66 Percent of Small Employers Are Enhancing Their Benefits Package. Here’s How to Keep Up.

Employees are struggling. 41 percent of Millennial employees report they are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent report from MetLife. And the Generation X crowd, now sandwiched between the financial burden of child care and caring for aging parents, isn’t doing that much better: 34 percent of them also report they are living paycheck to paycheck – with a similar percentage reporting they feel overwhelmed by the burdens of financial decision making.

And more than ever, today’s workers are looking to employers to step up to provide a relevant package of pay and benefits that meets their needs. 62 percent of employees surveyed reported that they are looking to their employers for more help in gaining more security, specifically via employee benefits. About half of them agree strongly that their benefit package they receive from their employers allow them to experience less anxiety about health and financial issues.

70 percent of employees surveyed also told MetLife researchers that a flexible, customizable benefits package would increase their loyalty to their employer.

Furthermore, smaller employers are ramping up their benefits package to attract talent: Two thirds of all employers nationwide with fewer than 99 employees are planning to add non-medical benefits to their compensation mix.

‘Must-Have’ Benefits

The popularity of medical insurance is well established. And now, under the Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent workers don’t have a choice: They must offer a qualified health plan to their employees working over 30 hours per week.

However, a number of other benefits are proving extremely popular – and many employees are considering these benefits “must haves,” and moving them to the top of the list when they consider their employers’ value proposition.

Among these must-have benefits:

  • Prescription drug coverage
  • 401(k)s or other retirement plan
  • Dental insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Vision care
  • Accident insurance
  • Long term and short-term disability insurance
  • Accidental death & dismemberment insurance
  • Defined benefit pension plans
  • Critical illness insurance
  • Hospital indemnity insurance
  • Financial planning and education workshops
  • Cancer insurance
  • Legal services
  • Pet insurance

 

Workers value one-to-one communication

There has been a tremendous migration to online enrollment and benefits education in recent years. It’s been good for employers, who experience substantial cost savings and reduced strain on HR staff. And on the whole, employees appreciate the additional information available and the convenience that technology provides.

However, an overwhelming majority – 71 percent – say they appreciate and value employer’s efforts at communicating with them face-to-face – especially with non-sales staff. It doesn’t all have to be in-house: Employees also appreciate it when outside benefits professionals come into work to educate and coach them about their benefits package.

One to one communication outdid websites, mobile apps, automatic enrollment and everything else. There’s also some benefit for employers as well: Workers whose employers did engage them in face-to-face, in-person education about their benefits were much more likely to believe that their benefits package was easy to understand and actually did understand much more about their packages than workers who did not have access to in-person help.

Best Practices

The study’s authors recommended employers consider the following measures:

Have a spectrum of non-medical benefits that are relevant for employees in every age group that works for you.

Recognize the importance of supplemental benefits such as accident and critical illness insurance that provide vital “gap” coverage. If many employees are living paycheck to paycheck, this could be invaluable in the event of a crisis in their lives – for very little in premiums.

Beef up your communication and education efforts, both in person and via technology. Partner with an enrollment communication firm.

Integrate financial wellness into your employee wellness plan. Consider workshops, lunch & learns, brown-bag events and other forms of outreach.

Source: Opportunity is Knocking: How Benefits Lay the Groundwork for a Thriving Workplace. MetLife: 2016

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