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Do You Really Know What Your Employees Want?

Employees are seeking purpose ... and better benefits.
By: | April 3, 2019 • 2 min read
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In a year’s time, nearly 5 percent fewer respondents to MetLife’s 17th annual U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Survey say they’re satisfied with their benefits. The findings reveal some clues about what employees actually want compared to what employers think their workforce wants. A total of 5,175 people were interviewed for this year’s survey (2,500 benefits decision makers and 2,675 full-time employees age 21 years and older).

What’s clear from the results is that employees seek purposeful work and want benefits that address their individual needs and common stressors, which tend revolve around not having enough time or money.

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“With record low unemployment and employers competing in a war for talent, those who can understand their workforce’s pain points will be best positioned to both attract and retain experienced, highly skilled workers,” says Todd Katz, executive vice president of group benefits at MetLife.

Half of the employees surveyed said that benefits are key to thriving at work. Sixty percent said that benefits were an important reason why they joined their company. When looking at the top-five common financial stressors, it’s important to recognize that a benefits solution is well within employers’ capacity to help alleviate employee strain:

  • Being able to afford the cost of healthcare in retirement (72 percent);
  • Outliving retirement savings (68 percent);
  • Having money to pay bills is someone loses their job (67 percent);
  • Having money to cover out-of-pocket medical costs (67 percent); and
  • Ability to rely on Social Security/Medicare in retirement (66 percent).

The report authors note, however, that stress isn’t exclusively about finances.

“Whether it’s easing the stress of work itself (the No. 2 stressor), tending to personal or family health (the No. 3 stressor) or managing personal commitments (the No. 4 stressor), employers can play a substantial role in transforming the employee experience,” they write. “The right combination of benefits and experiences can help employees feel more engaged and more cared for—and build the trust that enables them to thrive.”

When it comes to satisfaction with benefits, 67 percent of employees say they’re satisfied (down 4 percent from last year) versus 73 percent of employers. The report highlights that employees believe employers are responsible for supporting their overall well-being at work and out of work. When asked what they need to navigate their work-life worlds and succeed at work today, employees said a higher salary, positive work environment and better benefits.

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So, what benefits do employees want most? The top five are:

  • Unlimited paid time off (72 percent);
  • Wellness programs that reward healthy behavior (69 percent);
  • Phased retirement program (68 percent);
  • Paid sabbatical program (66 percent); and
  • On-site free/subsidized services, such as meals, gym, dry cleaning etc. (61 percent).

“The study shows there are significant gaps between employee expectations and employers’ priorities … ,” says Katz. “Employers have an opportunity to foster engagement among these employees and make them feel valued unlike ever before. By building workplaces that address all employees’ needs, employers can build a more loyal and productive workforce.”

To learn more about what benefits will make your workforce happy, check out the Health and Benefits Leadership Conference  April 24 through April 26 in Las Vegas.

Danielle Westermann King received her bachelor’s degree in English from Temple University. She has written and edited articles for various print and online healthcare publications.

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