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January 18, 2022

New Research: The Great Resignation is Helping Benefits Teams Focus on What’s Most Important to Employees

Artemis Health

Artemis Health and Arizent/Employee Benefit News teamed up to conduct original research in the fall of 2021. We gathered responses from over 300 top benefits leaders to find out about their goals, challenges, and attitudes. Over the next several weeks, we’ll highlight some of the key findings from the research study on the Artemis blog. This is our first installment. 

Employers big and small are all facing what the news media has dubbed “The Great Resignation.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics September 2021 report (when our survey was being fielded), resignations were at an all-time high of approximately 4.4 million, with 10.4 million jobs waiting to be filled. Experts don’t all agree about what is driving this trend, though some theories include: 

In fact, Harvard Business Review data analysis did show that the sectors with the highest quit rates are healthcare and technology, two industries that either implemented early remote work policies or necessitated high pressure, in-person work due to COVID-19. Perhaps those who were dissatisfied with their jobs in 2020 or early 2021 are more comfortable moving to new jobs now that the pandemic is waning. And perhaps those who worked wave after wave of COVID-19 surges just can’t do it anymore.  

A heartbreaking piece in The Atlantic highlighted the problem in the healthcare sector in particular. Those on the COVID-19 front lines went from receiving applause, free pizza, and public accolades in the early pandemic to burnout, skepticism about their work, and even violence from patients in the last few months. As an ICU nurse in Idaho told the Atlantic, “Once, Americans clapped for health-care heroes; now “we’re at war with a virus and its hosts are at war with us.” 

The conversation around mental health is also an important factor, both for healthcare workers and in every other sector. According to a survey of more than 1,700 employees, HR leaders, and company leaders, 1 in 3 employees have said they are considering quitting “for the sake of [my] mental health.” That is a scary stat for benefits leaders who feel responsible not only for employee retention, but also for productivity, employee well-being, and mental health care. 

While benefits leaders grapple with what to do, our research study reveals that they are still primarily focused on providing better healthcare and well-being for employees. 

A graphic showing the changing measures of success for benefits leaders from 2019 to 2021

We saw an especially big jump in “reducing turnover” and “attracting talent” as top goals for respondents in the healthcare and tech industries, which matches up with Harvard Business Review’s findings. 

When asked about their personal goals (as opposed to organizational goals), benefits leaders responded similarly, naming “helping my employees get better healthcare” as their #1 priority. However, we did see an increase in “improving workplace culture,” which received just 9% of the vote last year but 17% this year. 

A bar graph showing the rise in importance of workplace culture.

It’s a common idea in the benefits industry that the right mix of programs and coverage can be a tool to reduce turnover and attract top talent. We asked Jason Parrott, formerly of Boeing and currently Senior Vice President of Enterprise Growth and Partnerships at Vida Health, to weigh in on how benefits programs could address the Great Resignation.

“My philosophical view as a benefits strategist at Boeing was to offer market leading benefits every year to serve as a hook to help “attract and retain” top talent. Strong benefits can help retain talent granted they are highly valued by the workforce and meet their overall needs in the immediate, short, and long term.”
-Jason Parrott, SVP of Enterprise Growth and Partnerships at Vida Health 

How are benefits leaders making decisions and meeting their goals when they have so many competing priorities? We asked them, “When you make major decisions about your organization’s benefits program, which of the following do you rely on most?” Here’s what they told us. 

A bar chart showing the top sources of information for benefits decision making.

Employee feedback reigns supreme as the #1 source relied upon to make benefits plan decisions. It is followed by: 

  • Internal benefits reporting and/or analysis (ranked 2nd)
  • Benefits analytics / data warehouse technology (ranked 3rd)

It’s worth noting that these results do vary by company size. Employee feedback is most important to employers with 500 to 2,000 employees or those with over 10,000 employees. However, companies with 5,000 to 9,999 employees ranked internal benefits reporting and/or analysis as their top source for decision-making. 

Employee opinions are a crucial part of crafting a successful, attractive benefits package. Paired with objective data sources, their feedback can provide a look at what’s popular and most likely to lead to engagement. However, employee feedback is just a jumping off point. Employers must access and successfully mine their benefits and healthcare data to find out what’s working, what’s delivering better outcomes, and which programs are offering a return on investment. 

Stay tuned for further findings from our research study in future blog posts.

To read the full research paper, visit our executive summary page. 

Want to take control of your employee benefits data? Watch a 2-minute demo video to see how Artemis can help. 

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