As the landscape of employee expectations continues to evolve, Canadian employers are faced with the challenge of keeping pace. Despite considerable strides in certain areas, there remains a tangible gap between what employees desire and what their employers currently provide. This article delves into the findings from the Canada Innovative Benefits Survey 2023, highlighting the existing disparities and suggesting potential strategies to bridge the gap.
Healthcare and Preventive Measures
One of the major areas of concern pertains to healthcare provisions, especially preventive health measures. According to the survey, a mere 33% of employers provide health assessments. This is particularly noteworthy given that the younger generation, Gen Z, has shown a keen interest in preventative health and screening tools. They are not only concerned about dealing with health issues as they arise but are also eager to adopt preventive measures to safeguard their health in the long run.
Moreover, the adoption of genetic testing as a screening tool has been particularly low, with less than 5% of employers offering this service. The low adoption rate points to a clear disconnect between the health needs and expectations of the workforce and the health benefits currently provided by employers.
Childcare, Eldercare, and Family Support
The benefits gap further widens when we consider the support provided for caregivers. With half of Canadian employees juggling caregiving responsibilities, the lack of employer-sponsored childcare or eldercare programs or applications is glaring. The survey reports that fewer than 10% of employers offer such benefits.
Despite the challenges associated with balancing work and caregiving, the lack of ample employer support places an added burden on these employees. This has wider implications on employee well-being, productivity, and ultimately, retention.
Adoption and Surrogacy Allocations
Family support doesn’t end with caregiving. As society evolves, the needs of employees expand to include varying family compositions and pathways to parenthood. However, adoption and surrogacy allocations are another area where employer offerings significantly lag.
Less than 10% of employers currently provide support in these areas. While such benefits are primarily available to non-union, salaried, and executive employees, the report underscores the necessity of broadening such benefits to encompass other employee groups, such as union hourly workers and contractors.
Retirement Savings Participation
The area of retirement savings is yet another instance where employer offerings and employee participation do not quite align. A substantial 27% of employees do not participate in their employer’s retirement savings plan matching program.
This points to the potential need for better education and communication about these programs and the advantages they offer. It could also indicate a perceived lack of affordability or relevance among certain employee demographics, signifying the need for more tailored, inclusive retirement solutions.
Physical Wellness Support
On a more positive note, the report shows that employers have made encouraging progress in supporting employees’ physical wellness. Nearly 60% of employers now offer ergonomic assessments, and 55% provide telemedicine options. These offerings illustrate a growing recognition of the importance of physical health and preventive care in the workplace.
Employers have also shown commitment to employees’ financial wellness, a domain that is often overlooked in traditional benefits packages. Over half (51%) of employers surveyed provide budgeting and other financial wellness education and support. These initiatives are especially important given the financial stressors that have been exacerbated by the uncertain economic landscape.
Mental Health Support
In the domain of mental health, employers have begun to take significant strides. Mental wellness is no longer a peripheral issue but a central component of overall employee well-being. The survey reflects this shift in workplace culture, with 64% of employers offering anti-stigma and self-care education. Further, 48% are providing online assessments and resiliency training, and 57% have given employees access to a virtual therapy network. These offerings play a critical role in fostering a supportive and understanding workplace environment, essential in today’s high-stress world.
However, despite these advances, there is still a considerable way to go. A previous survey of 1,000 Canadians showed that employees are seeking benefits far beyond these conventional offerings. The persisting gap underscores the necessity for employers to continue to evolve their mental health support, tailoring it to the ever-changing needs of their employees.
Expanding Benefits and Addressing Employee Needs
The reality is clear – employees are seeking more expansive, diverse, and inclusive benefits packages. They want benefits that speak to their unique circumstances, that consider not just their roles as workers, but as individuals navigating various life stages and challenges. Unfortunately, many employers are struggling to keep up with this growing demand. This results in a benefits gap that risks employee dissatisfaction, decreased productivity, and potentially higher turnover rates.
Strategies to Get Ahead of the Competition
In this competitive landscape, Mercer Marsh Benefits has proposed several key strategies to help employers “get ahead of the competition.” These are not just measures to temporarily appease employees, but strategies aimed at fostering long-term engagement, loyalty, and productivity.
Employers are encouraged to design benefits for all, not just for a segment of the workforce. This involves bringing the needs of Gen Z and caregivers into focus, groups that have often been overlooked in traditional benefits design.
The next section will delve into the specific strategies recommended for employers to address the benefits gap, focusing on improving mental health support, offering comprehensive financial wellness plans, and accelerating digital health delivery.
Strategies to Bridge the Benefits Gap
As employers grapple with the growing disparity between employee expectations and the benefits offered, it’s essential to understand and implement strategies that can effectively bridge this gap. In an era where employee satisfaction heavily influences retention and productivity, providing a comprehensive, diverse, and inclusive benefits package is not just an option—it’s a business imperative.
Here are some key strategies that employers can use to respond to this evolving demand, enhance their competitiveness, and foster a more engaged and satisfied workforce:
1. Enhancing Mental Health Support
As noted earlier, mental health support is a critical part of a comprehensive benefits package. Employers are encouraged to provide resources for mental wellness, such as anti-stigma campaigns, self-care education, and resilience training. Furthermore, equipping managers with mental health training can help create a supportive, understanding environment, making employees more comfortable to seek help when needed.
2. Offering Comprehensive Financial Wellness Solutions
Employers should consider offering comprehensive financial wellness plans. This includes not just retirement savings programs, but also initiatives that support employees’ immediate financial needs, like budgeting and financial coaching. In doing so, employers can help reduce financial stress, ultimately improving employees’ overall well-being and productivity.
3. Accelerating Digital Health Delivery
The pandemic has underscored the importance and convenience of digital health services. Employers can leverage this shift by offering services like telemedicine and online health assessments. This not only facilitates easier access to care but also caters to the preference of younger workers who favor digital solutions.
4. Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Benefits programs should be designed to cater to a diverse workforce. This involves considering the needs of various employee groups – from Gen Z workers to hourly contractors. Providing equitable benefits can help foster a more inclusive workplace, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention.
5. Building Resilience and Mitigating Risk
Finally, employers should focus on building resilience among employees. This could be achieved through wellness programs, professional development opportunities, and supportive work policies. Employers can also mitigate risk by offering insurance benefits and ensuring employees understand how to maximize these offerings.
While the benefits gap persists in Canada, employers are not without the tools to address this disparity. By focusing on comprehensive health support, financial wellness, digital solutions, diversity, and resilience, companies can create benefits packages that not only attract and retain talent, but also enhance employee productivity and satisfaction. It’s clear that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to benefits is outdated. The future lies in personalized, flexible, and comprehensive benefits that truly address the diverse needs of the modern workforce.
Reference article for source study
 – https://www.hrreporter.com/focus-areas/compensation-and-benefits/despite-progress-benefits-gap-persists-in-canada-report/377744