Financial protections for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic caused a standstill in employment across all industries. While unintended, the effects of these public policies strained employers’ ability to hire and retain the best talent. As those financial protections come to an end, employers must be ready to provide differentiation in the marketplace to recruit the best talent. While compensation, benefits and culture all combine to help attract the most talented employees, an emphasis on certain new and existing benefits is required to win the hiring game for exceptional talent.

According to a recent employee survey, financial security tops their list of concerns. Financial benefits can take many forms, including everything from salary to employer-matched 401(k) plans. To win the recruiting game, the savviest employers should emphasize the following three perks that allow businesses of all sizes to highlight a distinctive sparkle of financial security to employees during a challenging hiring era.

1. Offer opportunities for continued learning

Employees today will have many different roles and employers over their entire career. Continual learning and skill development is very attractive to an employee. It can be obtained through new responsibilities and projects, but also by obtaining new degrees and certifications.

Be sure to highlight and promote reimbursement for continued skill set development. A college degree is not the only distinction regarding your company’s support of skill set development in this new hiring market. Besides tuition reimbursement for higher education, skill offerings can include industry-recognized certifications. This may include certifications for project management from the Project Management Institute, Human Resources Professional through Society for Human Resources Managers, Certified Public Accountant and information technology’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional.

2. Promote and enforce a concrete remote work policy

The pandemic served as an awakening to many business leaders, demonstrating that their businesses can operate ― and operate successfully ― with a remote workforce. Employee surveys have shown that one-third of employees want to continue working remotely, and would look for a new employer if asked to return to the office.

To that end, finalize and promote your balanced remote/on-site work policy if acceptable to your business operations. Actively promote that work-at-home is welcomed, saving your employees money on ancillary expenses like professional attire, vehicle maintenance, parking, transit fares and lunches. Also, highlight the value of avoided travel time so they won’t be stuck in a car, bus, train or subway. People often do not put a price on their time so be sure to promote this as a value-add to your benefits.

3. Limit employees’ out-of-pocket medical expenses

The rising cost of healthcare has caused insurance premiums to skyrocket. Employers, nearly all of whom offer medical and dental benefits, have been forced to cost-share with employees. Payroll deductions and increased out-of-pocket responsibilities such as higher co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance, have increased the cost of health insurance to employees.

The shouldering of these out-of-pocket costs has been so heavy, many employees feel they are functionally uninsured and often skip or delay medical care for themselves or their family members. The value of their health insurance becomes lackluster, limited to only catastrophic events. Be sure to provide a health benefit that provides financial protection for out-of-pocket costs, so your employees seek medical care when needed and alleviate the worry of medical bankruptcy. Complementary programs are available to assist.

In challenging times, thinking differently about employee benefits allows employers to create value to attract and retain talent. Hiring is rampant, with position vacancies at unprecedented levels. Make financial security the focus of your employee benefits to make your company sparkle in a hot market.