The gig economy and demographic shifts are disrupting the workplace, redefining employees’ workplace expectations, according to MetLife’s 15th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study. MetLife’s study found that the gig economy is posing a real threat to employers, with over half (51 percent) of employees saying 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 such perks. Freelance work appeals to Millennials most, with nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the generation interested, followed by Gen X (52 percent) and Boomers (41 percent). Employers agree that the gig economy is affecting the workplace: nearly two-thirds (59 percent) say the increase of temporary jobs will impact the workplace in the next 3-5 years.
This may be why retention is the top priority among employers. When asked to rank their top benefits priorities, more employers (83 percent) chose retaining employees as an important benefits objective than increasing employee productivity (80 percent) and controlling health and welfare benefit costs (79 percent). More so, over half of employers (51 percent) say that retaining employees through benefits will become even more important in the next 3-5 years.
“Not only is the gig economy disrupting the traditional workplace, but the workforce itself is transforming. 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,” said Todd Katz, executive vice president, Group Benefits, at MetLife. “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.”
Benefits customization drives retention. To meet the varying needs of the workforce today, providing employees with the ability to customize their benefits is key. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of employees say that having benefits customized to meet their needs is important when considering taking a new job and 72 percent say that having the ability to customize their benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer.
Employees say that benefits customization is even more important than the ability to work from home or remotely. In fact, over three-fourths (76 percent) of Millennials say benefits customization is important for increasing their loyalty to their employers, compared to two-thirds (67 percent) of Boomers.
“Today, our lives reflect our preferences. 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,” said Katz. “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.”
Employees look to workplace to meet wellness needs. Not only is benefits customization important for employee satisfaction and retention, but so is helping employees with their holistic wellness needs. In fact, nearly two-thirds (59 percent) of employees say that health and wellness benefits are important for increasing loyalty to their employer and 53 percent say the same about financial planning programs.
However, employers are not addressing this need. Only a third of employers (33 percent) say they are very likely to offer wellness benefits and just 18 percent currently offer financial planning programs. At the same time, only about a third (36 percent) of employers say wellness benefits and financial planning programs are valuable to their employees.
“In the past, there was a clear delineation between work and life. 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,” said Katz. “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.”
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