Benefits Trends Survey Digs Deep Into What Employees Really Want

Every year, the Metlife Study of Employee Benefit Trends cracks open a window into what employees really want from their job and employer.

The 2012 survey — MetLife’s 10th annual — is no different, and as the introduction to this year’s report notes, “Year-over-year, the Study shows what strategies are working and with what results – highlighting how employers might want to shift strategies in light of the findings and enabling them to make informed decisions.”

Yes, how employers might change their strategy is certainly important, but for me, the really critical information in this research is the the insight it gives into what your workforce is thinking, needing, and wanting. For example, this year’s MetLife Employee Benefit Trends report says that your workers are:

  • Less loyal. “Loyalty towards employers continues to decline and has now reached a seven year low. Job insecurity and expectations that benefits will be cut are no doubt contributing factors. Insights from this Study, especially around ways to make benefits more relevant and recognized, can help employers improve this situation.”
  • Still looking to leave. “Again, this year the Study reveals that approximately one in every three employees hopes to be working for a different employer in 2012. This number increases precipitously for Gen Y” (also known as Millennials).
  • Counting strongly on employee benefits. “Nearly half (49 percent) of employees surveyed say that because of the economy, they are counting on their employer to help them achieve financial security through a range of employee benefits such as dental, disability and life insurance.”
  • More interested in benefits at a younger age. “This year’s Study reveals fundamental differences between the way younger and older workers view employee benefits, financial decision-making, career planning, job satisfaction and loyalty to employers. Two-thirds (66 percent) of Gen Y employees said that economic conditions are causing them to look more seriously at achieving financial security through their employee benefits.”
  • Preferring to obtain benefits at work. “Half (50 percent) of employees agree that obtaining insurance products through the workplace is easier than elsewhere. In addition, 87 percent of those who own disability income protection insurance and 64% of those who own life insurance obtained it through the workplace.”
  • Bracing for benefits cuts that may not come. Some “33 percent of surveyed employees think the economy will cause their employers to reduce benefits. However, only 10 percent of employers say they plan to reduce benefits. Reassuring employees on this issue could increase employee satisfaction with benefits and, in turn, job satisfaction. Once again the Study confirms the strong link between the two.”
  • A long way from financial security. “About one in four employees is significantly behind in financial planning and 35 percent of Younger and Older Boomers plan to delay retirement because of the economy. In addition, there are concerns about potential gaps in Social Security and Medicare benefits – especially for younger workers. While 63 percent of employees strongly agree that they must accept greater individual responsibility for financial security, more than ever they are turning to employers for support with this challenge.”
  • Hoping for help from their employers with financial education and planning. (The Study reveals advantages to employees and employers for providing these programs and shows that Gen X and Gen Y” (Millennials) “have a stronger appetite for financial education in the workplace than might be expected given their age and life stage.”

Benefits and job satisfaction

There is a lot of great information in the Metlife Study of Employee Benefit Trends, and if you are interested in this (and really, you should be), download a copy (you can do it here) and dig in because it provides a wealth of insight into the value your workforce puts on benefits and what you might do in the future to make those benefits more effective at keeping — and motivating — your most critical and important asset.

For example, this jumped out at me from this passage in the section titled Identifying Opportunity to Engage Employees in the Benefits Discussion:

A Strong Connection Continues Between Benefits Satisfaction, Employee Loyalty and Job Satisfaction 

The role of workplace benefits in driving employer business objectives for employee attraction, retention and productivity has been a hallmark finding of this MetLife Study over the years and continues through today’s difficult economy.

Once again, the Study demonstrates that satisfaction with benefits is connected to employee job satisfaction, and also confirms that employees who are dissatisfied with their benefits are more likely to want to work elsewhere.”

“Opportunities … to attract and retain talent”

If that isn’t enough to make clear how important good benefits are to your organization, consider this from the section on Realizing the Generational Opportunity in the Post-Recession Workforce:

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As a result of current economic conditions, all generations of workers are turning more to their employers in their quest for financial security and financial protection. But this response is amplified for younger workers. There is a striking contrast between Gen Y, where two thirds (66 percent) said that economic conditions are causing them to look more seriously at achieving financial security through their employee benefits, and Older Boomers, where only 31 percent indicated that same perspective.

In other words, for younger employee generations the recession has fueled a focus on workplace benefits in an effort to achieve financial security at an earlier point in their life. And this occurrence has created opportunities for employers to attract and retain talent for the future.”

The 10th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends was conducted last September and October (2011) and consisted of two distinct studies fielded by GfK Custom Research North America. The employer survey comprised 1,519 interviews with benefits decision-makers at companies with staff sizes of at least two employees. The employee sample comprised 1,412 interviews with full-time employees age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees.

There’s a lot more to this survey — so much so that I can hardly do it justice here. It’s a treasure-trove of information you can use to get a better handle on what workers want as well as how your benefits offerings can better drive an organization’s goals.

It’s important stuff, especially with the cost of benefits (particularly health care) being such a huge issue in so many companies. You won’t be doing your job as an HR pro or talent management professional if you don’t take a little time to absorb — and learn — from this critically important workplace research.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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1 Comment on “Benefits Trends Survey Digs Deep Into What Employees Really Want

  1. Employee loyalty has nowhere to go but further down, here’s why:

    – Most employers have treated their employees badly in the recent financial turmoil – employees will not forget this.

    – Employees do not think of any position as a potential career anymore, they think of it as a job that may or may not exist tomorrow.

    – Employees feel right now that family is more important, and want to spend more time with it, which means less work and less care about work.

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