A study by MetLife Inc. finds employers fall into 4 broad philosophies toward employee benefits.

The implications of the study are that employers can capitalize on their benefits investment better by understanding which category they fit into, said MetLife vice president Ronald Leopold. He disclosed the results of the research yesterday at the National Business Group on Health’s 22nd National Conference on Health, Productivity and Human Capital in San Diego.

Leopold summarized the 4 benefit philosophies as follows:

–”Traditional” employers (17% of companies), which offer health insurance and retirement plans as the cornerstones of their programs and they tend to fund more of these core benefits than other companies do. They may also offer voluntary benefits, but they focus heavily on matching those benefits with the specific needs of their employee populations or delivering or communicating about them in a targeted way.

–”Standard” employers (28%) recognize health insurance and retirement plans are essential but often do not fund these benefits fully. They sometimes serve as a channel through which employees can gain access to group rates on a voluntary basis.

–”Flexible” employers (23%) are aware of their competition for effective employees but consider the trade-off between offering benefit choices and shifting costs to employees. They seem to support a wider range of benefits program through self-directed education, communications and decision support tools, MetLife found

–”Progressive” employers (32%) believe that a rich and diverse benefits plan provides a competitive advantage. They seem focused on meeting the varied needs of their workforce and provide more benefits beyond basic health and welfare offerings.

“Understanding a company’s place on the benefits landscape can not only help an employer define its current approach to benefits but also help to inform future benefits strategies that will help to achieve business objectives,” Leopold said.