Rethinking benefits as part of a broader recruitment and retention strategy

July 18, 2022

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By Katey Bey, global head of total rewards and David Reed, global head of talent acquisition

Fluctuation in the workforce has prompted employers to invest more resources, think creatively, and refocus on collaboration, communication and support for the needs of employee populations.

Pay is still the key differentiator and primary focus for candidates today, but employers have a real opportunity to help employees in the long term by offering a well-rounded benefits package. With years of crisis now in the rearview mirror, organizations’ benefits strategies are shifting to keep pace with the competitive job market. Here are some key differentiators that top performers look for in their workplace benefits:


Pandemic-era changes to the workplace have become a permanent part of many work cultures, and there’s no going back. Employees are looking for flexibility in two areas. First, those who can work remotely want a choice in how often they go into the office and how much they work virtually. Second, employees also want the schedule flexibility to complete mid-day activities, like picking up children from school, going to unplanned doctor appointments, taking a fitness class and other tasks for which remote pandemic worktime allowed.

Employees are willing to work more, but they want to do it on their own terms. With many organizations transitioning back to full-time or implementing hybrid office arrangements, workplace flexibility has now come to the forefront. Until recently, flexibility has not been a significant part of benefits conversation for attracting new employees or retaining current ones.

Mental health benefits

Company veterans and new hires alike are looking for distinct mental health benefits as part of their overall employee benefits package. Similar to workplace flexibility, this type of benefit has become increasingly sought-after since the pandemic. Also similarly, its presence in the health benefits arena will remain relevant long into the future. At Sedgwick, our philosophy is to think of health as a person’s overall well-being, rather than just their physical health. Emotional health is a key part of the equation, as we strive to take care of our colleagues physically, mentally, financially and professionally.

Family leave and other caregiver benefits

Benefits catering to employees’ family needs are a key differentiator that some candidates prioritize — especially as cultural and social norms regarding care continue to shift. Requirements around these benefits look different around the globe. While the paid leave discussion continues at the U.S. federal level and in various state and municipal jurisdictions, forward-thinking employers are using enhanced, non-statutory leave benefits as a retention and compliance strategy.

It’s worth noting that family benefits extend far beyond parental leave and health care coverage. Today, family benefits also encompass services like fertility treatment, adoption and surrogacy assistance, childcare support and flexible work hours to accommodate those caring for young children and disabled or elderly parents. The challenge for employers is to choose benefits that are flexible and cater to a variety of organizational needs and families at different stages of growth.

Benefits best practices for employee retention

Organizations need to remind employees not only about their available benefits, but also that their benefits package is competitive. Respond to trends in the market by showing employees how your benefits meet — or exceed — marketplace standards.It’s also important to put as much emphasis on marketing benefits to existing employees as to new employees. Employees are flooded with information during the onboarding process, so they may forget about benefits that will meet their needs years down the road. Ongoing benefits education and information reinforcement are key.

HR leaders can better promote the benefits available to employees by instituting strategic, regular and frequent communications about their offerings. Consider creating targeted messaging to specific groups of employees, as certain benefits may appeal to different groups based on their location or age. Employee feedback is another important part of the benefits roadmap and helps create a well-being strategy that prioritizes what is important to the workforce. Periodically conducting sessions where organizations listen to their employees’ needs and adjust benefits plans is advantageous.

Employee benefits exist to enrich employee well-being and the colleague experience. They’re also a meaningful way that employers demonstrate to their most valued resource — their people — their commitment to taking care of them and their families. Organizations can maximize their investment in their benefits plans by continually promoting offerings to new and veteran employees alike.

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