What’s Hot and What’s Not: What the Data Says About 10 HR Practices

Just like in any profession, there are plenty of fads, “hot topics”, and trends that come and go in the world of human resources. But which of these workplace practices are really here to stay and which are just a flash in the pan? Here at ERC we are taking a dive into the data from our most comprehensive survey of the year, the recently published 2017/2018 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, to find out!

1. Incentive based wellness programs:

Fifty-one percent of Northeast Ohio participants have a wellness program in place and the vast majority (81%) use premium reduction as an incentive to encourage participation. These numbers are both not only higher than the 2015/2016 ERC report, but also continue to far outstrip the national trends from the larger Policies & Benefits survey both now and in year’s past.

2. Domestic partner benefits:

This question had one of the largest, and perhaps also most surprising, jumps in the entire survey, up from 22% to 40% since the 2015/2016 survey report. Despite the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage across the country and several high profile employers announcing dropping these coverages immediately thereafter, locally, employers appear to have increased this offering.

Although, the same sex partners that may have previously fallen under the domestic partner benefits can now legally get married and no longer require a separate category, there still appears to be a demand for extending benefits to non-married partners regardless of sexual orientation.

3. Workplace flexibility:

More than just a buzz-word, workplace flexibility continues to be in demand and on the rise. Specifically in the area of telecommuting, the percent of organizations offering this option doubled from 13% in 2015/2016, up to 26% in this year’s report. Another alternative work schedule option reflecting real staying power reflected in this year’s survey data is flextime.

4. Online access:

This area is a bit of a mixed bag. Locally more employers have blocking mechanisms for restricted websites in place (81%), but not necessarily for the sites you might imagine. The survey shows that since the 2015/2016 report slightly more employers are allowing access to social media sites (up 2% to 49%) and an even larger segment of employers (73%) allow personal use of the internet and email during work hours. With that said, employers are also monitoring internet use more often (up a solid 13% over the previous report to 66%).

5. Paid time off for volunteering during work hours:

Twenty-seven percent of employers allow/encourage volunteering during work hours and of those organizations 75% pay employees for this time. However, the structure of these volunteer activities can take several forms and this can change exactly how employees are compensated for this time. For example, some organizations simply allow employees to take a PTO day to pursue their own volunteer efforts, while other organizations “sponsor” (a.k.a. require) volunteer projects as a group.

6. Tuition reimbursement:

Tuition reimbursement remains well over the 50% mark, so at first glance this may seem like “hot” benefit. But these same employers report that only 1-4% of eligible employees take advantage of this reimbursement option - not so “hot” anymore. However, with so much talk around the “skills gap” and an increased focus on the importance of educating employees to close this gap, look for changes to the structure of these programs (e.g. upfront payment vs. reimbursement) to move the needle and improve uptake among employees.

7. Organization sponsored activities:

Sixty-five percent is not a small section of the sample, so it seems fairly safe to say that employer sponsored events such as holiday parties, picnics, etc. are here to stay. That being said, the fact that the percentage has not increased in several years may also mean that this once “hot” topic is no longer the differentiator that it used to be. While that certainly does not make these events less important, it does suggest that organizations looking to stand out from the crowd in the area of organizational culture, may need to think beyond their next summer picnic.

8. Employer provided electronic devices:

Technology has, without question, become an ubiquitous part of our everyday lives, both professional and private. But according to the 2017/2018 survey, this doesn’t mean that employers are going to hand out cell phones and tablets to their entire workforce. Instead, as electronic devices have become standard for personal use, we are seeing largely stagnant numbers (cell phones at 68% and tablets at 31%). Among those that do provide cell phones, 72% pay the entire bill.

9. Relaxed dress codes:

Although the dress codes within specific industries may vary, overall there has not been much movement in this area over the past several years. In short, four days of “business casual” and one day of “casual” dress has largely become the norm.

10. Floating paid holiday:

Well over two-thirds of organizations do not include a “floating” paid holiday in their paid holiday plan. The small percentage that do, only provide one day. Although the concept of a floating paid holiday has never been a hugely popular perk, with the rise of paid-time-off (PTO) banks, employees no longer need a specific “excuse” or “reason” to take the day off, making a “floating” holiday less exciting.

For more information about the latest in workplace policies & benefits on topics including, health and welfare benefits, retirement benefits, paid time off, working conditions, part-time employee benefits, recruiting, training and development, and employee/community relations, check out the 2017/2018 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey today!