Employee benefits are the new salary

In lieu of higher salaries, employers are offering plusher benefits packages to attract and retain talent, a new survey suggests.

In a report on more than 450 employers surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management, 35 percent cited bigger benefits packages, compared to 28 percent the year before. A small chunk of those asked—7 percent—noted a reduction, but that's down from 9 percent the year earlier. The survey also noted the rise of such new benefits as company-provided fitness trackers, egg-freezing, group fitness, and student loan repayment programs.

The more attractive vacation and wellness offerings come at the expense of salary increases, as wages remain stagnant. The survey suggested that employees are promoting that trend. "Research has shown that many job seekers frequently place greater importance on health care coverage, flexible work schedules and other benefits rather than on their base salaries," the report said. Indeed, research, including an oft-cited Ernst and Young survey has shown that workers, especially the coveted millennial segment, prize flexibility.

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