Are You Listening? Are You Listening? What Small Business Employees Want From Their Benefits, And How Employers Can Show They ve Heard

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1 Are You Listening? Are You Listening? What Small Business Employees Want From Their Benefits, And How Employers Can Show They ve Heard 1

2 ? HAVE YOU HEARD what small business* employees are saying ABOUT BENEFITS Help! I m financially stressed and more concerned at an earlier age. Employees in small businesses (2 499 employees) who are very concerned about: $ Having enough money to make ends meet $ Paying off debt Younger Workers Boomers 59% 51% 56% 47% + Having enough money to pay bills during a period of sudden loss of income Having enough money to cover health insurance (e.g., premiums and/or out-of-pocket expenses) 58% 54% 51% 68% Times are tough. I m counting on benefits more than ever. Small businesses (2 499 employees) As a result of current economic conditions, I am counting on more help from my employer in achieving current financial security through employee benefits Younger Workers Boomers When it comes to benefits, I m interested in choices. 50% 37% I m less loyal than you think. Small businesses (2 499 employees) Employees who feel a very strong sense of loyalty to their employer Employers who believe that employees have a very strong sense of loyalty to the company 54% % I see voluntary, non-medical and retirement benefits as bigger loyalty drivers than you do. Voluntary benefit products Life Insurance Dental Coverage 11% 29% 20% 28% 41% 38% A choice of voluntary benefits Salary/wages 20 % 38 % 71 % 70 % Non-medical insurance benefits (dental, disability, life insurance) 27 % 44 % Benefits that drive loyalty in companies with employees $ + Health benefits 54 % 59 % Critical Illness Insurance 29% 10% Vision Benefit 26% 9% Company culture 51 % 49 % Employers Employees Advancement opportunities 40 % 50 % Retirement benefits 35 % 52 % 29% 38% Disability Income Replacement Coverage 8% 40% 31% 38% Home Owners/Rental & Auto Insurance 2% 44% And, I m willing to pay. 66 % 53 % Employees in smaller companies who say... Based on the past 12 months, I am willing to bear more of the cost of my benefits rather than lose benefits. Companies with employees that offer voluntary products Younger Workers Boomers Younger Workers interested in the product even if they have to pay 100% of the cost Boomers interested in the product even if they have to pay 100% of the cost * Small business is defined as employers with employees in accordance with the Government Small Business Administration definition. For more insights and ideas, visit metlife.com/sbtrends for MetLife s latest white paper Are You Listening? What Small Business Employees Want from their Benefits and How Employers Can Show They ve Heard. Plus, download our Checklist for an Employee-Centric Benefits Program METLIFE, INC. L (exp0913)(All States) Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York, NY 10166

3 Checklist for an Employee-Centric Benefits Program 1Listen n Set up regular communication channels and forums to ensure you elicit and hear employee interests, concerns and attitudes toward the company and benefits. n Focus on understanding the different points of view of your older and younger workers. 2Process n Determine what is working (keep), what is not working well enough (drop or modify) and what is missing (consider voluntary options). 3Implement n Build out the benefits strategy with voluntary products and services.» Review the current program from an employee point of view and identify where employee-paid products will fill the gaps.» Identify employee needs and interests and match product options to them.» Work with a benefits broker, consultant or carrier to find viable products and the best administrative support and service for your situation and workforce.» Develop a compelling internal marketing campaign to employees with help from your broker to ensure maximum participation. If you explain it they will sign up! n Create a holistic health strategy that includes supplementary health benefits.» Explore a wide range of products including vision insurance, critical illness insurance, prescription drug programs, dental insurance, accident insurance and EAPs. n Establish a financial wellness initiative.» Make financial education options available to help employees feel in control of their economic affairs.» Provide online tools and calculators so employees can more conveniently determine the coverages they need.» Offer supplemental and voluntary disability and life insurance so employees can obtain adequate coverage levels conveniently through the workplace.» Keep tabs on government tax reform that may make it more viable to offer a 401(k) or IRA savings program. 4Communicate n Communicate the value and scope of the program.» Repeat the message several times a year not just at open enrollment. It s never a once and done activity.» There s no need for costly campaign materials. Clear and concise s can spark interest and inquiry.» Be open to opportunities for satisfied employees to endorse the program and tell colleagues about their positive experience. 5Assess n Work with your benefits adviser and carriers to analyze participation and usage data. n Listen some more. (See point #1!)

4 Are You Listening? Hearing the Ocean in a Seashell That s what kids think when they hold a large seashell up to their ears and hear the roar of the waves no matter how far away they are from the ocean. But, of course, the wave-like noise is not coming from the sea. The sounds they are hearing are from their surrounding environment. The shell acts as a resonating chamber, picking up ambient noise and producing a sound frequency spectrum like that of ocean waves. Small business employers don t need a seashell in order to listen to their workplace environment. But they need to ensure they are on the same frequency as their employees and understand the implications and opportunities inherent in the feedback. Table of Contents Introduction Section 1: Feeling less valued and more expendable Section 2: Counting on benefits more than ever Section 3: Looking for greater benefits choice and flexibility Section 4: Worrying about health care affordability Conclusion A window of opportunity for benefits engagement About the Survey Methodology

5 Introduction Companies today spend significant resources, time and focus on understanding the wants and needs of their customers. In fact, customer satisfaction is now seen as a leading indicator for measuring business success. Equally important for business success is employee satisfaction. Customer satisfaction depends on providing responsive customer service, and that requires satisfied and loyal employees. Indeed, the wants and needs of employees deserve as much attention as those of external customers. Yet in this era of austerity, many small businesses those with fewer than 500 employees * have concentrated on simple survival and staying ahead of the cost curve and, as a result, many have reduced their investment in employee satisfaction. During the darkest days of the recession, when employees may have been glad just to have a job, this was acceptable. However, after many months in which associates have worked harder, faced layoffs and accepted stagnant compensation, how do employees feel about their company and their benefits? Are employers living up to employee expectations? There is mounting evidence that small business owners insights into their employees attitudes may be inaccurate on a number of counts. These misperceptions could have important implications for the business as the economy shows signs of growth. In the first quarter of 2012, the S&P 500 had its best first quarter since Moreover, small businesses are in the forefront of this recovery. The June 2012 ADP Payroll report shows that small business payrolls have reverted to 96.9% of their pre-recession levels, whereas larger companies are only at 92.4%. 2 Motivated, committed and productive employees will be a key component for leveraging these encouraging trends, and this will require a heightened awareness of talent needs and a renewed focus on employee hiring and retention on the part of small business owners. In addition, a keen appreciation of employees wants and needs will be advantageous as small businesses make key health care decisions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court s upholding of most of the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. * This paper defines a small business as one with employees in accordance with the Government Small Business Administration definition 1

6 Are You Listening? Distinguishing generational voices i It is important that employers tune into the attitudes and outlooks of both older and younger workers in the workplace as benefits that accurately reflect employee needs will be more effective and return greater value. Younger workers now outnumber Boomers in small businesses (FIG 1). Gen Y, in particular, represents the employee pipeline for the future. Yet default employee benefits practices are often reflective of the Boomer era. Generational preferences are not just about life-stage; younger workers have a profoundly different benefits perspective that has been shaped by their experiences in the recession. The perspective is so different; I can t imagine that any generation would see things the same way. Gen X 3 Fig 1 Based on responses to the 10th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends, younger workers in companies outnumber Boomers. Their opinions should carry weight Small businesses (2 499 employees) Gen Y Gen X 15 % 41 % Younger Workers 56 % Younger Boomers Older Boomers 25 % 16 % Older Workers 41 % Only about a third (32%) of small business owners strongly agree that they strive to understand and meet different generational benefits needs. 4 Typically, employee communications are more easily facilitated in smaller companies, providing an opportunity to better understand and act upon generational concerns to ensure that benefits are meaningful for all employees. Based on findings from the 10th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends, this paper explores the current mindset of older and younger small business employees in four key benefit areas. It reveals why employers would do well to listen carefully to these issues and proposes low-cost remedies that employers can adopt to show they have heard. 2

7 Section 1 Key Findings Feeling less valued and more expendable Throughout the economic downturn, small business employees have tolerated the tough measures required to keep the business running, and they have worked harder for less reward as evidenced by the fact that 31% of small business employers report that productivity increased in the past 12 months. However, productivity gains have come at a cost for morale. More than one-half (58%) of small business employees report that in the past 12 months they have experienced at least one of the following situations: increased stress, decreased job security, heavier workloads and a decline in the quality of their work. The result is that employee loyalty has been on a downward trend for several years and is today lower than many employers realize (FIG 2). I feel like I m just a number. You know easily replaceable. Gen X Fig 2 A misperception of employee loyalty small business employers overestimate employee company loyalty a trend that has been evident since 2008 Small businesses (2 499 employees) Employers who believe that employees have a very strong sense of loyalty to the company Employees who feel a very strong sense of loyalty to their employer 49 % 57 % % % % 50 % 44 % 44 % Frustrated employees could put business at risk Misperceptions about employee loyalty may be preventing small business employers from recognizing a potential costly business risk, i.e. turnover. Over a third of their workforce (36%) say that they hope to be working elsewhere in 2012 a percentage that rises to 42% for younger workers. Furthermore, an additional 14% of workers report they are ambivalent about whether they stay or leave. While these employees may ultimately remain with their company, their apparent de-motivation is a concern for productivity. I m not as loyal as I used to be. Younger Boomer 3

8 Are You Listening? Cost-effective opportunities to improve retention MetLife research reinforces the power of employee benefits to influence job satisfaction and loyalty. Small business employees who are satisfied with their benefits are more likely to report greater job satisfaction and loyalty. In addition, positive associations with benefits satisfaction are even stronger among younger workers (FIG 3). The following steps may help realize opportunities to use benefits to cost-effectively improve retention. FIG 3 Younger workers at smaller companies are especially likely to show the positive effects of benefits satisfaction on loyalty and retention 71 % 46 % 47 % 70 % 39 % 72 % 61 % 56 % 50% 46 % 42 % 32 % I am very satisfied with the job that I have now I believe that my employer has a very strong sense of loyalty to me I feel a very strong sense of loyalty to my employer All Younger Workers All Boomers Younger Workers who are very satisfied with benefits Boomers who are very satisfied with benefits Get the job done economically Small business owners certainly recognize the important role for benefits in retaining employees 84% report that it is an extremely important benefits objective for them, comparable with their other top objective of controlling benefit costs (85%). Moreover, employers are not sidestepping their commitment to benefits. More than three in four (77%) small business employers believe they have a responsibility to pay at least part of the cost. Current economic conditions, however, have put pressure on small business benefits budgets, to the point that 65% report that their ability to pay for benefits has been hindered. 4

9 Feeling less valued and more expendable Given this financial squeeze, it is more important than ever to channel investment dollars toward those benefits that deliver the greatest impact for least cost, yet research shows this may not always happen. Many employers underestimate the power of non-medical benefits to drive employee loyalty almost as much as health coverages but at a fraction of the cost (FIG 4). In particular, comparatively lower-cost life, dental and disability insurances can be smart choices both for the budget and for supporting business retention objectives. FIG 4 There is a disconnect between small business employers and employees regarding the role non-medical, retirement and voluntary benefits play in driving employee loyalty A choice of voluntary benefits Salary/wages 20 % 38 % 71 % 70 % $ Non-medical insurance benefits (dental, disability, life insurance) 27 % 44 % Benefits that drive loyalty in companies with employees + Health benefits 54 % 59 % Company culture 51 % 49 % Retirement benefits 35 % 52 % Employers Employees Advancement opportunities 40 % 50 % 5

10 Are You Listening? Toot the company s horn louder It is likely that employees have little appreciation for the dollar value of the benefits they receive. Employers can maximize the benefits loyalty halo with some self-promotion. A third of small business employees (32%) say that they expect their company to reduce benefits in Yet only 10% of smaller companies report that they plan to take this course of action. Rectifying such misperceptions is an opportunity to reinforce the company s commitment to maintaining employee benefits and also to promote the program. Enhance employee loyalty with workplace flexibility Prior to the recession, encroaching technology was already melding the boundaries between time spent at work and time spent with family and friends. In the face of job insecurity and understaffing, many employees are now working longer and harder further eroding work-life balance. Fifty percent of Gen Y report that they are working harder than their parents, 5 and 33% of employed workers say that their employer made them work longer hours and more overtime since the recession began. 6 Time is a highly valued commodity and more than 60% of employees identify flexible schedules as the most important work-life practice their employer could provide. 7 Your personal life and your business life just commingle. I m reading s sometimes at midnight. Gen X Pressure to choose between work and family demands has consequences for companies as well as employees in terms of lost productivity and performance. Adding job flexibility may be a low-cost solution (FIG 5) that can be easily and informally administered in smaller companies as a way to help employees feel valued and engaged. FIG 5 Work-life balance programs contribute to employee loyalty in small businesses 8 especially for younger workers Work-life balance programs are very important in making me feel loyal to my employer. Younger Workers Boomers 43 % 31 % 6

11 Section 2 Counting on benefits more than ever While these are signs of economic recovery, employees may not be personally feeling it. The recession has been tough for everyone, but younger workers have taken the brunt of the impact in terms of unemployment and underemployment (FIG 6). While Boomers have been hit less hard, they have been forced to postpone and rewrite their retirement plans. Overall, concerns about financial security are higher among workers in smaller companies compared with larger ones, perhaps reflecting the deeper difficulties experienced by the small business sector during the economic downturn. FIG 6 Younger workers in smaller companies are feeling more financially stressed by the effects of the recession than Boomers Employees in small businesses (2 499 employees) who are very concerned about: $ Having enough money to make ends meet Having enough money to pay bills during a period of sudden loss of income Job security 59 % 51 % + 58 % Having enough money to cover health insurance (e.g., premiums and/or out-of-pocket expenses) 68 % Younger Workers Boomers 49 % 44 % $ Paying off debt 54 % 51 % 56 % 47 % 7

12 Are You Listening? In addition to deeper economic day-to-day concerns, faith in government safety nets is also declining especially among younger workers. Only 15% of Gen Y workers in smaller companies expect that Social Security benefits will be there by the time they retire. This widespread sense of financial insecurity has significant implications for employee benefits. Forty-three percent of surveyed small business employees report that, as a result of current economic conditions, they are counting on their employers for more help in achieving financial security through their employee benefits (FIG 7). With the not-so-secure future of Social Security, I think workplace retirement programs and insurance have become increasingly valuable to people. Gen X FIG 7 The economy and holes in government safety nets have made employees in smaller companies more dependent on their workplace benefits Small businesses (2 499 employees) As a result of current economic conditions, I am counting on more help from my employer in achieving current financial security through employee benefits Younger Workers Boomers 50 % 37 % Employee financial stress is bad for the company bottom line When focused on personal financial worries and problems, employees can be distracted at work. Distraction is more likely among younger workers where one in four report that they have taken unexpected time off to deal with personal financial issues and/ or spent more time than they think they should dealing with them in the workplace. This is a bigger problem in smaller companies where lost productivity can hit the bottom line much faster than in larger organizations. In addition, financial stress may be associated with physical and mental health problems such as migraines, back pain, ulcers, substance abuse and depression all of which may lead to sick days and increased health insurance claims. Yet small business employers tend to be less aware of the potential effects of financial illness on company costs. Only about one in four employers strongly agree that financial stress contributes to employee absences at their company. Only 34% recognize that financial stress contributes to health problems. 8

13 Counting on benefits more than ever An aging workforce requires new strategies In response to their reduced retirement nest eggs, more than a third of Boomers (37%) plan to delay retirement. While this is good news for companies concerned about losing this valuable pool of experience and expertise, there is a downside in the undeniable fact that older workers are more likely to experience disability-related absences and be more costly for a health plan. Sixty percent of small business employers expect that an aging workforce will increase their benefits costs, but only 12% expect to enjoy offsetting productivity gains from the retained knowledge. Actions that help Boomers attain financial security will enable them to exit the workplace, while also allowing companies to control their health care costs. Cost-effective opportunities to improve financial wellness Employees report that the benefits they receive at work help reduce worry about unexpected health and financial issues. Yet only slightly more than one in four (28%) small business employers perceive financial wellness initiatives as very effective. Reviewing the current benefits program from an employee perspective can reveal gaps in employee financial knowledge and confidence, along with the need for relevant and practical financial information. Providing employees with financial education opportunities, together with access to helpful protection products, can demonstrate empathy and appreciation on the part of the employer, while also realizing cost and productivity advantages. Moreover, these programs generally do not come with a high price tag. The following steps illustrate ways that small businesses can cost-effectively support improved employee financial wellness. React to employee interest in financial education Almost three out of four (72%) small business employees report they are interested in their employer providing financial education programs. However, just over one in four small businesses (29%) offers them. Investing in financial wellness means helping employees feel more confident and more in control of their personal financial situations. Providing financial education is a proven way to do this. Financial skills such as budgeting, credit management and saving for the future can be learned, however, many employees, especially younger ones, may not have resources for this. 72 % Almost three out of four small business employees report interest in their employer providing financial education programs. 29 % Just over one in four small businesses offers them. Employers should be encouraged by the fact that across companies of all sizes where financial education programs are available, the participation rate is quite high. Forty-four percent of employees who have access to a financial education program at work say they attended in the last two years. In addition, employees who participate are 35% more likely to say that they are confident in their financial decisionmaking compared with those who did not take part. 9

14 Are You Listening? Select the right program for employees A key to success is delivering the right topics in the right format to meet specific employee needs (FIG 8). For example, younger workers might be more interested in financial literacy skills rather than planning for retirement. Never underestimate the power of face-to-face interactions. Even tech-dependent Gen Y still values the opportunity for one-on-one advice. Benefits carriers, brokers and local agents are good resources for providing financial education services. There is often no cost to employees or the company for these educational programs. Provide access to adequate coverage when the benefits budget does not stretch Younger Workers 68 % Boomers 58 % American Workforce 42 % deeply concerned with sudden income loss cannot cover financial obligations for more than a month An important component of financial security is protecting one s income. Yet 42% of the American workforce reports it could not cover its financial obligations for more than a month, in the event of job loss. 9 Thirty percent of U.S. households have no life insurance. 10 So, it s no wonder that more than two-thirds (68%) of younger workers and more than half (58%) of Boomers report they are deeply concerned about coping with sudden income loss risks that may ultimately be addressed by life insurance and disability income protection coverage. Small business employers can play an important role in helping ensure that their workers have access to adequate income protection. Many employees are unclear about how much coverage they need and in the case of disability insurance even how it works. Online insurance calculators, often available on carrier websites, can provide easy and no-cost solutions for educating employees of all ages on this important issue. U.S. households 30 % do not have life insurance If providing adequate levels of life and disability insurance for employees is beyond the scope of the benefits budget, consider offering supplementary life and disability products that permit employees to buy the coverage they need at the workplace. In addition, of course, communicate these opportunities clearly and often to employees. 10

15 Counting on benefits more than ever FIG 8 It is important to ensure that selected financial education topics and forums meet the preferences of both older and younger workers Small business employees are interested in... Online tools 66 % 52 % A financial adviser sponsored by my employer 59 % 41 % Financial planning/retirement webinars via the Internet 53 % 40 % Financial planning/retirement in-person seminars 50 % 38 % Advice and guidance from an expert via telephone 42 % 31 % Younger Workers Boomers 11

16 Section 3 Looking for greater benefits choice and flexibility Americans have come to expect a wide choice of products and services in every aspect of life, and benefits choice is no exception. Employees today say that they are looking for a wider variety of benefits to choose from, and they prefer that programs be customized to their individual circumstances and generational interests. This is especially true for younger employees who are already accustomed to personalizing their world through technology (FIG 9). This can be a challenging expectation for small businesses budgets that may not be able to stretch to add employer-paid options to meet diverse employee needs. When asked about projected benefits changes over the next five years, less than half of small business employers say they are planning to respond to employee preferences for increased choice and customization. FIG 9 Small business employers lag in adapting benefits programs to respond to employee desire for customization and choice when it comes to benefits Small businesses (2 499 employees) Benefits scenarios employees say they value Benefit changes employers believe are likely in the next 5 years Younger Workers Boomers Employers 74 % 71 % 72 % 64 % 66 % 64 % 44 % 46 % 47 % Greater variety of benefits for employees to choose from More personalized benefits to be offered that are geared to different employee individual circumstances More personalized benefits to be offered that are geared towards different age groups 12

17 Looking for greater benefits choice and flexibility Take their word for it employees are willing to pay to get the benefits they want Workers understand that when it comes to benefits the deal with their employers is different today, and they no longer expect their employer to foot the entire benefits bill (FIG 10). Indeed, since entering the workplace, younger workers have always had to reach into their wallets for co-pays and deductibles. Even Boomers are more accepting of this new reality. Voluntary benefits, where employees pay 100% of the cost of benefits through the workplace, are clearly a viable solution for small businesses and can serve to fill gaps and supplement employer-paid programs to provide a more holistic benefits offering. My generation expects to pay a portion of our benefits. Gen Y FIG 10 Employees of all ages would rather pay for benefits than lose them 66 % 53 % Employees in smaller companies who say... Based on the past 12 months, I am willing to bear more of the cost of my benefits rather than lose benefits. Younger Workers Boomers 13

18 43 % 57 % 33 % Are You Listening? There s a price for neglecting voluntary benefits Voluntary benefits have far less traction with small businesses than with larger companies. About two-thirds of smaller companies (62%) report they do not offer voluntary benefits and 41% of smaller companies say it is unlikely they will increase the number of voluntary benefits offered in the next two years. Interest in voluntary benefits is growing faster in larger companies 57% say that it is a significant part of their benefits strategy compared to 31% of smaller companies (FIG 11). When looking for a job, the number one thing is benefits. Gen Y FIG 11 Interest in a voluntary benefits strategy is growing faster in larger companies Voluntary benefits are a significant part of our company s benefits strategy 26 % 31 % 19 % Year over Year % Increase Employees 500+ Employees This is a missed opportunity for small businesses one that could be costly when it comes to attracting employees. The Study shows just how much benefits factor in decisions to choose one employer over another especially for younger workers (FIG 12). 14

19 Looking for greater benefits choice and flexibility FIG 12 Benefits are more important for attracting younger workers than older workers Small businesses (2 499 employees) Younger Workers 46 % The employee benefits 29 % offered to me were an important reason why I came to work for this employer. Boomers Cost-effective opportunities to leverage voluntary benefits Employees have made their willingness to pay for benefits abundantly clear. Small business employers can capitalize on this by embracing a range of employee-paid (voluntary) benefits to fill gaps in their benefits program and respond to different generational and life-stage benefits requirements. Adding voluntary products broadens the available benefits options and choices and increases the perceived value of the benefits program without affecting the company benefits budget. Voluntary benefits are an affordable coverage option for employees too often available at group rates through the convenience of payroll deduction. Identify the openings for voluntary programs Currently there is a discrepancy between employee interest in voluntary benefits and the percentage of small business employers who offer them (FIG 13). This gap is especially notable for younger workers. There is significant opportunity for smaller companies to stand out from the competition by adding these desirable programs. The next step should be to explore where voluntary products can be offered and thus effectively motivate and satisfy employees. Smaller companies may be able to obtain this feedback from informal employee communications rather than formal surveys. 15

20 Are You Listening? FIG 13 Comparison of voluntary programs offered and employee interest Voluntary benefit products Life Insurance Dental Coverage Critical Illness Insurance 11 % 10 % 29 % 20 % 28 % 29 % 41 % 38 % 38 % Vision Benefit Disability Income Replacement Coverage Home Owners/Rental & Auto Insurance 9 % 8 % 2 % 26 % 38 % 29 % 40 % 31 % 44 % Companies with employees that offer voluntary products Younger Workers interested in the product even if they have to pay 100% of the cost Boomers interested in the product even if they have to pay 100% of the cost 16

21 Looking for greater benefits choice and flexibility Introduce differentiating, appealing benefits Voluntary benefits also provide a low-cost way to introduce non-traditional benefits with employee appeal. Think broadly and beyond the standard benefits offerings. Consider programs such as legal services that may offer a convenient and affordable resource for will preparation, child adoption or identity theft resolution. Or, explore offering auto and home insurance through the workplace, which provides the advantages of group rates and timesaving payroll deduction. Actively market voluntary benefits to drive increased participation and appreciation It will be important not only to inform employees about their employeepaid benefits options but also to actively market these opportunities. Employees need to fully understand and appreciate what the benefits do for them and how they are relevant. Although this may sound arduous to an overworked small business employer pulled in many directions, benefits advisers and carriers offer a range of solutions that can do the heavy lifting. 41% of small business employees say that access to benefits information on the Internet would be helpful. Minimize administrative angst The service and enrollment experience for small businesses has evolved, and voluntary benefits administration is not as onerous as it once was. Many brokers and carriers now offer convenient, webbased enrollment tools that provide a simpler, quicker enrollment experience one that integrates multiple provider enrollments for reduced administrative responsibilities, provides participation reports, reduces costs and frees up time to focus on running the business. Such systems can also boost participation because employees value the ease of enrollment as well as guided decision support from calculators to live operators to help them understand and make the best benefits choices. 17

22 Section 4 Worrying about health care affordability The Affordable Care Act recently survived the challenge to the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the U.S. Supreme Court and, for businesses with more than 50 full-time employees, implementation will move forward. (There may still be significant legislative challenges for health care reform ahead, depending on the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.) The Affordable Care Act contains provisions to help small businesses make health care coverage available to their employees, such as the availability of Small Business Health Options Programs ( SHOP exchanges ) where small businesses will be able to access affordable insurance for their employees. The opportunity to provide affordable health coverage has advantages for small business employers because 59% of small business employees cite health coverage as a reason for their loyalty to the company. Moreover, healthy employees are productive employees. Although details of the legislation are still complex and developing, small business employers should work closely with their advisers to consider how they will comply with the Affordable Care Act and if it presents them with new opportunities to increase employee satisfaction. Health insurance is not health assurance Regardless of how health care legislation evolves, the reality is that forces remain at play that will continue to drive the cost of health care higher for some time to come. Seventy-seven percent of younger workers and 70% of Boomers say they are concerned about being able to meet all the extra costs of a serious illness not covered by their medical insurance. There is a significant need for added protection for employees. Cost-effective opportunities for health care Offset out-of-pocket health costs with supplemental medical products Over the last decade, for many employees there has been an inexorable rise in their health care costs. With increased premiums, higher deductibles, and larger co-pays, many families are now unable to afford to pay their out-of-pocket costs. Supplemental health products, such as employee-paid critical illness insurance, accident and hospital indemnity products, vision benefits and dental insurance, have a great deal to offer employees facing this challenge. These programs cost much less than medical plans vision benefits, for example, can be as little as one tenth of the price. They are benefits that nearly everyone can use, and they provide high value/high return for employees and employers. 18

23 Worrying about health care affordability Some of these newer benefits will be unfamiliar to employees. For example, 72% of full-time employees said they have never heard of critical illness insurance and two-thirds of those who have heard of the product confuse it with health insurance and disability coverage. 11 However, once the product s features are explained and they understand that critical illness insurance provides a lump sum cash payment to help with the extra bills associated with a serious illness, employees find the concept of the benefit appealing and most are willing to pay the entire premium. Improve health outcomes Supplemental benefits are also beneficial to employers as they can improve health outcomes and enhance wellness. For example, employers may recognize that vision benefits are popular with employees, but they may be surprised to learn about the added advantage of encouraging employees to get regular eye exams. Eye doctors are often the first to uncover diseases such as diabetes and hypertension at a stage where they are less costly to treat and before complications sap productivity. 12 Additionally, the connection of dental health and overall health is well established, and employees with dental benefits are more likely to get regular dental checkups. A healthier workforce is associated with improved productivity and lower health costs for the company. 19

24 Conclusion A window of opportunity for benefits engagement Far from being a justification for scaling back on benefits, I am counting on the the weak economy actually provides an opportunity for benefits always. small businesses to leverage benefits to further business Gen X goals. As this paper has shown, the economy has made employees lean more than ever on their workplace benefits. With the aid of knowledgeable brokers and consultants, small businesses can use this window of higher benefits engagement on the part of employees to invest in cost-effective benefits products and services that will improve employee job satisfaction and loyalty. The key to success will be putting employees at the center of the benefits planning process and using the resulting insights to provide a program that shows how much the company values these important internal customers. About the Survey The 10th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends was conducted during September and October of 2011 and consisted of two distinct studies fielded by GfK Custom Research North America. The employer survey comprised 1,519 interviews with benefits decision-makers at companies with staff sizes of at least two employees. The employee sample comprised 1,412 interviews with full-time employees age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees. Of the interviews, 944 were conducted with decision-makers at companies with fewer than 500 employees, and 685 interviews were conducted with employees who work for these smaller businesses. GfK Custom Research North America is part of the GfK Group, one of the world s largest and most prestigious market research organizations, operating in more than 100 countries. Headquartered in New York City, with 10 offices in the U.S., GfK Custom Research North America provides full-service market research and consulting services in the areas of Customer Loyalty, Product Development, Brand & Communications, Channels, Thought Leadership, Innovation, and Public Affairs. GfK Custom Research North America has an entire business unit dedicated to Financial Services Research, but serves a wide range of other industries as well. For more information, contact Carole Herpin, VP, Financial Services, or visit 20

25 End Notes 1 Business This Week, The Economist, April 7, ADP Employment Report, June This and subsequent employee quotes are from MetLife qualitative research conducted in Summer 2011 or from video interviews with employees conducted in Winter Respondents are from companies of all sizes 4 All data referenced is from the 10th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends unless otherwise indicated 5 Fifth Annual MetLife Study of the American Dream, A Balance Sheet at 30 Months: How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America, Pew Research Center, June Work-Life Balance, Bloomberg Business Week, March 27, th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends 9 MetLife Study of the American Dream, LIMRA Life Insurance Ownership Study, MetLife s Financial Impact of a Critical Illness Study, April Human Capital Management Services Group (HCMS), April 19, 2011 i Generations are defined as full-time employees: Gen Y born Respondents are age 21 and older Gen X born Younger Baby Boomers born Older Baby Boomers born

26 (0712) 2012 METLIFE, INC. L (exp0913)(All States) PEANUTS 2012 Peanuts Worldwide Metropolitan Life Insurance Company 200 Park Avenue New York, NY

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