2020 Comp Trends: One Size Won't Fit All, Says Cowden Associates

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If it isn’t clear yet that a “one size fits all” approach to employee benefits is a thing of the past, then it’s time to snap into the 21st century. Elliot Dinkin of Cowden Associates discusses 2020’s hottest compensation trends to keep employee satisfaction—and productivity—at an all-time high.

Cowden Associates specializes in helping corporate clients find the best solutions, both for the enterprise and for its employees, with regard to compensation, healthcare benefits, retirement and pension issues, and Taft-Hartley fund consulting.

Elliot Dinkin, CEO of Cowden Associates, discusses his predictions for 2020 comp trends.

“It’s essential to develop a strategic plan to work across benefit programs and get off the merry-go-round approach.”

The American workforce is changing. Within the next two years, studies predict that 50 percent of all employees will be Millennials [1]. The other half of the workforce is a mixture of Generation X and Baby Boomers, which means the ages of employees in America can range anywhere from 18 to 70. Successful companies must adapt to this changing landscape, and tailor their compensation and benefit strategies to meet the needs of their employees, as a multigenerational workforce, increasing health costs and the rise of the gig economy take us into 2020. Companies relying on decades-old solutions to 21st century labor and compensation challenges are more likely to experience negative effects on their ability to continue to, attract, retain, and motivate their workforce, corporate solvency and the larger economy.

“A top priority for every company should first be to examine their specific subset of employees—you can’t provide appropriate benefits without knowing who your employees are and what they want,” said Elliot Dinkin, a nationally known expert in actuarial, compensation and employee benefits issues. “It’s essential to develop a strategic plan to work across benefit programs and get off the merry-go-round approach.”

With a multigenerational workforce, this ‘merry-go-round’ approach is particularly ineffective. Different age groups have various desires when it comes to benefits. After studying and surveying employees, Dinkin suggests offering a “menu” of benefits, where employees can choose what best fits their age and lifestyle.

Walmart is an example of this personalized care. The giant retailer employs 1.4 million workers in the United States and recently retooled its employee health benefits program with five new pilot programs for select members of in Florida, Texas and Northwest Arkansas. One of the programs, “Featured Providers,” focuses on quantifying provider performance, based on big-data analytics and funneling Walmart employees to the best providers for their specific health needs that also eschew, according to the data, unnecessary testing and treatment [2].

With many industry sources predicting a 6 percent increase in employer-based healthcare costs in 2020, all employers must find a way to absorb or reduce cost without sacrificing quality of care or accessibility for their employees. Reducing unnecessary treatment and giving employees the best quality is seen as a step in the right direction.

Aside from healthcare considerations, another major factor in 2020 will be the rise of the gig economy. Flexible scheduling, autonomy, cash and professional development opportunities draw many people to gig employment options. Dinkin suggests creating alternate benefits structures to help suit independent contractors or gig employees.

“It’s crucial to make gig employees or independent contractors value your company without sacrificing the nature of their employment lifestyle,” said Dinkin. “Offering alternate benefits packages is an option to keep this segment of your company happy and productive.”

Industry insiders expect more innovation and tailoring of employee benefit and compensation programs as American industry and the American workforce evolve and adapt to create and sustain stronger companies and stronger communities.

“Now is the time to strategically reassess the role an organization plays in promoting a happy, healthy and high-performing workforce,” said Dinkin. “Engaging a total compensation approach can serve employees well while meeting corporate objectives.”

About Cowden Associates:
Cowden Associates, Inc., headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, was created in 2001 by the merger of Halliwell and Associates and MMC&P Spectrum Benefits, which was founded by Jere Cowden in 1986. Currently led by President & CEO Elliot Dinkin, Cowden Associates specializes in helping corporate clients find the best solutions, both for the enterprise and for its employees, with regard to compensation, healthcare benefits, retirement and pension issues, and Taft-Hartley fund consulting. Winning Workplaces and The Wall Street Journal have recognized Cowden Associates as a “Top Small Workplace,” a lifetime designation awarded to the executives for their ability to build and lead savvy organizations. For more information, visit http://www.cowdenassociates.com.

1. Emmons, Mark. “Key Statistics about Millennials in the Workplace.” Dynamic Signal, dynamicsignal.com/2018/10/09/key-statistics-millennials-in-the-workplace/.
2. “Employer-based health insurance costs will grow 6.5% in 2020,” Modern Healthcare, September 12, 2019.

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