Top 2021 Employee Benefit Trends in the USA

As recently reported in Professional Planner, an annual survey conducted by the global recruitment firm, Robert Walters, forecast that, remuneration packages for Australian financial advisers, paraplanners and compliance professionals would rise significantly during 2021. Twenty-five percent of wealth management businesses have indicated they will give pay rises this year, the survey states. While interesting in its own right, it became a little more interesting when the report identified other factors that were high on the employee’s ‘need to have’ list. Flexible working arrangements (including working remotely full-time), culture and job security were ranked above remuneration. Guess a global pandemic will do that!

These findings will no doubt cause additional pressure and challenge to Australian practices, the majority of which can be genuinely viewed as a ‘small business’ – according to our Future Ready VIII analysis, the average number of people working in an advice practice is around six with two being advisers/working owners. Salaries and benefits take up 44.2% of the practice’s total revenue. Ensuring your approach to remuneration is both competitive and equitable is critical. But, in this ever-changing and fluid market, will this be sufficient for the practice to attract and retain its best people? It’s a great start for sure, but does the ‘race for talent’ require a little innovation and differentiation as well?

With this on our mind, we found the results of a 2020 survey conducted by Fidelity Investments in the States, of particular interest. It highlighted some of the top benefit trends employers were looking to provide to their staff this year and by doing so, demonstrating both appreciation and empathy towards the employee in a very tangible way. We’ve touched on four benefits in particular and, notwithstanding that these are larger company initiatives, we nevertheless suggest that they are also very implementable, in perhaps a modified format, in small businesses in Australia today.

Emergency Savings Fund
The Fidelity research indicated that 8 in 10 Americans plan to focus on emergency savings in 2021. And, as a result, a growing number of employers are providing information and resources to help employees understand how to create an emergency fund, as well as exploring adding an emergency fund option that would allow employees to contribute directly from their salary.

Workplace Giving Programs
The survey also found that two-thirds of employees felt it was important for their employer to support charitable causes – not surprising given the events of 2020. As a result, an increasing number of US employers are considering adding a workplace giving program to their benefits platform, to help employees donate their time and financial support to the communities in which they operate, as well as to charities and causes that are most important to them.

Caregiving Roles
The growing number of American workers who are serving in a caregiving role, is being recognised by their employers. Paid caregiver leave, elder care and parent support groups and child care support are also on the rise.

Mental Health Support
For many people, the pandemic has been the most stressful time of their entire life and while a percentage of the workforce will, most likely, begin to return to the office during 2021, the survey tells us that many employers will continue to focus on providing benefits for their staff, including emotional and mental health support, additional telehealth and telemedicine benefits as well as stress management. And while this report focusses on staff who are working from home, we suspect that it can be applied in equal measure to staff who have returned to the office. Kudos for Australia’s federal and state governments, as well as the numerous companies and industry associations who have already stepped up in this all-important area.

Another important tool available to all businesses is, of course, the confidential staff survey – through this process, practice owners are able to tap into the sentiments, views and ideas of their people and gain a sense of how they’re ‘travelling’. This can be such a valuable exercise and yet, according to our latest analysis (Future Ready VIII) only 6% of practices are seeking feedback from their staff through an independent, external source. In fact, Business Health’s Confidential Staff Survey service remains one of our least used.

For your consideration.

Yours in best practice,
The team at Business Health