In 2021, employers across the nation were forced to rethink best-in-class strategies on how to recruit and retain top talent.  

Between the evolving challenges left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the gaps left in the workforce from the Great Resignation, employers are rethinking benefits plan designs and how to diversify offerings. What's more, the unemployment rate for January hit 3.9%, a new low and the first time it's dipped below pre-pandemic levels since February 2020.  

If increasing or filling gaps in your workforce is a top goal this year, remember that it's vital to assess employee needs and wants continuously. So, what employee benefits will rank highest in importance for employees in 2022?  

Mployer Advisor recently spoke with four renowned employee benefits leaders and asked for their top employee benefits predictions for 2022. Below are their responses:  

Derek Winn: Benefits Consultant, Business Benefits Group 

Top predictions: Lifestyle accounts

"We anticipate employers will develop their own unique, innovative solutions in 2022; this will enhance flexibility, empathy, and added compensation. One example includes lifestyle accounts, where employers have the advantage of streamlining various benefits together, such as wellness incentives; catered meals or snacks; home office equipment; cell phone and internet reimbursements; and more into an easy-to-use platform for reimbursement."  

Aaron Eaton: Director of Sales, Employee Health and Benefits, Marsh McLennan Agency

Top predictions: Hospital indemnity and student loan benefits

"COVID–and its ever-changing viral composure– illustrated to the masses how costly hospital stays could be, especially if admitted to the ICU. Whereas worksite products, such as hospital indemnity, were traditionally looked over by mainstream buyers, its true benefit and how it can help has been forced into the spotlight.

We have entered into an era where the increase in hospital stays makes the fear of hitting out-of-pocket maximums a foregone conclusion, if and when admitted. In 2022, we will likely see a highly educated buyer who understands the risk and reward of a product like a hospital indemnity to protect their pocketbooks.

Two years ago, student loan benefits were the fastest-growing employee benefit, and I predict that we will see a resurgence of this trend as employers are desperate to retain staff and recruit new blood. The cultural effect that a student loan benefits program has can be profound, especially from a multigenerational perspective.

College graduates, mid-career professionals, experienced employees to pre-retirees, each can take advantage of this benefit if set up correctly. When an organization offers to help an employee pay down their debt–whether that be their own or their children's or grandchildren's–you then have a benefit that strengthens that employee's loyalty and feeling of belonging."   

Heather Garbers: VP Voluntary Benefits, HUB International

Top predictions: Permanent life insurance

"Many of our clients have been impacted by the Great Resignation, and voluntary benefits can be a cost-effective way to build a more robust benefits offering. Specific voluntary benefits I expect to trend, include permanent life insurance and critical illness. 

Workplace sales of permanent life insurance jumped 75% through Q3 2021 over 2020. Many group term life policies are only effective when the insured is actively at work. This resulted in many employees losing coverage in 2020 and 2021 if they were furloughed or laid off. 

Workplace sales also increased 11% as many carriers have an infectious disease benefit that would create a payout for complications from COVID and other cardiovascular or cancer conditions."

Brian Alexander: Director of Consulting, Employee Benefits, HUB International 

Top predictions: Total compensation focus

"In 2022, with a focus on attracting and retaining talent, employers will review all aspects of their employee offerings. This includes salaries, leave policies, work-from-home policies, benefits offering, and more.  

Too often benefit plans have lacked a thoughtfulness, intentionality, and alignment to the organization's objectives and intended audience. As the talent market and budgets tighten, I suspect employers to re-evaluate their benefits offerings and ask these three main questions: 

  • Whom does this benefit serve, and how does that align with my employee population? 

  • Does this benefit increase my value to employees?  

  • Was this benefit designed with ease of understanding and employee value in mind?"

With these predictions in mind, what changes–if any–will you implement into your comprehensive employee benefits package in 2022? 

Looking for related content? Read our 3 most attractive categories of employee benefits and 5 strategies to retain your company's top talent over on the Mployer Advisor blog.