The Best Industries for Benefits: An Analysis of Glassdoor Benefits Reviews


May 12, 2016

When it comes to compensation, most job seekers focus on salary. But wages and salaries are only part of the picture. According to a recent Glassdoor survey, 3 in 5 people consider benefits and perks among their top considerations before applying for a job. Benefits like health insurance, paid leave and retirement plans today make up about a third of the total compensation pie—a share that has been rising in recent decades.

Official surveys tell how many Americans have access to benefits at work, but they don’t tell us the quality of those benefits. It’s a well-known fact that benefit plans are not created equal—especially across industries. The quality of health insurance, generosity of parental leave, and match levels of company 401(k) plans vary dramatically.

To help job seekers and employers better understand the differences in both the types of benefits offered and quality of those benefits, Glassdoor has built a unique global Benefits Reviews database, which has information on the benefits and perks offered at hundreds of thousands of companies around the world. In our analysis, this data set of benefits reviews submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by current and former employees allows us to explore which U.S. industries have the highest –and lowest – rated benefit packages today.

Which industries offer the highest-rated benefits? Here’s what we found.

Key Findings:

  • Overall: Among the industries we examined, the highest-rated overall benefits are in finance (3.72), information technology or IT (3.68), and manufacturing (3.64). These sectors include many of today’s tech and finance jobs, as well as high-skilled blue-collar manufacturing jobs. The lowest-rated overall benefits were found in food services (2.73) and retail (3.11).
  • Maternity & Paternity Leave: The industries with the highest-rated maternity and paternity leave benefits were finance (3.77), IT (3.71) and education (3.60)—which includes many large American universities. The lowest-rated parental leave policies were found in health care (3.36), retail (3.41), and business services (3.42)—an industry that includes many consulting and professional services jobs.
  • 401(k) Retirement: America’s highest-rated 401(k) retirement benefits were found in the finance (3.83), education (3.77), and manufacturing (3.76) industries. The lowest-rated retirement plans were found in food services (3.28), business services (3.31), and retail (3.34).
  • Free Food: When it comes to free lunch and snacks, three industries have by far the best-rated benefits: IT (4.06), business services (3.94), and manufacturing (3.90). The lowest-rated free lunch and snacks benefits were found in education (3.22), retail (3.34), and finance (3.76).

What We Did

For this analysis, we took a sample of more than 470,000 Glassdoor benefits reviews left anonymously by online employees between June 18, 2014 and September 20, 2015.[1] Ratings are on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 representing high employee satisfaction with the benefits, and 1 being low satisfaction. In other words, we looked beyond whether benefits are simply offered within industries to how employees rate the quality of benefits within industries.

To compare benefits by industry, we picked eight industries with the most active job openings on Glassdoor today. We looked at overall benefits ratings left by employees, as well as three popular benefits for which we had sufficient data: maternity and paternity leave, 401(k) plans and free lunch and snacks.

Rather than looking only at average benefits ratings by industry, we illustrate the full distribution of benefit ratings—the complete picture of ratings from 1 to 5 stars by industry. Focusing only on average ratings can hide diversity in the quality of benefits within an industry. We show the full distributions to give a more well-rounded view of the quality of benefits by industry.

Best Overall Benefits by Industry

Figure 1 below shows the big picture of which industries have the best overall benefits ratings from 1 to 5 stars by industry. Here’s how to read the figure. Each line is a separate industry. The height of each line shows the frequency of reviews from 1 to 5 stars for overall benefits in that industry. A higher line means there is more “agreement” or similarity of benefits ratings within that industry, while a flatter line means more diversity among employers. If the line is skewed to the left, that indicates poorly rated benefits. A line skewed to the right means employees in that industry are generally happy with their benefits.[2]

In terms of overall benefits, the finance industry (in dark blue) has the best average rating at 3.72 out of 5 stars. They are followed closely by IT (in pink) at 3.68 stars, and manufacturing (in yellow) at 3.64 stars. In Table 1, we show the industries ranked from highest to lowest in terms of average overall benefits ratings.

These industries contain many of today’s most sought-after tech and finance jobs, which have blazed a path toward escalating benefit packages in recent years. However, it also includes more traditional manufacturing employers, in which a larger number of workers are union-represented and work in highly skilled blue-collar professions.

We found two industries with significantly below-average overall benefits: restaurant, bars & food services (in gray) at 2.73 stars, and retail (in black) at 3.11 stars. Although it is well-known that retail and food service jobs are less likely to offer benefits, Glassdoor benefits reviews show that even among those retail and restaurant jobs that do offer benefits, employees view them as being lower quality than in other industries.

Figure 1.

Fig1_BenefitsByIndustry

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research).

GD_Table1_BenefitsRatings_600pxWide

Another way of looking at these data is to examine the peaks or “modal” point of each distribution in Figure 1. A peak represents a point of “agreement.” When benefits reviews are clustered together into a peak, it shows employers in that industry offer similar quality of benefits. The education, manufacturing, and finance industries have the highest peaks in the above figure. All are centered near 4-stars, indicating most employees are “satisfied” with benefits. By contrast, the business services industry (in red) is more spread out, indicating more diversity in benefit quality across employers.

Are Industries Really Different?

Conventional wisdom is that industries differ by the quality of benefits they offer. Using Glassdoor data, we’re able to test that theory. To be sure that the distributions of overall benefits ratings above don’t just look different but they really are different, we applied a simple statistical test. Known as a Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, it allows us to see whether the median, variability and shape of these distributions by industry really differ from each other.[3] In other words, is it true that the quality of benefits really differs by industry?

Among all possible combinations of pair-wise industry comparisons, every one was statistically different from each other except two: the comparison of business services and health care (in red and light blue); and information technology and finance (in dark blue and pink). In every combination, the benefits ratings in each pair of industries we compared to each other showed a statistically significant difference. In other words, the conventional wisdom that the quality of benefits differs greatly among U.S. industries is indeed true.

Next we took a closer look at three of today’s most popular benefits among employees: maternity and paternity leave, retirement benefits, and free food and snacks. First let’s look at paternity and maternity leave.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Most U.S. workers have access to some form of parental leave, but for most workers that leave is unpaid. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 87 percent of private sector employees have access to unpaid family leave, while only 12 percent have access to paid leave.[4] This shows that quality matters for benefits like parental leave, not just access.

Figure 2 shows the distribution of maternity and paternity leave benefit rankings from Glassdoor by industry. One industry stands out as having the best average parental leave benefits: finance (in blue) at 3.77 out of 5 stars. It is followed by IT (in pink) at 3.71 stars, and education (in green)—which includes many American universities—at 3.60 stars.

The industries with the lowest average maternity and paternity leave benefits ratings were health care (in light blue) at 3.36 stars, retail (in black) at 3.41 stars, and business services (in red) at 3.42 stars. Table 2 shows the average maternity and paternity leave benefit rankings by industry from highest to lowest. 

Figure 2.

Fig2_MaternityPaternityLeave

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research).

GD_Table2_BenefitsRatings_600pxWide

Looking at the peak or “modal” points for different industries, we see a dramatic peak at 3-stars or “average” for parental leave in seven of the eight industries we examined. The most pronounced of these peaks occurs in the retail industry, where the overwhelming majority of Glassdoor reviews agree that maternity and paternity leave plans are “average” as judged by employees. By contrast, finance shows a significant peak at 4 stars, indicating most employees are “satisfied” with parental leave benefits.

Retirement Benefits

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, two thirds of private sector workers have access to retirement benefits at work.[5] One of the most common benefits today is an employer subsidized 401(k) retirement plan, which offers a tax-free way to save for retirement.

Figure 3 shows the distribution of 401(k) benefit rating from Glassdoor by industry. Most industries are similar to each other. That suggests employee satisfaction with 401(k) plans isn’t as diverse across industries as the other benefits we examined. This makes sense, as 401(k) plans are typically more standardized across employers than parental leave or free food and snack policies.

Figure 3.

Fig3_401kRetirement

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research).

GD_Table3_BenefitsRatings_600pxWide

Three industries stand out as having America’s highest-rated retirement benefits: finance (in blue) at 3.83 stars, education (in green) at 3.77 stars, and manufacturing (in yellow) at 3.76 stars. These industries stand out as having statistically significantly better 401(k) benefits ratings than the rest of the pack. This comes as little surprise: Education and manufacturing are highly unionized industries with famously high-quality retirement benefit packages and the finance industry has significant expertise on 401(k) plan provisions. Table 3 shows the average rating of 401(k) retirement benefits by industry from highest to lowest.

By contrast, none of the other industries had 401(k) benefits ratings that were statistically different from each other. Most industries feature a “modal” peak between 3 to 4 stars, indicating average to above-average employee satisfaction with retirement benefits.

Free Food and Snacks

Finally, we examined free food and snacks benefits. This perk has become notoriously synonymous with the tech workplaces in recent years. However, this employee perk has long been common among lower-skilled restaurant and food services jobs as well. Although the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t track access to free food benefits, many anecdotes suggest they’re becoming more common in non-tech workplaces in finance and consulting as well.

Figure 4 shows the distribution of free food and snack benefit rankings from Glassdoor by industry. Overall, the popular perception is indeed true: the IT industry (in pink) has by far the highest average rated free food and snacks benefits at 4.06 stars. They are followed by business services (in red) at 3.94 stars, and manufacturing (in yellow) at 3.90 stars.

The below figure is an example of why it’s important to look at the overall distribution of ratings, not just the average. For example, the finance industry has a relatively low average food and snack benefit rating of 3.76 stars, ranked sixth among the eight industries. However, the figure shows that many employees in finance are actually highly satisfied with food and snack benefits, as the distribution (in dark blue) is dramatically shifted to the right.

Two industries stood out as having the lowest average food and snack benefits ratings: education (in green) at 3.22 stars, and retail (in black) at 3.34 stars—both industries not typically known for offering free meals as an employee perk. Table 4 shows the average free food and snacks benefit rating by industry from highest to lowest.

Figure 4.

Fig4_FreeFood

Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (Glassdoor.com/research).

GD_Table4_BenefitsRatings_600pxWide

As expected, Glassdoor reviews reveal an interesting pattern for free food and snacks benefits in the restaurants & food services industry (in light grey). This industry has a wide band of positive employee ratings of between 3 and 5 stars, with an average rating of 3.8 stars. Although restaurant jobs offer relatively low-rated benefits overall, free food and snacks are a bright spot, with employees rating them better than the snacks offered in higher-paying fields like finance, health care, and education.

Conclusion

Benefits are an important and growing part of total compensation for American workers. Unlike salaries, benefit packages are highly diverse. Access to benefits matters, but so does the quality of those benefits. This study presents the first-ever analysis of unique data from Glassdoor benefits reviews—providing a useful roadmap of which U.S. industries today are leading the pack in terms of best employee benefits.

[1] The Glassdoor benefits survey launched on June 18, 2014. The sample data for this analysis was pulled from Glassdoor’s database on September 20, 2015.

[2] This figure shows ratings for 1,272 U.S. employers in these 8 industries. Only employers with at least N = 20 benefits reviews were included.

[3] See for example: http://www.aip.de/groups/soe/local/numres/bookcpdf/c14-3.pdf.

[4] U.S. Census Bureau’s “National Compensation Survey” available at http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2015/ownership/private/table32a.htm.

[5] U.S. Census Bureau’s “National Compensation Survey” available at http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2015/ownership/private/table02a.htm.