Copyright : Vitaliy Vodolazskyy

As Canadian employers seek to attract and retain top talent, the majority (66 per cent) are focusing on making salaries more competitive, according to a new survey by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

However, the survey’s respondents are aware salary isn’t everything. One-third (34 per cent) of employers said they’re upgrading their well-being initiatives to attract talent and 26 per cent said they’re improving leave policies.

The survey of 506 Canadian organizations found the majority said they expect both revenue and headcount to increase by 2021. As they prepare for those changes, 55 per cent said their most common challenge is controlling benefits costs, while around the same amount (54 per cent) cited attracting and retaining a strong employee base.

Read: In workplace wellness programs, is it better to use the carrot or the stick?

Employers are taking “incremental” steps to improve non-core benefits, the survey found. Almost six in 10 (59 per cent) employers said they now offer short-term disability plans, while 64 per cent said they have an education subsidy.

While fewer (53 per cent compared to 62 per cent) employers said they offer personal days compared to 2018, the number of vacation weeks offered to new hires has increased. Almost half (47 per cent) of organizations said they give employees three weeks of vacation in their first year, up eight per cent from last year. And nearly one-third (28 per cent) of employers said they offer flex days, which Gallagher said demonstrates employers are becoming “more attuned to the multiple demands on employees in their daily lives.”

Read: What are the ingredients of a successful wellness program?

The survey also noted “gradual but steady” increases in the offering of well-being benefits that support employees’ financial, career, emotional and physical well-being. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of employers said they currently offer some employee well-being resources but don’t have a supporting strategy. However, among employers without a well-being strategy, 39 per cent said they plan to implement one by 2021.

The top three reasons for investing in well-being initiatives were strengthening employee engagement (59 per cent), fostering a desirable culture (50 per cent) and improving employees’ experience (45 per cent).

Read: How KMPG Canada flexed its benefits program with a plan redesign

Some of the more common employee well-being initiatives offered by employers include:

  • Encouraging flu vaccinations (47 per cent);
  • Gym subsidies (43 per cent) and physical activity programs (42 per cent);
  • Employee and family assistance programs (88 per cent); and
  • Sessions with a financial advisor (64 per cent) and financial literacy education on money management (42 per cent).

Employers expressed concerns about growing benefits costs, with specialty drugs (50 per cent), non-specialty drugs (49 per cent) and medical services (38 per cent) ranking as top cost-management challenges. Despite this, nearly all (96 per cent) employers said they offer extended health-care coverage for prescription drugs, paramedical services, out-of-county emergency assistance and other related services. The majority (67 per cent) said they pay all the premium costs for extended care coverage, while 96 per cent said they provide coinsurance of 80 per cent or higher.

Read: Healthier workplaces combine financial wellness with traditional well-being offerings

However, despite these benefits plan improvements, the survey found 29 per cent of respondents said they have no benefits communications plan. Just 37 per cent of employers said they’re communicating effectively with their employees, and only 10 per cent said they have a comprehensive communications strategy. Only 14 per cent of employers said they communicate about their benefits plan more than once a year.

The survey also found 43 per cent of respondents said they measure the success of their communications efforts based on employee questions or feedback received by their human resources departments, while 35 per cent said they look to employee satisfaction or engagement surveys. Some 38 per cent said they currently don’t measure success in any way.

Melanie Jeannotte, national president of Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc., said employers need to create strong communications programs to effectively educate employees and about their total rewards and to ensure they’re meeting their wants and needs.

“But to take it to the next level, employers need to work with their employees to ensure comprehension and transparency of their total rewards and to adapt these programs as the market demands.”

Read: How to communicate health benefits to a diverse workforce

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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