employees standing holding posters with benefits
Non-monetary employee benefits are viable options for small business owners who are on a budget but still want to attract the best candidates. — Getty Images/Rawpixel

Offering an employee benefits package is a great way to differentiate your business from competitors and excite potential job candidates. In 2019, more businesses will be offering benefits like helping employees pay down debt, job flexibility and ongoing learning opportunities. Here are three employee benefits trends you should know about in 2019.

Employers will provide student loan and retirement assistance

Student loan debt is a growing problem in the United States. Over 44 million borrowers currently owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. The average college student graduates with nearly $40,000 in student loan debt.

This debt prevents many young people from hitting major life milestones, like starting a family or buying a home. So increasingly, companies like Aetna are offering student loan repayment as a benefit to attract younger workers.

For full-time employees, Aetna will match student loan payments up to $2,000 per year with a lifetime maximum of $10,000. Part-time employees can receive $1,000 per year with a lifetime maximum of $5,000.

Also, since 56% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 will postpone saving for retirement to pay off their student loan debt, companies are choosing to help employees contribute. Pharmaceutical company Abbott created the Freedom 2 Save program, where every employee who pays at least 2% of their salary toward student loan debt will receive a 5% match to their 401(k). Abbott offers the same benefit to employees who contribute 2% of their salary to their 401(k).

Currently, only 4% of employers offer some type of student loan repayment benefit, so this is a great way to set your company apart. And one survey found that 86% of respondents said they would stay with the same company for five years if they received student loan assistance.

[For more on employee benefits, see: Tailor-Made Benefits: A Key Differentiator for Employee Retention.]

As a small business owner, you might be surprised to learn than non-financial benefits can be extremely motivating to employees.

Job flexibility will be more important than ever

Offering a more flexible work arrangement, such as remote work and flexible hours, is one of the most underutilized employee benefits available. Flexible work arrangements are just as important to employees as benefits and pay — and technology makes this offering completely possible.

However, it’s important to understand that the definition of a flexible work arrangement is flexible itself. It could mean giving full-time employees the option to work remotely part time, full time, or work on a compressed schedule.

If flexible work arrangements are not be feasible for your particular business, you could consider giving your employees extra paid time off.

Employees look for learning opportunities and career growth

As a small business owner, you might be surprised to learn than non-financial benefits can be extremely motivating to employees. For instance, 72% of millennials want opportunities for career growth, but only 2% feel like their employer encourages it.

Your employees want to be good at their jobs and they want to continue to improve. And when you invest in their learning, they take it as a sign that you’re invested in their long-term success.

This is another benefit considered untapped, because many times the trainings offered are not found to be relevant and useful by employees.

According to a study from Intrepid, most employees are frustrated by the ongoing learning opportunities they participate in. Of the 1,000 employees surveyed, only 27% found their company’s ongoing learning and development programs useful.

By offering curated learning opportunities, you will benefit along with your employees — they will feel valued and motivated to continue moving forward, and you will have excited employees with ever-sharpening skill sets.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published May 20, 2019