Shift in Employee Benefit Priorities Presents Opportunities for Manufacturers to More Effectively Attract and Retain Talent in 2019*

This article appeared in the January 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Attracting and retaining talent remains a top operational priority of 53 percent of manufacturing employers. This figure sharply contrasts with the 27 percent that ranked controlling benefit costs as a top priority. While cost containment is always important, there is a clear shift in priorities as the growth of the manufacturing sector continues to spark competition for specialized, highly-skilled talent.

As they look ahead to 2019, manufacturing employers should consider three areas of opportunity that can help them more effectively attract and retain desired talent:

Taking a Holistic View of Employee Wellbeing

Forward-thinking employers are developing employee wellbeing strategies that both engage and appeal to their team. For example, 61 percent now provide a telemedicine component, allowing employees to virtually connect with clinicians. In addition to saving employees time, telemedicine has been shown to reduce expenses for both employers and employees.

Manufacturing employers are also looking for ways to reduce medical expenses by encouraging their employees to live healthy lifestyles. The most popular physical wellbeing benefits include flu shots, tobacco cessation programs, health risk assessments and biometric screenings.

Because financial stressors can negatively affect productivity, financial wellbeing proved to be another area of interest. About two-thirds of employers (66 percent) now offer employees access to financial advisors and nearly half (45 percent) provide financial- literacy education to help employees make better saving and spending decisions. The research also showed 43 percent of employers are taking steps to gauge employee retirement readiness, an increase of two percentage points from 2017.

Modifying Benefits Based on Employee Preferences

Because the tightening labor market has made it easier for top employees to leave their jobs voluntarily, more manufacturing employers are tweaking existing benefits or adding new offerings. The goal is to provide employees with more choices that will better fit their own lifestyles and needs.

Employer best practices include:

  • Multiple Medical Plans: One in five (20 percent) now offer three medical insurance plans.
  • Tuition Assistance: More than half (54 percent) provide tuition assistance. The most common tuition reimbursement amount totaled $5,250 annually per employee.
  • Life Insurance: Nearly all (92 percent) said they now offer life insurance, which is a 6 percentage- point increase from 2017.
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): 66 percent provide access to EAPs, which is a jump of 8 percentage points from 2017.
Fully Engaging Employees Around Workplace Benefits

Given that many employee rosters consist of a multigenerational workforce, it is increasingly important for manufacturers to offer benefits that appeal to each segment. More than six in ten (62 percent) identify more effective communications as the top solution that would help them better manage HR-related challenges and opportunities. Surprisingly, just 12 percent said they have a comprehensive communication strategy to guide how they collect and share benefits information with employees. This presents an opportunity to bridge the gaps between priorities, planning, and outcomes.

Premium Associate MemberGallagher is an MMA Premium Associate Member and has been a member company since July 2005. Visit online:

About the Author

AUTHORBryan Hirn is Michigan area president for Gallagher’s benefits & HR consulting division. He may be reached at 248-502-1101 or

*Gallagher’s 2018 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey asked 4,200 U.S. employers close to 300 questions across the total rewards spectrum. This article highlights key findings based on responses from 569 manufacturing organizations participating in this year’s research.