5 Employee Benefits Trends for 2017

Employee benefits will feel the effects of political change as well as cultural change next year.

As the old year ticks down toward a new year filled with a drastic change in Washington that will no doubt create plenty of ripple effects throughout the country, the employee benefits sector also faces plenty of changes.

Based on its 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study and other industry indicators, MetLife has selected five trends it believes will be key in 2017.

Employers might be surprised by some, and are probably already wrestling with others—but here’s what to watch for in the year to come.

5. Customization

If there’s one thing that’s clear in benefits, it’s that everybody is not happy with the same cookie-cutter benefit package.

And as the job market improves and employers have to work harder to attract and retain top talent, one way to do that is to provide benefits that satisfy needs that might be a little out of the ordinary. Employers that can satisfy their employees’ diverse needs, the study found, “will emerge clear winners in the talent war.”

What’s more, employees are becoming more focused on specific benefits.

The study revealed that 28 percent of all generations agree that critical illness insurance is a must-have, but it doesn’t stop there—different generations want different things. For instance, about 14 percent of millennial employees consider pet insurance a must-have benefit.

And don’t forget about benefits communications. No rubber-stamp information wanted here—employees want communications about their benefits customized to them.

4. Enrollment

Here’s an area where employees are not happy—so change will have to come if the situation is to improve.

The study found that only about a third of employees say that their company’s benefit communications are easy to understand—and that leads many to assume they don’t need many of the benefits they’re offered. That’s definitely not a good situation.

The good news: 71 percent of employers say that by working with an enrollment firm they were able to improve communication, including explaining and clarifying nonmedical benefits.

For employers to stay ahead of the curve, they’ll have to join the movement to better educate their employees on enrollment.

3. Financial stress

The biggest single source of stress for employees is financial stress, which weighs not only on employees but on employers’ bottom lines as well. And that situation screams to be addressed.

While financial wellness programs help employees to better manage their personal finance situations, cutting stress as a result, employers so far haven’t jumped on the bandwagon.

In fact, some of the few who offered them have quit doing so, with just 31 percent of employers having provided financial wellness programs this year. That’s down from 39 percent last year, according to the study.

If employers wise up and provide help with financial wellness, employees will sleep better at night and work better during the day. And so will their employers.

2. Data security

Whether it’s hackers or phishers, more threats to data security arise every day—not just for consumers but for companies and their employees.

Losses from hacked, hijacked or ransomed data can drive a company out of business, but employers also have to be as protective of their employees’ data as they are of their customers’.

One way to do that, the study pointed out, is to shore up the digital support chain by moving to a single benefits carrier; that can help to limit the exposure of employee data.

With the average cost of a large-scale data breach sitting at approximately $4 million, according to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, it’s a smart investment.

1. Legal services

If you’re looking for a new lure to attract top talent, this could be your ticket. MetLife has characterized legal services as the “best-kept secret of benefits.” SHRM adds that it has doubled in popularity over the past 10 years.

At some point, the study pointed out, just about everyone is going to have to deal with a legal issue. Major life events, such as buying a home, getting married, having a baby or caring for an aging parent, all have important legal implications.

According to MetLife insights, “For about $20 a month, a legal plan can help,” adding that the benefit is of particular importance to millennials. Of adults that are offered a legal plan through work, a Harris poll found that nearly 70 percent of those aged 21–34 are enrolled.

Source: www.treasuryandrisk.com

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