More than half of respondents identified saving for retirement as the area in which they would most like help from their employers.

American workers want improved benefits, and they expect their employer to help pay for them.

“The pandemic and its economic impact have strengthened Americans’ desire for greater financial security as well as flexibility, and many are looking to their employers for help,” said Steve Nyce, senior economist for Willis Towers Watson. “At the same time, benefit costs have become a sensitive issue. Employees are paying more for benefits, which in turn is squeezing their take-home pay, and need to find ways to lower or stabilize their costs.”

Related: Resetting employee benefits in 2021: Where to focus

Roughly half of U.S. employees want more help from their employers to save for retirement, balance work-life issues and get the most value from their employee benefits, according to research from the company’s Global Benefits Attitudes Survey of nearly 5,000 U.S. employees.

More than a third of respondents cited reducing benefit costs as their top benefits priority for 2021, followed by receiving greater benefits security from their employer (26%). Roughly two in 10 employees identified receiving more benefit choices and having more flexibility in where, when and how often they work (18%) as top priorities.

WTW benefits chart by generation

More than half of respondents identified saving for retirement as the area in which they would most like help from their employers. When asked what would best meet their needs to save for retirement:

  • More than half of surveyed employees cited a guaranteed retirement benefit.
  • Four in 10 said receiving more generous retirement benefits in exchange for other benefits and less pay would help meet their needs.
  • 41% said retiree medical benefits would help.
  • 29% said access to other savings and investment products would help meet their needs to save for retirement.

The survey found that retirement security is important to employees of all ages, although their priorities vary. Younger employees desire more flexibility, such as having access to retirement savings for emergencies or other financial needs. Older employees are mostly interested in guaranteed retirement and medical benefits.

  • Nearly half of respondents would like their employers’ help with getting the most value from their benefits.
  • Six in 10 said offering them a single website that lets them review and manage all of their benefits would help them get more value.
  • Roughly half want tools to help them better understand their choices.
  • 49% want the ability to speak with a benefit specialist when making decisions.

Although work-from-home arrangements have helped both employees and employers during the pandemic, the survey found employees want more assistance to meet their needs.

  • Nearly half of employees would like their employers to help with work-life balance issues.
  • 52% indicated that more generous paid time off, vacation and sick leave at the expense of other benefits would best meet those needs.
  • About four in 10 cited greater flexibility in how often they work and where they work.

“Many employees have concerns about the cost of benefits and are looking for assistance from their employers,” said Jill Knoke, Health and Welfare Benefits Outsourcing leader for Willis Towers Watson. “While providing meaningful choices and decision support tools are not new solutions, they’re a good place for employers to start. By reinvesting in benefit technology and communication, employers can move the needle and help employees better understand their benefit choices, manage costs and ultimately optimize the value of their benefits.”

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