By Sara Sosnowski, American Society of Employers
According to MetLife’s 17th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study 2019, 80% of employers agree that benefits play an important role in workplace culture, and 78% say that benefits even help employees to be more productive. Benefits are also an important factor when it comes to attracting new talent, with 6 in 10 employees citing benefits as an important reason why they joined their company. But if benefits are so important, why are only 67% of employees satisfied with their own benefits?
As the line between work and life is getting more blurred, employees expect more from their employers to help support them both inside and outside of the workplace. 76% of employees agree that employers have a responsibility for the health and well-being of their employees. When asked what they need to be more successful at work and at home, better benefits was the third highest request made by employees, coming in behind salary and a positive work environment. On top of that, 3 in 10 employees reported that they would even be willing to trade a higher salary to get better benefits. Employees still consider the traditional benefits as must-haves, with the top three being health insurance, prescription drug coverage, and dental insurance, but they desire some less-traditional offerings as well. Some of the highest rated “nice to have” benefits were legal services, cancer insurance, and financial planning education and tools.
As employees are now mixing work and life, there is a need for mixing emerging benefits with the traditional ones to support them physically, emotionally, and financially. 58% of employees say that having nontraditional benefits would reduce their stress, and 60% say they would be interested in a wider range of less traditional, non-medical benefits, even if they must cover some of the costs themselves. 93% of employees want the ability to customize their benefits package, something employers aren’t understanding, as only 68% see this ability as important to their employees.
Some of the emerging benefits that interest employees most are:
- Unlimited paid time off – 72%
- Wellness programs that reward healthy behavior – 69%
- Phased retirement program – 68%
- Paid sabbatical program – 66%
- On-site free/subsidized services (e.g., meals, gym, dry cleaning) – 61%
- On-site health/medical care (including mental health) – 59%
Even if an employer does offer a benefits package that addresses most of their employee’s needs, if employees don’t fully understand what is offered, they won’t appreciate them or their potential impact on their lives. Only 37% of employees strongly believe their employers’ benefits communication is customized to address their personal situations and only 4 in 10 employees strongly believe their employer’s benefits communication is simple to understand. Employers should concentrate on communicating not only what benefits they offer, but also how those benefits are relevant in the lives of their employees.
According the study, “To meet the changing expectations of today’s workforce, employers need to ensure that they are building benefits plans that meet their employees’ wide range of needs. Equally important, employers should ensure that employees fully understand the value of their benefit options — so they can make the right decisions for their needs and companies can realize the full impact of their investments.”