Employee Benefits

Want to Keep Employees Engaged? Offer Voluntary Benefit Choices

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For years, voluntary benefits have been popular with employees. These plans offer additional health and personal coverage choices outside of employer-sponsored health plans. Voluntary plans also are effective in helping employers find, keep and engage employees.

Stretch budgets, meet needs
Most businesses have employees from several generations working together, all with different work styles, interests, and needs. Keeping them engaged is a daunting task. Employers are finding that a key part of the engagement (and recruitment) solution is to offer an employee benefits package with a mix of voluntary plan choices.

Nearly 89 percent of employers now offer voluntary benefits, according to a 2017 national employer survey conducted by Mercer, a global leader in the health and benefits marketplace. “Employers have different reasons for offering voluntary plans depending on their benefits objectives,” says Tim Weber, national business leader of voluntary benefits at Mercer.

Some employers provide voluntary coverage to stretch their benefits budgets. Others use voluntary plans to supplement their employee benefits packages to help them compete for talented workers. Regardless of the reason, employers are discovering that employees appreciate voluntary benefits because they help fill in the gap of health care needs not covered by high deductible medical plans. And they help address a variety of family and financial concerns.

Choices easily explained
When making purchases, consumers want product choices with information that’s easy to understand. They have the same requirement for benefit plans. Employees want coverage explained in simple terms so they can understand plan options, know what the benefit provides, and can customize plan choices to fit their individual needs. “The need for voluntary benefit choices has become even more pronounced given the many different pressures employees face, particularly with finances,” Weber explains.

Resolve financial worries
Nearly 50 percent of employees Mercer surveyed reported that financial worries interfere with their productivity at work. Among Millennial workers, 67 percent said they stress over finances every day.

“There are many things employers can do with benefit plans to help address the financial burdens that can become a distraction for employees,” Weber says. “Voluntary benefits also can help with the stress, and risks employees face at different stages of their lives.”

For example, many employers now offer extensive financial well-being programs. Since about one-third of younger employees have student loan debts, a popular option is a student loan repayment assistance benefit. The BenefitEd student loan repayment program offers the option for employees to use some of their 401(k) employer match funds to help pay off student loans. That way employers can help make a difference without increasing benefits budgets.

“Employers need to interact with employees to ensure they understand the risks employees face, and then provide the voluntary benefit choices that address those risks,” Weber adds.

Learn more about how to put voluntary benefits to work by listening to a short podcast discussion with Tim Weber.

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