Younger workers more receptive to voluntary benefits: Survey

Strong benefits satisfaction boosts sense of loyalty to employer
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 08/22/2012

Many younger employees have seen the recession and its aftermath weaken their personal finances and impact their work life, and they would like to see their employers offer more assistance, according to a survey by MetLife in the United States.

One-half of gen-Y and gen-X workers said current economic conditions were making them look more toward employee benefits to achieve financial security. Help for employees might become more readily available, too, if more employers capitalize on the opportunity to leverage voluntary benefits — where employees pay some or all of the cost — to improve employee loyalty and retention, said MetLife.

More than four out of five smaller employers in MetLife’s 10th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends strongly agreed that an extremely important objective of employee benefits is retaining workers.

Younger employees who were very satisfied with their benefits were much more likely to feel a very strong sense of loyalty to their employers — 72 per cent compared with 46 per cent of younger workers overall, found the survey of about 1,500 small employers and 1,500 employees.

"It’s hard to overestimate the importance of responding to the needs of younger workers on whose shoulders the future of a small business can depend," said Anthony Nugent, executive vice-president of group, voluntary and work site sales at MetLife. "Our study underscores that generational differences about benefits needs and preferences are not just reflections of age. Younger workers, particularly those in many smaller organizations that were hit very hard by the recession… have a different benefits perspective than older generations.”

Gen-Y and gen-X employees, who comprised 56 per cent of the workforce in the survey, also recognize that their goal of more financial security can entail a cost, and as a group they are willing to do their part.

Two-thirds of gen-Y and gen-X employees would be willing to pay more of the cost of benefits rather than lose them. Significantly, 54 per cent of younger workers would be interested in having a wider array of benefits options, even if it means paying all of the cost for those voluntary benefits, such as life, dental, vision, disability, critical illness, or homeowner/auto insurance coverage, found the survey.

In contrast to smaller companies, voluntary benefits occupy a much larger portion of the benefits menus of larger organizations. The percentage of companies with 500-plus employees identifying voluntary benefits as a key element in their benefits strategy jumped to 57 per cent from 43 per cent one year earlier, while smaller firms saw an increase to 31 per cent from 26 per cent.

"There is no economic need for smaller businesses to leave popular voluntary benefits to the realm of larger companies, especially given the interest and willingness by many gen-X and gen-Y employees to contribute to, or to fully pay for, benefits," said Nugent. "With the newer enrolment systems and accompanying explanatory tools, it is now much easier to enrol employees with multiple benefits."

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