With the appeal of the gig economy posing a real threat to employers, a new study by MetLife finds that effective and customizable benefits programs remain essential to employee retention. This perk is especially important to Millennials, which currently make up the largest segment of the American workforce.
According to the study, more than three-fourths (76%) of Millennials say benefits customization is important for increasing their loyalty to their employers, compared with two-thirds (67%) of Boomers.
“Today, our lives reflect our preferences,” says Todd Katz, executive vice president, Group Benefits, at MetLife. “We choose how our coffee is made, create personalized playlists and decide which apps we have on our phones. In all aspects of our lives, we can make choices to meet our unique needs. The same should apply when it comes to benefits. This is particularly important for driving engagement and loyalty among Millennials, who comprise the largest generation in the workplace today. Customization for them is inherent, and they want to know that their employers understand and are willing to address their specific needs.”
Moreover, 59% of employees say that health and wellness benefits are important for increasing loyalty to their employer and 53% say the same about financial planning programs. However, the study concluded that few employers are offering these perks. According to the survey, only 33% of employers reported they are very likely to offer wellness benefits and just 18% currently offer financial planning programs. At the same time, more and more employees are finding the perks of the gig economy or freelance and contract work appealing.
Fifty-one percent of employees say they are interested in contract or freelance work for more flexible hours, the ability to work from home and project variety, as opposed to a full-time salaried job, which may not offer these perks. The allure of freelance work is strongest among Millennials with nearly two-thirds (64%) of the generation interested, followed by Generation X (52%) and Boomers (41%). In the midst of rising prospects in the freelance space, employers agree that the gig economy is affecting the workplace. More than half (59%) say the increase of temporary jobs will impact the workplace in the next three to five years.
“In the past, there was a clear delineation between work and life,” says Katz. “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. As employees have more non-traditional 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.”
This provides employers with an opportunity to enhance their benefits packages to achieve their goals of maximum retention, especially among Millennials.
“Not only is the gig economy disrupting the traditional workplace, but the workforce itself is transforming,” explains Katz. “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. 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.”
According to the survey, 74% of employees say that having benefits customized to meet their needs is important when considering taking a new job and 72% say that having the ability to customize their benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer.