Benefits Buoy Job Satisfaction

December 31, 2002 ( - Employees who are satisfied with their benefits program are approximately three times more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and feel loyalty toward their employer than are their peers.

However, according to the latest release of MetLife’s Employee Benefits Trend Study, that satisfaction does not necessarily correlate with employer loyalty.   While 73% of employers surveyed said employers are loyal to their employees, only 41% of employees surveyed agree. Younger employees (age 21-30) are more likely to believe that their employers are loyal than are employees overall by a 49% to 41% margin.

Employer Objectives

Employers surveyed identified the objectives they most hope to accomplish through their benefit programs:  

  • 43% – employee retention
  • 43% – benefit cost reduction
  • 36%- increasing employee productivity
  • 35% – increasing employee job satisfaction

To meet these objectives, the study finds that work/life balance continues to be the benefits strategy that employers surveyed rate as their most important (39%). Another key strategy is “providing retirement planning services” (28%).

Additionally, 80% of employers surveyed said they either offer or plan to add at least one executive benefit to address the savings and protection needs of highly compensated executives.   The most popular benefits options included:

  • 46% – life insurance is the most popular executive benefit
  • 19% – individual disability insurance
  • 18% – long-term care insurance
  • 14% – non-qualified deferred compensation

Product Set

MetLife’s study found benefit programs important to employee satisfaction and the most common benefits being offered are the traditional benefits, including:

  • 86% – Medical
  • 77% – Dental
  • 69% – 401(k)/403(b)
  • 66% – Basic Term Life Insurance

A previous releaseof survey data also showed a  growing trend  toward more nontraditional benefits,   typically purchased outside of the workplace, are making significant strides as voluntary benefits.

A significant number of companies surveyed now offer, or are planning to add, nontraditional products in the next 18 months, including, optional term life insurance (40%), long term care insurance (37%), critical illness insurance (21%) and stocks/bonds (21%), mutual funds (14%), group legal services (14%), 529 Plans (14%) and annuities (11%).

Younger employees tend to purchase more products through the workplace than other age groups. For example, this group is more likely to buy voluntary financial and legal products such as annuities (56% versus 43%), college savings plans (19% versus 14%) and wills (13% versus 7%) through the workplace than other age groups.

Future “Tense?”

The move toward more nontraditional insurance product offerings may be a result of employee concerns about outliving their retirement savings. Two-thirds (67%) of employees surveyed state they are concerned about their family’s financial security in the event of premature death. In the past year, only 10% of employees surveyed evaluated their life insurance needs, while fewer than 5% purchased additional or first-time coverage. Among “prime needs” consumers, primary wage providers with dependants, half report life insurance coverage less than three times their annual income, 34% of which admit it wasn’t enough.

However, employees may lack an understanding of benefits being offered. In fact, 51% of employees surveyed agree that their employer should provide them with more information to help them make decisions about their benefits.

The need for education is apparent when comparing employees’ concerns about protection issues with their level of coverage. For example, while 75% of employees surveyed overall claim to be concerned about their financial security in the event of a disability, only 48% feel their disability coverage is inadequate or are unsure if they have enough.

According to the survey, maternity leave is commonly covered under group disability plans, yet 72% of full-time female employees age 21-39 do not think, or are not sure, that maternity leave is covered.

Retirement and savings is also an area employees expressed concern about.   A  previous release of data  showed 79% of employees surveyed are concerned about outliving their retirement assets, yet only 24% feel they are on track toward their retirement savings goals.

Cyber “Cast”

These products are also increasingly being offered through the Internet as the popularity of Web-based benefits programs has grown significantly over the past year.   While 30% of employers surveyed delivered benefits via the Web in 2001, the percentage has grown to 44% in 2002.

Many employers report using the Web for:

  • 37% – retirement planning
  • 34% – financial planning
  • 32% – eligibility verification
  • 20% – claims submission

Employers with 5,000 or more employees who offer Web sites, 71% now use the Web for benefits enrollment, up from 47% in 2001.

Service Stations

Among employees, the Internet is the channel of choice for benefits enrollment, with 57% of younger employees, and 45% of employees overall, expressing a preference for e-enrollment. Other preferred channels include paper forms (43%), individual meetings (26%) and group meetings (11%).

The Internet also scores high points for benefits service. Among younger employees, 43% rate the Web as the preferred channel for benefits service. However, overall it ranks second among employees (34%), falling behind the 43% that prefer “face-to-face meetings with HR.”

The MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study was conducted during the third quarter of 2002.   The survey polled 605 HR/Benefits executives and 1,038 active full-time employees from companies with at least 50 employees.