The Great Resignation – and the Great Benefits Revolution

The Great Resignation and the Great Benefits Revolution

In 2021, businesses in the West experienced The Great Resignation – as Covid‑weary workers reassessed their priorities.

In a recent survey, Equispme found that by the end of 2021 less people were satisfied with their employer than they were at the end of 2020. The pandemic had taken its toll on good will - and changed expectations. For many, working from home became a new and welcome norm, and things like working flexibility, health and wellbeing benefits became suddenly far more relevant than pizza Fridays, fruit baskets and team-building events. People went looking for the jobs that gave them what they really needed.

Today, almost a third of UK workers are still considering a job move - driven now also by wage stagnation and the rising cost of living.

Against this backdrop of economic and social change - and in the wake of the Great Resignation - businesses looking to attract and retain talent are increasingly embracing the Great Benefits Revolution.

How is demand for workplace benefits changing?

There are, it turns out, more important things than salary – and the pandemic has highlighted them.

At the end of last year, Employee Benefits magazine reported that 50% of staff would now give up some salary in exchange for better benefits. And the good news is that in response, 67% of employers confirmed they had already changed employee benefits packages to support staff needs.

This year, experts are expecting that to accelerate.

Mark Fosh, Divisional Director, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing explains: “Businesses of all sizes are reviewing their benefits on a scale we have not seen for a long time. What worked pre-Covid may not be right for the new world of work where remote and flexible working are more common-place and workers are experiencing different health and wellbeing challenges as a result of the pandemic.’’

What benefits do employees want?

In short, in 2022 what workers want most in terms of benefits is flexibility, and health and wellbeing support.

In Equipsme’s Changing attitudes to Healthcare survey conducted at the end of last year, we found the top ten list of benefits people wanted looked like this:

  1. Pension – 92%
  2. Flexible working – 85%
  3. Income protection – 78%
  4. Health insurance – 70%
  5. Car parking – 685
  6. Critical illness – 69%
  7. Life insurance – 68%
  8. Mobile phone – 53%
  9. Childcare vouchers – 29%
  10. Gym membership – 28%

Flexibility, health and well-being seem to top the priority list of many similar surveys - not least Aon’s 12th annual UK Benefits and Trends Survey published in January 2022.

Aon’s Principal Strategic Consultant Richard Morgan explains: “We have seen some fundamental changes in companies’ benefits strategies and their overall Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Engaging employees remains the main objective for organisations as they grapple with changing employee needs and multi-generational workforces. Topping the list of changes are flexible/agile working and wellbeing.”

Nearly 90% of organisations in the Aon survey had already responded to demand and increased their emphasis on health and wellbeing and mental health in the last 12-24 months.

What do people want in terms of flexibility?

Hybrid home/office working is high up on the list, and Aon reports that 70% of organisations want to accommodate working from home for some days a week, with only 3% saying they expect people back in the office 100% of the time.

But more than that, people are looking for things like part-time working, term-time working, flexitime and even career breaks.

Dr Duncan Brown, principal associate at the Institute for Employment Studies, says: “There’s a danger of ‘fake-flex’ as employers focus on remote working rather than fully embracing flexibility. Employers need to think more broadly about flexible hours, allowing employees to work different hours or weekends if they want.”

What do people want from health and wellbeing benefits?

Just as people don’t want ‘fake’ flexibility, it seems like the mere existence of an Employee Assistance Programme or a mindfulness app may no longer cut the mustard with employees looking for real workplace health back-up.

Equipsme’s survey found that more people are actually considering private health insurance than ever before – with the number doubling from 26% in June 2020 to 47% today.

57% of the workforce would also be willing to pay for a private health plan, and 64% of those would pay up to £29 per month.

Equipsme’s Managing Director Matthew Reed explains: “Demand for private health benefits through work is clearly on the rise, and it’s well worth noting that more people are ready to put their money where their mouth is. There’s an appetite out there for employee contribution to secure key benefits like health insurance and wellbeing services - and that could put them into reach for the first time for smaller businesses, or for the entire workforces of larger businesses.”

What do the Great Resignation and the Great Benefits Revolution mean for businesses?

If you’re powered by people, in 2022 you’re going to have to empower them differently. Employee benefits are proven to reduce turnover, improve culture, attract top talent, boost morale and even increase productivity.

Listening to what your team really wants, and then working out how to make it happen, is more important now than ever.