Employers, Workers Believe Benefit Packages Not up to Snuff

March 7, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A survey of U.S. employers and employees found that neither believes current employer benefit programs are living up to their potential.

A Towers Perrin news release said its survey found that only 25% of the executives agreed their benefit package was very effective in controlling costs, while fewer than half said their programs are very effective at helping them attract and keep key employees (42% and 46%, respectively).

At the same time, most of the workers said their benefit programs were not very effective at meeting their needs for affordable health care and building their retirement nest eggs, the announcement said.

“Ultimately it may be time to revisit certain assumptions about benefit design and delivery, because this survey shows that current approaches are not working as well as they should for employers or employees,” said Dave Guilmette, Managing Director for Towers Perrin’s Health and Welfare practice, in the news release. “Program changes are not yielding desired savings. They are not serving to attract and keep top talent as effectively as they could. And they are not being communicated to employees in a way that helps them take on a more active role in the process.”

According to the press release, employees feel their employer’s pain when it comes to benefits. Almost two-thirds (64%) of the employee respondents recognize that rising benefit costs are a serious business issue and require new approaches to help restore competitiveness and profitability.

Also most employees agreed they have some or significant responsibility to create their own benefit safety net. This was particularly true in the retirement area where 91% agreed that saving for retirement was partly or completely their responsibility. It was less evident in health care, where only 48% felt they had, or should have, some responsibility for finding and purchasing affordable health benefits.

The workers also felt that their companies were not always rolling out the changes in their programs with adequate support, communication and tools. As a result, they are far less confident than employers that the new programs will give them adequate protection from risk, either today or over the longer term.

Over half (57%) of the employees anticipate no more changes to their retirement savings plans over the next two years, while just under half (48%) thought there would be no more changes on the pension side. Yet, the data from employers were quite different, with a significant majority anticipating further changes in both health care (90%) and retirement plans (over 60%).

Towers Perrin’s survey was conducted online among 140 HR and benefit managers from companies across a range of industries, and 2,380 employees selected at random, representing a statistically valid sample of the full-time workforce in large U.S. organizations.