In The Worksite

For The Benefits Equation, A Refocused Strategy

How ‘attract and retain’ might work in a post-pandemic market

by Kara Hoogensen

Ms. Hoogensen is Senior Vice president for Specialty Benefits at Principal Financial Group® in Des Moines, Iowa. Check out the Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM.

What employees are looking for in their benefits has shifted as a result of the pandemic. As schools closed, work schedules were altered and dynamics changed, priorities like caregiving and mental health became an increasingly important and necessary part of many employees’ lives. As a result, re-evaluating and implementing the right set of employee benefits to retain current employees and attract new workers is key to future growth.

Not only has the pandemic taken its toll on labor supply, but workers have become increasingly empowered to make new decisions about where and how they work. According to a recent survey,[1] 95 percent of workers say they are thinking of quitting their current jobs. And in a recent report from the National Federation for Independent Businesses,[2] 93 percent of business owners trying to hire reported finding few or no qualified applicants. The right benefits package can go a long way when it comes to effectively competing in the war for talent.

Finding Balance

With businesses searching for talent, and workers searching for new jobs, there’s a need to find common ground between what one group is offering and what the other group is looking for. The good news is both employers and employees are aligned on the need for enhanced employee benefits, in particular mental health and well-being:

  • The latest research from Principal Financial Group® [3] found nearly half (47%) of business owners saw an increase in questions about mental health and well-being resources available to employees, with another 45 percent reporting an increase in the use of these offerings.
  • 74 percent of business owners agreed mental health and well-being resources are important.
  • Roughly two thirds of business owners named expanded telehealth options and mental health support as the top two benefit choices likely to increase over the next 12 months.
  • 40 percent of employers recognized that an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is useful for their employees. A third said the same about well-being mobile apps.

In short, more employers are acknowledging the hardships their employees have faced over the past 18 months. Around 50 percent of employers agreed stress and uncertainty around COVID-19 impacted their employees’ productivity and that employees were concerned about loss of income or losing their job.[4]

As the pandemic wanes, employees are likely to have greater expectations of employers for the foreseeable future.

As The Benefits Landscape Shifts, Employers Need Trusted Experts

Listening to employees’ needs and understanding employee benefit trends is important to ensuring that common ground between employees and employers can be found. And for small-to-medium sized business owners, regular consulting with a financial professional can be very valuable.

With businesses searching for talent, and workers searching for new jobs, there’s a need to find common ground between what one group is offering and what the other group is looking for...

According to Principal research,[5] employers who use a financial professional are more than twice as likely to not only listen to their employees’ needs, but also take action on that feedback—47 percent of employers who work with a financial professional report employee feedback as the biggest influence on their benefit decisions, versus only 22 percent of employers who don’t work with a financial professional.

But more importantly, owners who work with a financial professional are more likely than those who don’t to be confident across a number of different areas, including reaching their goals, growing their business, and understanding how their business is valued. They’re also more likely to admit that a strong employee benefits package helps with retention and finding skilled new talent.

Think About The Future

As we emerge further from the pandemic and resulting economic crisis, employers and employees are transitioning into a more sustained recovery. This means taking stock of what has changed and what hasn’t during a period most have never experienced before. More than ever, businesses are likely to benefits as a part of their growth strategy leverage. And the same can be said for employees’ as they make the best use of their talents and earn a living by committing to employers who prioritize the well-being of their workforce.

With this increasing focus on well-being, certain employee benefits will evolve to become table stakes as opposed to differentiators. Especially in the early days of our recovery, companies that distinguish themselves by offering benefits that support mental health and well-being may be in a better position to support, retain and attract talent in the post-pandemic environment. Business owners who listen to their employees’ needs and respond accordingly – with the guidance of a trusted financial professional – may be best equipped to adapt their benefit offerings and position their business for future growth.




The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal® is not rendering legal, accounting, investment or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel, financial professionals, and other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment or accounting obligations and requirements. ©2021 Principal Financial Services, Inc. Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Co. Plan administrative services offered by Principal Life. Principal Funds, Inc. is distributed by Principal Funds Distributor, Inc. Securities offered through Principal Securities, Inc., 888-774-6267 member SIPC and/or independent broker/-dealers. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.​ 1729138-072021
[1] Monster Job Index., June 2021.
[2] Nearly Half of Small Businesses Unable to Fill Job Openings. National Federation for Independent Businesses, June 2021.
[3] Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM. First wave of business insights for 2021. Principal Financial Group, April 2021.
[4] Ibid
[5] Principal Business Owner Insights: See what your peers prioritize. Principal Financial Group, March 2021.