In this video we review recent trends in employee benefits that are happening out in the market today. This video also includes recent Northwest employer survey results and what they’re offering today. Additional related videos include: Attracting and Retaining Quality Employees – Part 1, Benefits Communications Strategies, and Current Trends in Retirement Plans.

As presented by Gary Alton, Managing Partner of the Employee Benefits division at The Partners Group, and Nicole Pond, Managing Consultant and Retirement Plans Partner at The Partners Group.

Traditional and non traditional benefit trends we’re starting to see in our marketplace: We found a couple interesting statistics from a recent survey ranking benefits provided in the Pacific Northwest. Almost 50% of employer groups are now offering at least some type of health savings account (HSA) plan to their employees. We’re also seeing a re-emergence of long term care and an emerging benefit around paid time off for volunteerism.

Benefits                                                                           % Employers Offering

HSA – health savings account                                                            47%
Tuition reimbursement                                                                      73%
Employee Assistance Programs                                                          93%
Long Term Care                                                                                25%
Children facilities or assistance                                                           7%
On-site fitness or fitness benefits ($33/mo)                                      45%
Paid volunteer time off (19 hours)                                                     17%

Executive Benefit                              C-Suite                       Sr. Management

Non-Qualified retirement                    13%                                         10%
Financial counseling                            37%                                         36%
Supplemental Life                                65%                                         61%
Supplemental Disability                       21%                                         20%
Source: Milliman Study

The most interesting ranking when looking at executive benefits is that 36% of employers are offering financial advice around executives overall financial package, thus helping them prepare for retirement.

Traditional Employee Benefits Trends:


Multiple medical and dental plan offerings

More employers are offering multiple medical and dental plans. This means they’re moving into a base buy up strategy where the employer is funding at a base level and then allowing employees to buy up to richer benefits.

Value Based Plans and High Performing Network

We’re also seeing value based plan designs or high performing networks. You’re going to start hearing more about this in the marketplace. There are a lot of different acronyms out there however basically they’re trying to steer employees to lower cost providers that have the highest quality outcomes. This combination is good for the employee and it’s also good for the employer as far as their total medical spend.

Voluntary programs:

More and more voluntary programs are coming online, and more employers are looking to offer them as options to expand their overall benefits offering. When we talk about the diverse workforce that is emerging, it’s hard to have one single package or one single plan that meets the needs of every employee. Consequently voluntary programs allowing people to customize these programs to fit their needs and the needs of their family are becoming more prevalent. Over 76% of Northwest employers surveyed in April 2016 by The Partners Group are currently offering voluntary benefits to their employees.

Transparency tools:

We really need to educate our employees and their family members on how to be good stewards of their healthcare dollar. As HSA plans are becoming more prevalent, and with deductibles and out of pocket maximums going up, employees and their family members need to be better consumers, with a clear understanding of the cost of procedures. The tools for this are constantly improving. They’ve also moved from just “what is the lowest cost” to “what is the best outcome” as well. There is a lot more information available now to help increase knowledge.

Clinically-driven wellness programs:

We’re seeing a move from the mostly feel good programs such as “here’s a walking program” or “here’s a water bottle”, to clinically driven programs designed to engage employees with chronic conditions. The key is making the wellness programs more clinical focused for the people who are going to be the future high risk to their healthcare plan.

Non traditional benefits trends:


Student debt programs: This concept is creating a lot of buzz. Employers are actually looking at helping new employees pay down their student debt sooner. We’re seeing a lot of this in the marketplace right now. The student debt programs are treated as a fringe benefit but there are several bills pending at a federal level to make this a tax deductible event to the employer and more importantly, tax free to the employee. We’re even seeing this on the 401(k) side where employees could pay off their student loan with a matching contribution from their employer into their 401(k) plan. Over the next couple of years student loan debt programs combined with the Millennials coming into the workforce is going to become a hotter and hotter topic.

Unlimited sick days: This benefit trends allows employees to manage their needs around unlimited sick days as long as they get the job done.

Pet Insurance: This is not for everyone, but it’s a great voluntary benefit we’re starting to see a lot of… Employees would rather pay $15-20 a month versus having a huge veterinarian bill.

Concierge services: We’re seeing all sorts of different concierge services emerge in the marketplace as a value-added benefit. They fall into a couple different buckets including the medical space. There are health advocates who can help navigate the healthcare system when someone is diagnosed with a new condition. At the other end of the spectrum are concierge services where people need laundry or dry cleaning picked up, gifts purchased, etc.

Links to continued segments of this article and videos:  Attracting and Retaining Quality Employees – Part 1, How to Effectively Communicate Your Benefits Package to Diverse Employee Demographics, and Current Trends in Retirement Plans.

If you have questions, we encourage you to include them in the form below along with your preferred method of communication. We’d be more than happy to sit down and talk with you on your benefits strategy, whether it’s traditional employee benefits, some of the new benefits that are coming out, or your retirement plan.

The Employee Benefits Division of The Partners Group serves the employee benefit needs of over 500 West Coast employers, with offices in Portland, Lake Oswego, and Bend, OR; Bellevue, WA; and Bozeman MT. Our benefits consulting team specializes in providing a highly-consultative approach coupled with problem-solving wellness analytics, to help employers reduce healthcare costs, improve employee health, and create long-term health plan stability.

We focused on employee benefits in this article, however The Partners Group works through four different divisions all coordinated together, with services also including wealth management, investment planning for individuals, commercial and individual insurance, and we have business consulting which is more for project based work.

Securities and advisory services offered through Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through TPG Financial Advisors, LLC. a Registered Investment Advisory firm.