New SHRM Survey Examines State of Employee Benefits

Dec 18, 2013

Flexible work arrangements and wellness programs continue to gain in popularity as employers focus on ‘total rewards’

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — With wages stagnant since the recession, benefits have taken on new importance as employers emphasize total rewards as a way to recruit and retain talented employees. In new research, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) examines the state of employee benefits.

“About one-quarter of employers use benefits as a recruiting tool,” said Alex Alonso, SHRM’s vice president of research. “Health care and retirement savings benefits, in particular, are frequently leveraged by employers as an antidote to weak wage growth in today’s post-recession economy.”

The six-part State of Employee Benefits in the Workplace Survey found that the use of benefits as a retention tool was not a widespread practice among HR professionals. Just 19 percent of employers said they included benefits in their efforts to retain high-performing employees.

The majority of respondents (80 percent) said their employees were knowledgeable about the benefits available to them. But only 3 percent used social media to communicate about benefits.

The survey polled more than 440 randomly selected HR professionals. It found:

Flexible Work Arrangements

"Many HR professionals recognize the importance that workers in the Millennial generation place on flexible work schedules,” Alonso said. “In fact, 55 percent of respondents noted flexible working benefits as a valuable factor in recruiting. That’s a significant increase from the 33 percent who did so a year ago.”

  • Almost three-fifths (57 percent) of employers offer flexible work arrangements. Of these, 45 percent said that the majority of their employees are allowed to utilize flex work, an increase of 11 percentage points since 2012.
  • Thirty-three percent of respondents said employee participation in flexible work arrangements had increased since 2011. Sixty-one percent said participation remained the same.

Health Care

“Employers are emphasizing wellness and taking a proactive approach to support preventive health,” SHRM’s Alonso said. “However, a moderate number of organizations still chose to increase employees’ share of health care costs to battle the expense. Many organizations are optimistic that employers will cover a large amount of the total health care costs in the future.”

  • The majority of organizations (83 percent) are very concerned about controlling health care costs.
  • In response to those concerns, they have provided education initiatives related to health and wellness (45 percent of respondents), increased employee participation in preventive health and wellness programs (43 percent), and created a workplace culture that promotes health and wellness (41 percent).


“More employees are taking advantage of wellness programs that their employers offer,” Alonso said, “but the challenge for employers remains in quantifying the impact of wellness programs. Fewer than three out of 10 organizations measure return on investment or cost savings associated with wellness programs. Yet organizations indicate they would be more likely to invest in wellness initiatives if they could measure impact.”

  • Almost three-quarters of organizations (72 percent) offer a wellness program, resource or service to their employees.
  • Of the organizations offering wellness benefits, 56 percent reported an increase in employee participation in 2012 compared to 2011.
  • More than one-half of employers offer wellness incentives or rewards to their employees.

Media: To read the full survey, visit Follow SHRM Research on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

For more information or an interview with a researcher, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Public Affairs at 703-535-6260 or and Vanessa Gray at 703-535-6072 or

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing about 260,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, 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 @SHRMPress.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Join us for the largest and best HR conference in the world, June 23-26, 2019 in Las Vegas.



Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect