No. 1 Benefits Objective: Employee Retention

April 4, 2017 — The gig economy combined with demographic shifts are disrupting the workplace and redefining employees' workplace expectations. As more employees report interest in flexible work arrangements, employers are keeping a close eye on employee retention.

51% of employees said they are interested in contract or freelance work for more flexible hours, according to MetLife's 15th annual "U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study." These same employees want the ability to work from home and have access to project variety, as opposed to full-time salaried jobs that may not offer such perks.

Freelance work appeals to Millennials most, with nearly two-thirds (64%) of the generation interested, followed by Gen X (52%) and Boomers (41%). Employers agreed that the gig economy is affecting the workplace, as 59% said the increase of temporary jobs will affect the workplace in the next three to five years.

When asked to rank their top benefits priorities, more employers (83%) chose retaining employees as an important benefits objective, followed by increasing employee productivity (80%) and controlling health and welfare benefits costs (79%). More than half of employers (51%) said that retaining employees through benefits would become even more important in the next three to five years.

"Not only is the gig economy disrupting the traditional workplace, but the workforce itself is transforming. There are four generations working side by side. Employees' definitions of family are changing, and certain demographics, like single women, are on the rise. Employees have very distinct wants and needs and expect their employers to meet them," said Todd Katz, executive vice president, group benefits, at MetLife. "To attract and retain top talent in this new era, especially during a time of decreasing unemployment rates, employers have an opportunity to adapt their workplaces to address the unique needs of their employees. This is especially critical when it comes to benefits."

To meet the workforce's varying needs, providing the ability for employees to customize their benefits is key. 74% of employees said that having benefits customized to meet their needs is important when considering taking a new job, and 72% said that having the ability to customize their benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer.

This ability to customize ranked as more important than the ability to work from home or remotely, with 76% of Millennials reporting that benefits customization is important for increasing their loyalty. 67% of Boomers said the same thing.

"Today, our lives reflect our preferences," Katz said. "In all aspects of our lives, we can make choices to meet our unique needs. The same should apply when it comes to benefits."

Katz went on to say that choice is particularly important for driving engagement among Millennials. "Customization for them is inherent, and they want to know that their employers understand and are willing to address their specific needs," he said.

In addition, helping employees with their holistic wellness needs also ranked as very important. 59% of employees said that health and wellness benefits are important for increasing loyalty, and 53% said the same about financial planning programs. But employers aren't addressing this need.

33% of employers said they are very likely to offer wellness benefits, and 18% currently offer financial planning programs. About one-third (36%) of employers said they believed wellness benefits and financial planning programs to be valuable to their employees.

"In the past, there was a clear delineation between work and life. That line is now blurred with work and life overlapping more than ever before. As this happens, employees are looking to their employers to help them with their overall wellness needs, whether it's through gym memberships to stay healthy or financial education programs to plan for their futures," Katz said. "As employees have more nontraditional workplace options available to them, it will become increasingly important that employers prioritize holistic wellness to drive employee engagement and loyalty in this new era."

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