Independent agents can help small businesses attract and retain workers in today's labor market by offering a comprehensive benefits package.
In June, there were 10.7 million job openings in the U.S., according to the “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey" monthly report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, 4.2 million people quit their job that month, but only 5.7 million people are seeking employment, the monthly report found.
These figures are indicative of the strength of the labor market while also illustrating the considerable pressure on employers as they compete to hire workers. In their efforts to attract and retain workers, employers are looking for solutions, including raising salaries, offering sign-on bonuses, hybrid work options and improved benefits packages.
And while salary is the top concern for many jobseekers, promoting a benefits program that helps employees stretch their money further may just be the answer to hooking that coveted employee or snaring one for the long term, according to The Hartford's “2022 Future of Benefits Report."
Independent agents can play a role in ensuring small businesses can meet employee needs in today's labor market by helping them offer a comprehensive benefits package within their budgetary constraints.
“The Great Resignation continues to cause individuals to look at options in terms of their employment opportunities," says Andy Glaub, senior vice president, director of sales, Aflac, who explains that agents can help employers “minimize their costs by maximizing their benefits," and ensure employers “communicate the value of the total benefits package to help employees see what they are getting beyond core benefits like health insurance."
Glaub also notes that other strategies agents can recommend include “offering supplemental insurance options" and “added value services like telemedicine or mental health care to help take care of the whole individual and make employees feel like their employer cares."
Following the past two years, many Americans have heightened concerns about their health coverage and are scrutinizing their plan. And as job openings outnumber jobseekers, potential new hires can be choosy. However, a comprehensive benefits package can be a critical strategic tool in an employer's arsenal, especially if it includes the right mix of health, wellness and retirement options.
“Small businesses will continue to face the challenge of recruiting key employees in this unprecedented, highly competitive job market due to their inability to afford and provide hires with the level of health insurance coverage they seek," says Scot Wilkins, senior vice president of broker services, Sankaty Light Benefits. “High deductible health plans (HDHPs) and other low-cost plans may be adequate for rank-and-file employees, but they offer little allure for top hires who seek coverage far beyond what those offer."
Understanding the overarching trends in the employment market is imperative for both employers and the agents working with them. More than a quarter of the employees who changed jobs last year did so for nonmonetary workplace benefits, including a less stressful job and the ability to work remotely or flexibly, according to the “2022 PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey," which also found that only 38% cited more money as their main reason for changing jobs.
The “2021-2022 Aflac WorkForces Report" came to a similar conclusion and found that “the pandemic had a meaningful impact on how 3 in 5 workers approach their benefits decisions—especially millennials," Glaub says. “It made them more aware of the costs associated with health care, want better options and seek out more coverage. Because of this, we're seeing a continued need for supplemental insurance to help cover those out-of-pocket costs that health insurance isn't designed to cover."
One-third of American workers state their personal mental health negatively affected their job performances last year, according to the Aflac report. Almost half of employees—and 63% of millennials—purchased at least one new benefit as a result of the pandemic, with life, critical illness and mental health resources topping the list.
Unfortunately, jobseekers taking a closer look at benefits packages creates an even more challenging scenario for small business employers, many of whom had to make tough financial decisions over the past two years.
“Health insurance benefits—the costliest benefit for employers aside from salary—continue to be the No. 1 benefit employees, particularly top hires, seek beyond salary when making job decisions," Wilkins says. “Thus, companies, particularly those small- to mid-size, will continue to struggle with affording healthcare benefits that attract and retain employees—and particularly key employees."
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.