The war for talent, heightened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, and rising benefit costs are fueling a surge in companies planning to revamp their employee benefit strategy. Their goals are to differentiate themselves, personalize the employee experience and manage the costs of their benefit programs. That is according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson.
The 2021 Benefits Trends Survey found that seven in ten (72 percent) employers in Asia Pacific (APAC) plan to differentiate and customize their benefit programs over the next two years, a sharp increase from just 24 percent today. More than half (57 percent) cited tight labor markets, followed by the focus on inclusion and diversity (53 percent) and increased remote working (50 percent) as top influences in driving their benefit strategy.
“Amid the ongoing pandemic, employers are under increasing pressure to manage their benefit costs while at the same time finding new ways to support their employees’ overall wellbeing,” said Cedric Luah, Managing Director, Head of Health & Benefits for Asia and Australasia, Willis Towers Watson (WTW). “Additionally, tight labor markets and the pivot to remote working or a hybrid work model, and a growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion are causing employers to look at their benefit strategies in a new light. As a result, many are now planning actions to enhance their benefit programs to create a competitive advantage.”
In Singapore, only 24 percent of the employers believe their benefit programs address the individual needs of their workforce, and 23 percent offers significant flexibility and choice in benefits. Furthermore, only half of those surveyed said they currently offer competitive benefits overall, and one-third considered their core benefits to be better than other employers’ benefits.
Growing emphasis on integrating employee wellbeing due to concerns on employees’ stress, burnout and mental health issues
Two-thirds of employers in Singapore also said integrating employee wellbeing into the benefit package will be the top strategic benefit objective for their organizations over the next two years. Slightly over two-thirds employers (69 percent) cited employee emotional wellbeing as their top priority over the next two years, followed by physical wellbeing (59 percent) and social wellbeing (45 percent).
“Employees’ stress, burnout and mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic continue to be the main workforce concern of employers. Fostering employee wellbeing and resilience, therefore remain a top employer priority for the foreseeable future. This is clearly shown in our study as almost half of the organizations indicated that they plan to add or enhance their health care benefits throughout the next two years,” said Audrey Tan, Head of Health & Benefits, Singapore, WTW.
A recent wellbeing study conducted by WTW shows that organizations in Singapore are taking steps to support employees’ health and wellbeing in four main areas:
- Physical: 32 percent plan to promote the use of mobile application to help their employees strengthen their physical wellbeing and sponsor programs that target specific cases or chronic conditions in the next three years.
- Emotional: 39 percent plan to look for opportunities to build employee resilience and 37% intend to measure the stress level of the workforce and other leading causes of it.
- Financial: More than a quarter (29 percent) plan to introduce voluntary insurance products, covering life or critical illness for employees and/or their dependents.
- Social: A quarter (26 percent) plan to use social recognition to boost engagement in wellbeing and purpose-related activities, and 22 percent plan to incorporate inclusion and diversity priorities in their benefit program design.
Most employers are also considering the use of technology to address health and wellbeing. These include the use of online or virtual medical services, and those to aid mental or behavioral health, as well as wellbeing apps. Close to half of the survey respondents (42 percent) are considering managers training to identify and assist employees with their wellbeing.
The survey also revealed only 22 percent of organizations in Singapore believe their benefit programs enhance employee appreciation of the employment deal, and many are taking steps to boost support and communication. More than one-third (38 percent) are planning or considering the use of digital tools and technology to help employees feel connected and be productive; two in five are planning or considering the use of personalized communication to specific segments of the workforce.
“Employers should start with a review of their benefits portfolio. Their challenge will be to develop an equitable approach that meets the needs of all workforce segments while aligning with the benefit philosophy, culture and welfare programs with new ways of working and an enhanced employee experience. This will be critically important for employers to be able to manage benefit costs and optimize their investment in benefits,” added Audrey.