What it all means:

Millions of American employees are in a constant state of financial stress. They’re living paycheck to paycheck, struggling with debt, and falling behind on retirement savings. As an employer, you’re uniquely positioned to provide practical, personalized financial guidance to your employees—and that guidance will make them more likely to stick around.

A particularly effective way you can help your employees improve their financial wellness is—surprise!—benefits education and decision support. To learn more, check out this article, A New Playbook for Employer-to-Employee Financial Guidance.