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The biggest employee benefit trends in 2021

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Towards the end of 2020, we surveyed 1,140 job seekers and people working across Ireland about workplace trends and what benefits really matter to them.

Interestingly, just over 13% of respondents stated that new benefits were introduced during 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic, however, a number of Dublin based employees reporting new travel-related initiatives including paid taxi services to work.

Compared to the beginning of 2020 and 2019 in our findings, the key differences are the increased demand for upskilling and career progression alongside the desire to continue remote working into the future.

Company culture also remains a key concern for employees, as does the desire for fulfilling work that delivers real, tangible financial benefits such as pensions and health insurance.

Benefits employees want in 2021


​Upskilling and the opportunity to learn new things

Over 80% of our survey respondents wanted to upskill, with over 60% of those people interested in upskilling in the current area they work in and around 20% looking to develop their skills and learn new things outside their current profession.

Learning and development specialists are also in high demand, with the number of Training Supervisors job posts on LinkedIn almost tripling in November 2020 alone which shows employers are taking note and looking to upskill their employees in-house.

There’s also been a boom in the e-learning industry. According to e-learning industry statistics, the MOOC market (including e-learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera) is currently worth $5.16 billion and is projected to grow at an annual rate of 32.09% until 2025.

Internal or external, all signs point towards the necessity to offer upskilling programs or incentives to keep employees engaged and to meet employers needs for new skills.

Meaningful life benefits

Practical, meaningful benefits are top of people’s minds for 2021 with health insurance and pension plans (13 + 12%) both ranking highly in terms of benefit preferences.

Salary is, of course, important too with over 40% expecting a salary increase in 2021. On the other hand, volunteering time off, wellness benefits and stock options were three of the least picked options.

Despite this, it is predicted that the need for benefits that look after employees mental health will be important as we progress through 2021 and into the future. For example, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and resources to help avoid burnout and stress.

Bonuses and sick pay were also mentioned as important by survey respondents, further highlighting the desire for practical, real benefits.

Culture and kindness

Good leadership is always important, but it was truly vital in 2020 as employees dealt with increased stress and anxiety, work-life balance challenges while working from home and covid-19 uncertainty.

Just 7% of our respondents cited poor team dynamic or company culture as a challenge, which is promising, however over 19% stated unfulfilling work as the main challenge. Google searches for ‘tips for managing anxiety’ also increased by over 1000% in the past 12 months.

As we navigate through 2021 help ease your employee's stress by letting your teams know you’re there for them, that you care and that you appreciate their work and circumstances. Figure out what matters to them and try to incorporate this into their role. A little kindness could go a long way and impact retention rates.

According to Psychology Today kind managers "have been shown to increase morale, decrease absenteeism and retain employees longer. Kind bosses may even prolong the lives of their employees by decreasing their stress levels which improves cardiovascular health."

Paid annual leave and work-life balance

The shift toward flexible work and a good work-life balance has been on the radar for many years, with flexible work ranking high in our 2020 and 2019 In-Demand Benefits articles.

The past year has shown that working from home can work, and for the most part, it looks like employees want it to stay that way with just under 7% of people wishing to return to the traditional office work environment.

Other related benefits that ranked highly in our survey include paid annual leave (19%), flexible working options (16%) and paid maternity/paid paternity leave (6%). All suggesting employees want more time to spend with family, friends and have a stronger work-life balance.

Overall, flexible working and benefits that improve employee’s quality of life inside and outside of work are key for 2021. Survey your own employees, figure out what’s meaningful to them and go from there. Simply asking what matters is a good first step and will show your people you care and are eager to help.

If you’re interested in learning more about workplace trends for 2021 or salary information you can download the Cpl 2021 Salary Guide. You can also find lots more articles on the Cpl blog.