Study Finds Gap Between Benefits Workers Want and What Employers Provide
February 27, 2017

 

Companies that are flexible and forward-thinking with their overall compensation package have an opportunity to increase their employment value proposition with today’s workers in meaningful ways. That’s the takeaway from a recent study from researchers at insurance giant MetLife.

The 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study shows that as workers continue to experience financial uncertainty, employee benefits packages do make a difference in strengthening bonds between workers and their employers. The percentage of workers who plan to be with their current employers for the next 12 months has improved, from 41 percent in 2014 to 45 percent in 2015. But even as these workers are somewhat more willing to ‘put down roots’ with employers, they are also seeking more support and guidance when it comes to their benefit options.

“Employers can capitalize on this new environment by not just sponsoring benefits, but actively promoting solutions that resonate with employees,” write the study’s authors.

Background

While the economy has been in recovery for some time now, today’s workers aren’t feeling very secure. Fewer than half of those surveyed feel that they are in control of their finances. What’s more, only a minority, 46 percent, believe their financial situations will improve over the next year. That represents a decline from 2015 figures.

71 percent of workers surveyed believe their jobs are the most important component of their financial safety net – and they do appreciate meaningful employment benefits. About half of workers surveyed ‘strongly agree’ that “the benefits they receive at work help them worry less about unexpected health and financial issues.”  And critically to the ROI assessment of any investment in employee compensation,  70 percent of workers say a flexible, customizable benefit package would increase their loyalty to the companies that employ them.

Employees Appreciate Wellness Programs

Millennial generation employees respond well to wellness programs that reward positive health behaviors: About two-thirds of workers overall, and about 75 percent of Millennials and 72 percent of female employees say they are interested in physics well-being programs with such built-in rewards. But employers should use caution in developing these wellness programs, to avoid running afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Older workers and men are less likely to be appreciative of programs like this.

Employees also appreciated individualized coaching and consultation services provided as an employee benefit. Indeed, when MetLife researchers asked workers what employee benefits they found most effective, “one-on-one consultation” stood out well above other resources,” they said.

When employees were asked about the benefit resources they find most effective, one-on-consultation stood out well above other resources.

Millennials led their generational counterparts in valuing one-on-one consultations. This may seem surprising given how technology-focused this group is, but the Study finds that when it comes to choosing benefits, 60% consult with their families and friends. This further underscores how the personal touch can win over the touchpad. But despite employee preference for one-on-one, only half of employers offer it.

Portability Matters 

Workers now take for granted that they will have a number of employers throughout their working years. As such, they are increasingly interested in uncoupling benefits from employment. That is, they want benefits and plans that they can carry with them long after they leave the firm. 61 percent of workers MetLife surveyed say they are interested in taking benefits with them when they change jobs or retire. But only 44 percent of employers offer portable benefits that continue after the employee leaves service.

Young Workers Are Thinking Ahead

At least 4 in 10 workers report that retirement benefits are a critical reason to remain with their companies – a sentiment that is particularly strong among Millennials. MetLife’s researchers believe this may be related to the comparative lack of economic confidence among this cohort.

Older Workers

Most workers now plan to work into retirement – and are demanding benefits that reflect an older work force.

For example, 63% of employees say that dental is a must-have retiree benefit, while only 42% of employers offer it. Similar gaps can be found across other critical non-medical benefits such as vision and life insurance.