Workplace the Primary Financial Supermarket for Many

April 7, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new study finds 52% of working Americans are now getting the majority of their financial and retirement products through the workplace - up from 46% a year ago.

A MetLife news release about its Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, said the research found that the workplace has become the dominant starting point for building a strong financial safety net. Growing financial concerns among employees are also creating a greater interest in advice and guidance at the workplace.

Some 44% of employee respondents indicated they would like access to general financial planning advice at work, up from 30% last year, the release said. Nearly half (49%) of all employees also said they want their employers to provide retirement advice.

“This increased employee appetite for advice at the workplace is a significant development,” said Bill Mullaney, President, MetLife Institutional Business, in the release. “It presents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. employers to optimize the real and perceived value of their benefit plans. Having a benefit program that meets the diverse needs of their employees – and communicating more frequently about benefit offerings – can result in improved employee retention, which continues to dominate employers’ minds as their top benefits objective.”

Additional study findings included:

  • Employers underestimate how important benefits are to employee loyalty; benefits are increasingly important factors in employees’ decisions to remain with their employer. Some 72% of employees said retirement benefits are an important factor in loyalty, where only 41% of employers said the same.
  • Employer focus and spending on retiree benefits is expected to increase; employees have strong interest in retirement benefits.

When asked about the importance of benefits in retention and workplace loyalty, retirement benefits and advancement opportunities tied for the third most critical factor for employees, behind salary/wages (first) and health benefits (second).

According to the news announcement, benefits are playing an increasingly important role in employees' decisions to remain with their employer. Significantly, 45% percent of employees said benefits are an important reason why they remain at their job, up from 33% a year ago. An additional one-third (33%) indicated benefits were an important factor that attracted them to their current job, up from 28% last year.

However, the study also reveals a gap between how loyal employers believe they are to employees and employees' perception of that loyalty. For example, 55% of surveyed employers said they feel a strong sense of loyalty to their workers, where only 41% of employees feel that their employers have a strong sense of loyalty to them.

This year 44% of surveyed employees, compared to 39% last year, said they are satisfied with their workplace benefits. Employees indicated a willingness to pay more to get more. Forty-four percent of employees indicated they are interested in their employer offering a wider array of voluntary benefits - up from 31% last year.

The study reveals that nearly three-quarters (73%) of employers that currently offer retiree benefits expect the dollar amount of these benefits to increase in the next five years, compared to 63% last year.

The researchwas conducted during the third quarter of 2007 and consisted of two distinct studies fielded by GfK NOP. The employee survey polled 1,380 full-time employees, age 21 and over, at companies with at least two employees. The employer survey consisted of 1,652 interviews with benefits decisionmakers at companies with a minimum of two employees.

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