Controlling health care costs is important for employers, but it’s not their No.1 concern.

Retention was cited as the main objective of employee benefits by 41% of employers surveyed in MetLife’s 13th annual employee benefit trends study. In the past, cost was the primary concern, says Meredith Ryan-Reid, the head of accident and health/worksite benefits at MetLife.

For employees, the number of benefits offered at work is important — and the more, the better. Less than half of employees who do not receive benefits would recommend their employer as a great place to work, accord to the study, while two-thirds of employees who are offered 11 benefits or more would recommend their employer. Nearly four in 10 workers said a wide selection of benefits would make them more loyal to their employer.

“Throughout the study, the positive impact of the number of benefits an employer offered was clear, likely because the greater number of options provides employees with the opportunity to tailor benefits to their specific needs,” says Todd Katz, executive vice president of group, voluntary and worksite benefits at MetLife. “Offering a comprehensive suite of benefits that goes beyond standard benefits … can drive both loyalty and engagement without adding cost for the employer.”

Not only do employees want choice, they also want customization and education, Ryan-Reid says. The latter is essential, as just 45% of employees strongly agree their employer provided effective education about their benefits offerings, the survey found. Employees look to their employer to help them make the right selection and how to digest all of the information about their benefits, Ryan-Reid says.  

That’s especially true today as employees take on more responsibility with managing their own benefits, Katz says. “Communicating during open enrollment season may not be enough,” he says. “Incorporating personalized benefit messages reflecting employee life stages and events throughout the year, and offering educational tools and channels preferred by employees, can help make sure workers receive the benefits information they need to make better purchasing decisions. This is especially important as employers face a diverse, multigenerational workforce with varying needs.” 

Employees concerned about job security

Despite a 5.5% unemployment rate — the lowest in seven years — employees’ concern about job security is growing. More than half, 51%, said they are extremely concerned, a 9% increase from 2013.

A lack of savings isn’t helping that worry. Just one-third of employees have three months’ salary worth of savings, the study found, down from 46% in 2013. Half of workers with financial stress turn to their employers for help via benefits.

Comprised of three surveys — focusing on employers, employees and brokers — the annual study enables the industry to understand the similarities and differences between those three groups, Ryan-Reid says. The employer survey interviewed 2,595 benefits decision makers at companies with at least two employees; the employee survey interviewed 2,463 full-time workers ages 21 and older at companies with at least two employees; and the broker survey included 699 interviews with agents who sell to companies of all sizes.  

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