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Employers Show More Interest In Improving Benefit Plans

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As the baby boomers age, employers are showing more interest in using benefits to keep the workers they know than to attract new workers.

Only 30% say attracting employees is the most important benefits objective, while 55% say retaining employees is the most important benefits objective and 50% cite controlling costs as the top objective.

About 57% of employees who are highly satisfied with their benefits say benefits are an important reason to stay with their employers.

Researchers at a unit of MetLife Inc., New York, have published those statistics in a summary of results from the company’s fifth annual benefits trends survey.

In late 2006, a research firm polled 1,202 adults, age 21 and older, who work full-time at employers with at least 2 employees.

The firm also interviewed 1,514 benefits decisionmakers who work at employers with at least 2 employees.

Researchers found that employees continue to be behind on saving for retirement, but they found that, despite talk about cutbacks in benefits for retirees, the percentage of employers offering medical, life or dental coverage to retirees increased to 40% in 2006, from 28% just 2 years earlier.

Both employee and employer awareness of health account plans is relatively low, especially at smaller companies, but overall employer interest in improving benefits has increased since 2004.

The popularity of shifting benefits costs to employees is relatively low, and interest in cost-shifting has increased only 4 percentage points since 2004, to 37%, according to MetLife researchers.

Meanwhile, interest in providing Internet access for all employees has increased 10%, and interest in moving toward a common platform for administration has increased 9%, to 51%.