Benefits Take on New Importance in Recruiting and Retaining Employees, SHRM Survey Finds

Health care remains most valued by workers, but retirement savings, compensation and flexible work also gaining prominence in recruiting strategies

October 15, 2015

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Faced with a competitive job market and stagnant wages, more organizations are turning to their benefit offerings — health care coverage and retirement savings programs, among them — to help recruit and retain prized employees, a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey released today showed.

SHRM’s 2015 Strategic Benefits Survey found that more than one-third (38 percent) of respondents said their organization leveraged benefits to recruit employees at all levels during the past 12 months, a statistically significant increase from 26 percent in 2013 and 29 percent in 2012.

At a time when more than one-half of respondents said their organizations had difficulty recruiting highly skilled employees, 40 percent of respondents said their organizations used benefits to lure these hard-to-recruit employees during the past 12 months. This represents an increase of 10 percentage points since 2013.

“While the competition for talented workers has heated up, there has been little change in base salaries. So HR has strategically turned to benefits to attract — and keep — skilled professionals,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs. “From unlimited vacation to unusual perks such as electric car charging stations, companies are using benefits to set themselves apart from the competition.”

To retain employees at all levels of their organization, one-third of HR professionals looked to benefits in the past 12 months, a statistically significant increase from 18 percent in 2013 and 20 percent in 2012.

The six-part 2015 Strategic Benefits Survey polled more than 460 randomly selected HR professionals in May and June 2015. Results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

In other findings, the survey results showed:

Health Care

  • The vast majority of organizations (96 percent) offered health care insurance plans.
  • For plan year 2015, respondents said their organization is paying on average 76 percent of employees’ total health care costs.
  • 46 percent of respondents said their organization increased the share employees pay for health care this plan year over last plan year.
  • 72 percent had not considered providing subsidies to their employees to purchase health care insurance through a private exchange.
“Health care is the benefit mostly highly valued by employees,” Esen said. “Maintaining coverage is an effective tool for recruitment and retention. In coming years, retirement savings, compensation, flexible work and career development also will play increasingly important roles in recruiting strategies.”


  • About two-thirds (69 percent) said their organizations offered a wellness program, resource or service.
  • 52 percent indicated employee participation in wellness programs increased year over year, as has been the case since 2012.

Flexible Work Arrangements

  • About one-half (48 percent) of HR professionals indicated their organization provided employees with the option to use flexible work arrangements.
  • More than one-quarter (29 percent) of employers that do so reported an increase in employee participation over last year.

Assessment and Communication of Benefits

  • Few organizations use social media to communicate information about benefits to their employees. This may change, as 9 percent said they plan to start using social media as a benefits communication tool within the next 12 months.

For additional findings, visit

Media: To learn more or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260 and

About the Society for Human Resource Management
Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR membership organization devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 275,000 members in over 160 countries, the Society is the leading provider of resources to serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit SHRM Online at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @SHRMPress.



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