Employees Not Focused on Long-Term Benefits

November 27, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) Employees worldwide tend to prefer benefits that offer immediate gratification more than those that potentially deliver long-term value.

According to a Mercer survey, an extra week of paid time off was among the top-three employee choices in seven of the 10 markets surveyed, and employees selected a salary increase over all benefit offerings listed in the survey (except in Canada where paid time off edged out a salary increase.)   

Despite the preference for short-term benefits, in most markets, the percentage of respondents who feel very or fairly concerned about retirement ranged between two-thirds and three-quarters.  

“Employees valuing more time off and increased pay in the current stress-filled economic environment may be understandable, but there are other benefits that have the potential to create more income protection through health benefits and income replacement through retirement and savings vehicles. This challenge puts even more pressure on employers to deeply understand and communicate the value of various benefits to their employees so they can make smart choices,” said Dave Rahill, president of Mercer’s Health & Benefits business.

Among U.S. respondents, a $500 salary increase was ranked as the most preferred benefit (22%), followed by an additional week of paid time off (18%) and a $500 increase in 401(k) plan company match (14%). Eight percent selected a $500 pension accrual, and 2% chose financial planning.  

Mercer found older workers in the U.S. were particularly interested in salary increases and defined benefit pension payments, while more senior, educated and highly paid employees were less interested in the salary increase and more interested in 401(k) match increases.  

The Mercer Making Smart Benefit Choices survey of workers in 10 key markets (U.S., UK, Ireland, Canada, Brazil, Spain, France, Italy, China and Hong Kong) was conducted during July and August 2012. The global summary and country-specific reports can be downloaded from www.mercer.com/benefit-choice-research.