SHRM: 20-Year Employee Benefits Trends in the United States — Now and Then

Telecommuting, bonuses and professional development opportunities on the rise as employer-sponsored benefits are used strategically to respond to change

Jun 20, 2016
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WASHINGTON — Over the past 20 years, employers have increased and decreased benefits strategically in response to the needs of the workplace and employees as well as to economic and technological changes, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) 2016 Employee Benefits Survey report released today. 

Employers are responding to workers’—especially Millennials’—demands for better work/life balance with increased telecommuting, flextime and other accommodations. Since 1996, the percentage of organizations offering telecommuting has increased threefold (from 20 to 60 percent), and the percentage offering telecommuting on an ad hoc basis has increased from 45 percent in 2012 to 56 percent in 2016. 

Additionally, while annual salary increases are a staple component of compensation plans, many employers have shifted toward monetary bonuses over the past five years to keep overall payroll costs stable. There have been increases for spot/bonus awards, sign-on bonuses for executives and non-executives and retention bonuses for nonexecutives. Also, more than one-half (56 percent) of organizations currently offer service anniversary awards, 51 percent offer nonexecutive bonus plans, and 44 percent offer executive incentive bonus plans.

As a possible solution to the skills gap and heightened recruiting difficulty, employers have also begun paying for more professional membership dues and opportunities. Currently, 88 percent of companies pay for professional membership dues compared to 65 percent in 1996.

“The biggest surprise was that, overall, while the number and types of benefits offerings that organizations offer has grown over the past 20 years, there have not been many major changes in terms of coverage of core employee benefits,” explained Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM. “Benefits such as health care, retirement planning and employee assistance programs are offered to employees at the same level as in 1996." 

“The number of benefits employers are offering is consistent with recent years,” said Esen. “However, employers are always looking for new and innovative benefits that are cost-effective and best fit their workforce.”

INFOGRAPHIC: Employee Benefits: A 20-Year Comparison from 1996 to 2016

Press briefing: Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM, will be available for questions about the survey via conference call at 3:15 p.m. ET today, Monday, June 20. For dial-in instructions, contact SHRM Media Relations at Vanessa.Hill@shrm.org or Kate.Kennedy@shrm.org.

The survey of 3,490 randomly selected HR professionals examined more than 300 benefits.

Among other key findings:

  • The percentage of organizations offering health savings accounts (HSAs) increased from 43 to 50 percent in the past year. 
  • Wellness resources, which have been on the rise over the past several years, are now leveling off. Some individual wellness resources are changing as employers determine which wellness benefits best fit their workforce. 
  • Sixty percent of organizations reported that the level of benefits they offer has remained the same in the past 12 months.
  • The percentage of organizations offering a stand-alone sick leave program increased from 33 percent in 2012 to 41 percent in 2016. These changes may be due to local and state legislation requiring paid sick leave for employees. 
  • Overall, of the organizations that offer paid leave, 5 percent provide employees with some type of unlimited leave: 4 percent offer it as paid leave and 1 percent as unpaid leave. 
  • Nearly one-quarter of organizations (23 percent) provide health care services such as diagnoses, treatment or prescriptions by phone or video.
  • Four percent of employers offer student loan repayment.
Thirteen new benefits were added to this year’s report, including executive coaching (offered by 16 percent of organizations), genetic testing coverage for diseases such as cancer (12 percent), stipend/subsidy for using employee-owned technological devices (12 percent) and automatic enrollment into a defined contribution retirement savings plan for current employees (21 percent). 

The full survey is available online at www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/pages/2016-employee-benefits.aspx.

For more surveys/poll findings, visit shrm.org/research. Follow SHRM Research on Twitter @SHRM_Research. 

Media: To request an interview or to receive dial-in instructions for the press briefing, contact Vanessa Hill of SHRM Media Relations at Vanessa.Hill@shrm.org and 703-535-6072 or Kate Kennedy at Kate.Kennedy@shrm.org and 703-535-6260. 

About the Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 285,000 members in more than 165 countries. For nearly seven decades, the Society has been the leading provider of resources serving the needs of HR professionals and advancing the 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 us at shrm.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @SHRMPress.

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