Health benefits drive employee loyalty

MetLife study finds 10 percent of employers will cut benefits

More young employees are taking an interest in workplace benefits, but employers may not be realizing it, a study from MetLife finds.

More than half of surveyed employees (58 percent) say benefits are an important retention driver—highest among Gen Y (63 percent) and Gen X (62 percent) workers.

But while employers seem to understand how items like salary and wages, advancement opportunities and company culture influence employees’ feelings of loyalty, they continue to underestimate the power of leveraging their benefits programs, according to MetLife’s annual study of employee benefits trends, released today.

For example, while 66 percent of surveyed employees say health benefits are an important driver of their loyalty to their employer, only 57 percent of employers believed so. And the divide widens when it comes to retirement and non-medical benefits: 59 percent of employees say retirement benefits are very important for influencing their feeling of loyalty toward their employer, but only 42 percent of employers realized this, and 51 percent of employees said the same for non-medical benefits like dental, disability, and life insurance, while only 32 percent of employers thought so.

Though trends have “changed dramatically” over the last decade since MetLife began conducting its employee benefits survey, one thing that’s stayed consistent in findings is that a strong benefits package helps attract and retain talented employees, says Anthony Nugent, executive vice president at MetLife.

Employers must realize to an extent: Only about 10 percent of employers say they plan to reduce benefits.

That’s good news for those younger employees, who say they rely on employers, now more than ever, for help with establishing financial security. Nearly half (49 percent) of employees surveyed say because of the fragile economy, they’re counting on employers’ benefits programs to help with their financial protection needs—and that percentage climbs to 55 percent for Gen X workers and 66 percent for Gen Y.

Still, there seems to be a missing piece. The study shows employee loyalty continues to wane. The percentage of employees who feel a very strong sense of loyalty toward their employer is at only 42 percent—a seven-year low.

One in three people would like to work for a different employer in 2012, but that number climbs to one in two for Gen Y employees. Not too surprisingly, people who say they hope to be working elsewhere are nearly three times as likely to admit to a decrease in the quality of their work. Conversely, the percentage of employers who feel a very strong sense of loyalty towards their employees has grown to 59 percent in 2011—a seven-year high.

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