The world of employee benefits is ever-changing. What’s hot one year may not be the next, and we are constantly seeing new products and vendors enter the market. The ebb and flow of employee benefits are typically driven by factors like workforce demands and demographics, the landscape for retention and recruitment, the economy, trends in the healthcare industry, and technological advancements. Sometimes, though, the most prominent trends stem from employers wanting to go back to the basics to understand what will drive value for employees and yield results.  This doesn’t always mean selecting the “big shiny object” of the moment.

Right now, we’re in a post-pandemic world, with an economy that seems to be recovering but still has many weary, and healthcare costs that just won’t quit. Given these factors and what we are hearing from clients and colleagues, we’ve put together this list of benefits areas you should be paying attention to in 2024.

1. Healthcare Affordability

Healthcare cost trend for 2024 is projected to be around 7%. Prescription drug costs are a large factor within this bucket, but so are inflation, healthcare worker shortages, and other causes. As a result, many organizations are strategizing around how they can offer benefits that are more affordable not just for them but for their employees. Some tactics include taking a fresh look at your plan design, cost-sharing model, and pharmacy benefit program. We are also seeing a big push toward alternative funding like captive insurance or other self-insured models. Employers may also want to take more simple actions like reprioritizing preventive care and wellness to lessen the prevalence of chronic conditions and avoid high claims costs.

Another big trend is the coverage of GLP-1 drugs for weight loss, such as Ozempic and Wegovy, a decision over which many employers are weighing the pros and cons.

2. Financial Wellness

Related to affordability, there has been a resurgence of interest in programs like 401(k)s, pension plans, student debt repayment benefits, tuition reimbursement, financial literacy and coaching, and the like. In fact, Wellable reports that 30% of companies have increased their budgets related to financial wellness in 2024. Last year, IBM announced they were bringing back their pension plan in place of their previous 401(k) match program. Regardless of your priorities, there is a large market of solutions available. We recommend doing a deep dive into your population’s needs and assessing current options (e.g., 401(k) company match), to better understand how you can strategically enhance financially focused benefits.

3. Family-Forward Benefits

Benefits with families in mind include programs around parental leave, family and medical leave, caregiver leave or assistance, women’s health and reproductive benefits, bereavement leave, childcare assistance, flexible work schedules, and more. A dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA) is a specific solution that can offset the costs of daycare or other needs. If you’re looking to make your programs more family-friendly, check out this checklist.

4. Customization

Offering tailored benefits that are personalized for an employee will continue to be a leading objective. This might include benefits like Lifestyle Spending Accounts, flexible time off or hybrid work models, voluntary benefits like pet insurance or identity theft, commuter benefits, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and more. This approach means ensuring your program is inclusive of all employees regardless of geography, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, etc., and allows for choice between the options available. It also means meeting employees where they are and ensuring you are covering your bases when it comes to telehealth and mental health services.

5. Upskilling & Professional Development

Employers increasingly understand that it is often worth the investment to upskill current talent rather than to continuously hire out for certain roles. This is not only good for business but goes a long way in the realms of employee morale, engagement, and productivity. In fact, a 2022 Conference Board report found that 58% of those surveyed would be more likely to leave if not provided professional development skills and opportunities. As such, we have seen an uptick in programs surrounding mentorship, education and training, including learning management systems, peer coaching, job rotations, and well-defined career paths based on certain milestones.

We’re excited to see these trends take shape and the impacts they’ll have on the benefits sphere! If you could use help evaluating or implementing any facet of your benefits program, please get in touch with the Spring team.