From a labour-centric work model to employee-focused, the labour force as we know it has undergone a seismic shift over the last two years. While this change has been a long time coming, there is no denying that it was largely accelerated by the pandemic.
As businesses and corporations around the globe were propelled to shift their workplace reality to a work-from-home model, a cultural change occurred simultaneously. Today, as we emerge from this prolonged global dormancy, we come back to a labour force that attributes a lot more value to the employee experience than it used to. In the midst of the health crisis, workers gained the upper-hand when it comes to negotiating work terms.
Employees are prioritizing their health and wellness
When the pandemic hit, employees not only lost their place of work, they also lost the associated office perks, such as wellness perks, office gyms, compensated lunches and subsidized child care options. Having to isolate and refrain from any kind of socializing also had its toll on workers’ mental health, as the number of reported mental health challenges and burn-outs spiked aggressively. In the face of all of these losses, workers were driven to rethink and reprioritize the kind of work conditions and benefits they need to support every other area of their life.
The most recent studies and surveys on benefits packages all point to the same findings: employees and prospective ones are increasingly looking for a compensation and benefits package that includes work-life balance, health and wellness, stock options, professional training, remote working and paid parental leaves. Unlimited vacation policies, stipends for daycare and office furniture immediately shot to the tops of the list for an attractive benefits package, as opposed to the unlimited beer, foosball tables or office snacks.
“Perks are now really much more around employee wellness and benefits that are comprehensive and supporting what [workers] need,” said Bill Tam, co-founder of Digital Technology Supercluster, an organization dedicated to accelerating the development and adoption of digital technologies.
80% of employees want benefits more than a pay increase
Some employees are prepared to go as far as to accept a lower salary in exchange for the right perks. In fact, based on research conducted by the employment platform Hired on tech workers, “27 percent of tech workers would take lower pay in exchange for stock in a public company, 18 percent for stock in a private company, 12 percent for flexible work options.”
Plan sponsors must expand their way of thinking to cater more to the human element and find ways to support their workers’ lives beyond 5pm.
From increased productivity to talent retention, employers have a lot to gain
While the momentum of where these benefits are heading is favourable to the modern workforce, making a conscious investment into workers pays off in more ways than one.
In fact, more flexibility regarding the place and hours of work allows companies to seek talent all over the world, as opposed to a specific and limited geographical location. Appealing benefits packages are also likely to increase employee loyalty and productivity. But more importantly, great perks are especially advantageous when it comes to talent acquisition and retention.
Despite the relatively high unemployment rate in Canada, a labour shortage currently characterizes the workforce. “The labour front is really confusing for everybody,” said Sharlene Massie, the owner of About Staffing, a Calgary-based staffing agency. “We should have a number of candidates that are looking for work and accepting jobs left, right and centre, and there should be few jobs, but that’s not the case at all.”
Between the limited number of foreign workers coming to Canada, the country’s ageing population and those influenced by the pandemic to opt for an early retirement, the labour market has been turned upside down.
For these reasons, employers are finding themselves in need and competing for qualified and capable candidates. Many are expanding and pivoting their benefits to better reflect what employees want and in turn, do their part to reinvest in this next evolution of workers.
What used to be a competitive benefits plan a few years ago no longer holds the same weight in this post-pandemic world. It might be time to rethink your benefit offering to stay attractive in this candidate-driven market.