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Employee benefits have been a recruiting and retention mainstay for decades. Companies compete for the best talent through a variety of strategies, one of them being offering generous benefit packages to their workers. And now that benefits have been established, they are not going away. Competing requires adjusting benefits packages to keep them attractive.

All indications suggest that benefits are undergoing transformational change. What used to be considered a standard benefit package 20 years ago is not necessarily so today. Employers are having to find new and creative ways to make their benefits attractive. In light of that, we believe there are four trends to watch over the next 12 to 16 months.

1. More Innovative Healthcare Plans

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that health insurance premiums have grown by 54% over the last 11 years. Moreover, employees have shouldered 71% of the burden. Things have come to a breaking point at which both employers and employees can no longer afford rising premiums.

This suggests that employers will start looking for more innovative healthcare plans that allow them to cut their costs and eliminate high deductibles for employees. That might mean contracting directly with service providers or reducing health provider networks. It might mean providing on-site primary care. Whatever the case, new healthcare plans appear to be on the horizon.

2. Personalized Benefits Packages

Another trend pointed out by SHRM is the growing popularity of personalized benefits packages. In other words, a company might offer a package that starts with basic health insurance and paid time off benefits for all workers. After that, workers can add extra benefits from a menu of sorts.

One employee might choose health and wellness benefits while another chooses childcare benefits. Personalizing benefit programs allows employees to access what they truly need rather than being stuck with a one-size-fits-all package.

3. Student Loan Reduction Benefits

One of the hottest benefits right now is the student loan reduction benefit. This is a benefit that helps new employees pay down their student loans faster through payroll withholding. Some employers are also making matching contributions, similar to the contributions made to 401(k) plans. As this benefit continues to evolve, it will take numerous forms.

4. Flexible Paid Time Off

With a number of states now actively entertaining family leave laws, proactive companies are looking at ways to provide flexible paid time off to accommodate family leave. Whether or not this translates to less vacation time remains to be seen. At any rate, flexible paid time off may morph into offering general paid time off that allows employees to use their time in any way they see fit.

Along those same lines, there is an emerging trend in which employers are looking for ways they can help employees who double as caregivers for others. Care assistance plans that go hand-in-hand with flexible paid time off give caregivers greater opportunities and more resources for taking care of elderly parents, dependent adult children, and so forth.

5. The Focus on Mental Health

Finally, we have noticed a greater emphasis on mental health in the workplace over last few months. Numerous reports have shown that U.S. employees are suffering from stress and mental illness at higher rates than in the past. Where employers can contribute by reducing workplace stress, they are looking to do so. They are also looking at ways they can help through mental health benefits.

Benefits packages continue to evolve over time. There is no reason to believe such evolution will cease. If anything, 2020 could prove to be a very transformational year for employee benefits.