UpFront | Published in September 2015

Benefits’ Perceived Value

Employees need help understanding their benefits

By Lee Barney | September 2015
Michela Buttignol
Nearly two in three workers (63%) strongly believe that employers have a responsibility to offer insurance and retirement benefits, Guardian Life Insurance Co. found in its third annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study. In stark contrast, only 16% of employers believe they are responsible for providing benefits. Nonetheless, employers acknowledge that workplace benefits can help employees and their families achieve financial security.

Guardian’s Benefits Value Index, which measures employees’ perceived value of their workplace benefits on a scale of 1 to 10, rose to 7.1, on par with 2013 and up from 6.8 in 2012. Thirty-four percent of employees are extremely satisfied with their workplace benefits package, but only 18% of employers believe their employees are extremely satisfied with their benefits.

Forty-two percent of employees get the majority of their insurance products through the workplace, and 68% rely on their benefits for at least half of their financial preparedness. However, many workers fail to take advantage of their workplace benefits due to ineffective communication or education. Employers should focus more effort on explaining these programs to their employees, Guardian says.

“Our Workplace Benefits Study reveals how benefits provide a strong financial foundation for many Americans, but many aren’t taking full advantage of what their employers offer,” says Ray Marra, senior vice president, group products, at Guardian in Hartford, Connecticut. “Providing more personalized, easy-to-access professional guidance and decision-support tools will help employees achieve financial security.”

Total compensation statements appear to help, Guardian reports. Workers who receive this information place a greater value on their benefits and consider their company’s communications effective. Eighty-seven percent feel more confident in their benefit decisions. Nearly three-quarters say that seeing data about the monetary worth of their benefits helps them understand and value them more. However, only one-third of employers equip their employees with a total compensation statement.

Likewise, Guardian notes, research by the Society for Human Resource Management has found that communicating the value of employee benefits effectively could make a real difference at the company’s bottom line.

Guardian’s findings are based on a survey, conducted in the fall of 2014, of 1,001 employee benefits decisionmakers and 1,706 employees ages 22 and older.