If employers want to retain and attract talent, they’ve got to start thinking about one big benefit trend: Customization.

“It’s not about just medical, dental and vision anymore,” Todd Katz, executive vice president, MetLife said Monday following the release of MetLife’s 15th annual U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Study.

Nearly three-fourths (74%) of employees say that having benefits customized to meet their needs is important when considering taking a new job, and 72% say that having the ability to customize their benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer.

Workers say benefits customization is even more important than the ability to work remotely. In fact, more than three-fourths (76%) of millennials say benefits customization is important for increasing their loyalty to their employers, compared to two-thirds (67%) of baby boomers.

“Today, our lives reflect our preferences,” Katz says. “We choose how our coffee is made, create personalized playlists and decide which apps we have on our phones. In all aspects of our lives, we can make choices to meet our unique needs. The same should apply when it comes to benefits.”

That’s particularly important for driving engagement and loyalty among millennials, he said, who comprise the largest generation in the workplace today. “Customization for them is inherent, and they want to know that their employers understand and are willing to address their specific needs.”

Not only is benefits customization important for employee satisfaction and retention, but so is helping employees with their holistic wellness — both health and financial — needs.

Nearly two-thirds of employees say that health and wellness benefits are important for increasing loyalty to their employer and 53% say the same about financial planning programs.

Every day, employees come to work with financial concerns, and in larger businesses, employees acknowledge that they sacrifice their health and are less productive. Close to a third of workers (30%) say they lay awake at night worrying about money, and 23% admit to being less productive at work because of financial stress.

“Looking across the work force, when you understand what’s on the minds of employees it’d be wonderful if the set of benefits is matched to address what is a drag on the minds of workers and their worries back at home,” Ida Rademacher, executive director, financial security program at The Aspen Institute, noted at MetLife’s symposium in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

She notes there are four elements to helping workers achieve financial well-being:

Financial security in the present: Employees having control over day-to-day and month-to-month finances
Financial security in the future: The ability to absorb a financial shock
Freedom of choice in the present: Financial freedoms to make choices and enjoy life
Freedom of choice in the future: The ability to be on track to meet financial goals

Despite the need for wellness education, many employers are falling short in their offerings.

Only a third of employers (33%) say they are very likely to offer wellness benefits and just 18% currently offer financial planning programs. At the same time, only 36% of employers say wellness benefits and financial planning programs are valuable to their employees, according to the study.

“Employees are looking to their employers to help them with their overall wellness needs, whether it’s through gym memberships to stay healthy or financial education programs to plan for their futures,” says MetLife’s Katz. “As employees have more non-traditional workplace options available to them, it will become increasingly important that employers prioritize holistic wellness to drive employee engagement and loyalty in this new era.”

This may be why retention is the top priority among employers. When asked to rank their top benefits priorities, more employers (83%) chose retaining employees as an important benefits objective than increasing employee productivity (80%) and controlling health and welfare benefit costs (79%). More so, over half of employers (51%) say that retaining employees through benefits will become even more important in the next three to five years.

“Benefits historically were used for attraction and retention, but there now much more strategically important than they have ever been,” added Randy Stram, senior vice president, group, voluntary & worksite benefits at MetLife. “A diverse employee base, uncertainty regulatory environment and the changing digital landscape are adding to the increase complexity of managing benefits for employers.”

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