By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Recently, I’ve had several interesting discussions with retail RDs as well as program managers on new priority benefits that are of interest to employees and being requested from employers. Payment for dog day care during work travel was perhaps the most unique request but others include more flexible work hours, shorter work days, and child care on work trips. While historically the core benefits have related to compensation, vacation and sick time, retirement plan contributions, and health care, this space is evolving.
Some companies are leading the way in expanded employee benefits. Patagonia offers free yoga classes and access to hiking trails during daytime hours. Netflix offers one year of paid maternity and paternity leave and has a “bring your dog to work” policy. Facebook offers free onsite meals, free dry cleaning, and unlimited sick days. As an experiment in their Work-Life Choice Challenge, Microsoft Japan trialed a four-day work week at their Tokyo headquarters, and found a 40% increase in productivity with the reduced hours.
In their 2018 U.S. Employee Benefits Trend Survey, MetLife found that employees want three things as related to benefits: flexibility, choice, and non-traditional options. Sixty percent of employees indicate they would contribute more to the cost of benefits if it means they have more choice. This is especially true for younger employees and young parents who need benefits tailored to help with family commitments. Financial wellness is a high priority to employees, with 84% saying these programs are a must have or nice to have. At the same time, only 18% of employers are offering education, workshops or tools that address financial planning and future financial security. More than 80 percent of workers say work/life balances improves their productivity at work, 76% indicate being able to work from home means their company trusts them, and 71% say flexible work schedules are what most helps them achieve a work/life balance.
Seventy-three percent of the employees in the MetLife study said having benefits customized to meet their needs would increase their loyalty to their employer. The idea of a “cafeteria menu” of benefits creates challenges for employers with thousands of employees, but tech and newer companies are offering creative options to attract younger generations of workers. At the same time, retail companies tend to lag behind their large counterparts in the benefits they offer, with limited vacation time, mandatory in-office or in-store work hours, and no clear commitments to work/life balance. With unemployment rates at historic lows, the question is whether the retail sector can afford not to rethink their benefit strategies and offerings to secure and retail top talent.