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By June 23, 2016No Comments

This week the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released the 20th anniversary edition of its annual Employee Benefits research report, which looks at benefits trends in the United States. 

While many headlines concerning the annual SHRM report shouted the idea that employers are offering fewer wellness benefits, the reality is that employers are merely evolving their benefits to attract the top talent they need to compete and succeed. For example, wellness benefits have not “decreased” according to the SHRM report. They’ve just leveled off. Naturally, employers have found wellness programs that work for them and their employees and are zeroing in on only successful programs.

SHRM created an infographic to highlight the points they consider of note.


While SHRM’s graphic highlighted the increase usage of certain benefits, it’s important to know that other benefits are not popular offerings any longer. Twenty-eight percent of employers offered employee stock purchase plans in 1996; today, only 9 percent do. Parking subsidies (25 percent in 1996 vs. 10 percent in 2016) and subsidized child care (9 percent vs. 2 percent), have also lost favor over the past 20 years, according to SHRM.

SHRM’s report also helps highlight that an unnamed benefit has remained stagnant over the past 20 years. Pay.

Lonnie Shekhtman of The Christian Science Monitor highlights our slow wage growth in a recent article:

The growing number of benefits appears to reflect a trend among employers of investing more in perks than in wages, according to Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist for Glassdoor, a job-search and company-reviews site. 

“Wage growth has been notoriously slow in recent years, hovering around 2 percent compared to the 3-4 percent annual growth of normal times,” Dr. Chamberlain writes in a 2015 blog post

At the same time, he points out that benefits today make up a larger share of the typical employee’s compensation package. Perks made up 29 percent of total compensation in 2004, according to a recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics report. By 2015, their share had risen to 31.5 percent — a 2.5 percent bump.

“That’s a small percentage shift,” Chamberlain writes. “But with roughly $9.5 trillion dollars per year in total US compensation, that’s a shift of nearly $240 billion from wages to benefits – the equivalent of $750 for every man, woman and child in the US.”

Other interesting findings of SHRM’ report are:

  • 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 report was produced from an online survey of 3,490 randomly selected HR professionals of small businesses (employers of SHMR members with under 500 employees) and examined more than 300 benefits.

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