With the economy slowly gaining ground and employees able to take their pick of job opportunities, employers are finding it increasingly important to pack extra benefits to attract the best hires.

But according to the Society of Human Resource Management’s new State of Employee Benefits in Workplace Survey, the story changes a bit when workers are on the job – as HR professionals less frequently use benefits as a retention tool.

Approximately one-quarter of those 440 HR professionals surveyed said they now used enhanced benefits as a recruiting tool, but only 19% said they used benefits to help retain high-performing employees.

Nonetheless, several major themes in enhanced benefits have emerged, including the growth of flexible work arrangements and a front-loaded, wellness-oriented approach to preventative health care, explained Alex Alonso, SHRM’s vice president of research.

“Many HR professionals recognize the importance that workers in the Millennial generation place on flexible work schedules,” Alonso said. “Fifty-five percent of respondents noted flexible working benefits as a valuable factor in recruiting,” up from 33% who did so the year before.

Some 57% of employers indicated that they offer flexible working arrangements, and a third said that they’d seen an increase in employee participation in flexible schedules and arrangements.

Wellness programs are also on the increase, with approximately three-quarters of respondents indicating that they offer wellness benefits – and 56% reporting a jump in employee participation in those programs – though many employers say they find it difficult to measure the impact of those programs, and only 3 out of 10 actively quantify the ROI for wellness expenditures.

At the same time, employers are also increasingly pushing a larger share of their health care costs onto employees themselves, a trend Alonso said will likely grow in the future.  

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