Both employees and employers are using workplace benefits as leverage against one another according to a new study by MetLife.
The study, The 10th Anniversary edition of MetLife’s annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends articulates what is happening in the benefits landscape from the point of view of employers and employees across regions, industries and company sizes in the U.S.
The recent economic turmoil has resulted in younger employees placing a high value on how their employers can assist them in establishing financial security. Almost half (49%) of all employees surveyed said that due to the economy they are counting on the benefits programs provided by their employers to assist them with their financial protection needs. The percentage climbs even higher when that question is put to younger workers, 55% for Gen X and 66% for Gen Y. These younger workers had a front row seat for the destruction of retirement savings caused by the recession and are keen to see the way that employers offer benefits that mitigate the chances of that happening again.
Employers are also examining ways that they can use benefits to leverage workplace benefits to achieve their objectives. Sixty percent of employers find the current economic conditions to be ripe for creating additional opportunities to leverage workplace benefits programs in order to achieve their own objectives. Only 10% of employers, across company size say that they plan to reduce benefits.
In what also could be a residual effect of them being spectators to a financial meltdown, the study found that younger workers are more risk averse than older workers when it comes to their investments. Eighty one percent of Gen Y employees said that they want guarantees that offer stable albeit lower returns compared to 76% of boomers. Social Security benefits may also be at play here; only 16 percent of Gen Y workers feel that social security will be available (on the same scale as they are today) when they retire and only 24% believe they will be available for Gen X.
The recession has also had far-reaching effects of the psyche of younger workers when it comes to preparedness for retirement. In 2003, 33% of employees age 21 to 30 were concerned about running out of money in retirement. Now, nearly half (52%) of that demographic are what they describe as being “very concerned.. “Despite continuing to contribute towards Social Security, approximately four out of five younger workers believe the amount of money they can expect to receive from Social Security will be significantly reduced relative to today’s recipients. Gen X and Gen Y recognize that they will be shouldering more of the responsibility for their long-term security but are looking to employers for help even if they have to pay for some of the benefits themselves,” said Dr. Ronald S. Leopold, vice president, MetLife.
Employees are also open to financial education programs offered by employers to help them prepare for retirement. Only 39% of employees feel confident in their ability to make the right financial decisions for themselves and their families and 72% express interest in having various financial education programs in the workplace.
The study also found that employee loyalty is on the decline. In what could be attributed to disillusionment after watching co-workers get laid off, the percentage of employees who feel a very strong sense of loyalty towards their employer is at 42%- a seven-year low. One in three respondents said that they would like to work for a different employer in 2012, and that number climbs to one in two for Gen Y employees. Contrarily, the percentage of employers who feel a strong sense of loyalty towards employees.
The study was conducted between September and October of 2011 and consisted of two separate studies done by GfK Custom Research North America. It was comprised of 1,519 interviews with benefits and decision-makers at companies with staff size of at least two employees.