Employers hoping to attract and retain employees need not look further than their vision benefit offerings. New research shows vision benefits have high engagement with employees, but some experts say employers need to work closer with advisers to build the benefit plan workers are seeking.

According to the 2016 annual Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Transitions Optical, eight in 10 people chose to enroll in employer-sponsored vision plans. It’s the only benefit to experience a year-over-year increase, the survey found, adding that some benefits such as life, dental and 401(k) plans saw a slight decrease in enrollment compared with 2015.

As more millennials enter the workforce, ancillary benefits such as vision may be considered a more immediate need than retirement plans or some medical benefits, Jonathan Ormsby, strategic account manager with Transitions Optical suggests.

“A competitive benefits package is a significant consideration and draw for workers,” he he says. “Nearly a third of survey respondents said they have, or know somebody, who has accepted a job in the last year because it offered a competitive benefits package – and one in five note that vision is the most appealing element of the package.”

The survey also found employees are increasingly making demands of their employers in terms of what options the vision plans cover. Forty-one percent say it is very important and 46% say it is somewhat important to have premium materials covered, including impact resistant polycarbonate lenses, photochromic lenses, anti-reflective treatment and others.

A desire for broader choice is also affecting the vision market, according to Srikanth Lakshminarayanan, senior director for the Center of Excellence at HGS Healthcare, which provides business process management and end-to-end services for healthcare payers and provider organizations.

“What we now hear from the customer is that they want a choice of options to be much broader,” he says. “They don’t want to be tied up to a particular vision care company” in order to obtain group discounts.

Education

“I think education is the top priority and one strategy we recommend for that is better collaboration between advisers and employers,” notes Ormsby.

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"I think education is the top priority and one strategy we recommend for that is better collaboration between advisers and employers."

For example, he says, “Advisers need to better educate employers on the materials especially the frames and lenses side of the benefits.”

Eighty-seven percent of employees say having premium material coverage is important when selecting their vision plan but more than a quarter are uninformed about the lenses covered by their vision plan, Ormsby says.

“So plenty of room for education,” he says.

Education should be a year-round initiative, he adds, something advisers should think about when working with employers. The survey found 29% of respondents felt a vision plan’s website was the most valuable resource in helping understand benefits, while 26% felt the benefits provider was valuable.

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