Many businesses are rediscovering a challenge they may not have faced for years: What is the best way to recruit and retain employees in a rebounding job market?

Voluntary benefits are a popular answer to that question, according to a new study by LIMRA, a Windsor, Conn., consulting group that works with insurance and financial service companies. In fact, 70 percent of employers now offer voluntary benefits.

“As the economy and the job market improve, employers are finding it more challenging to attract and retain key personnel,” said Ron Neyer assistant research director for LIMRA Distribution Research. “LIMRA found employers choosing to offer voluntary benefits to supplement their existing benefits package without adding to their bottom line.” 

Research shows that the voluntary benefits market has increased in four of the past five years, with an annual growth rate of 5 percent. Neyer attributes much of this demand to increasing medical costs and employers’ need to maximize the return on their benefits investment.

Most employers are happy with their voluntary benefit advisors, with 60 percent saying that services usually or always are delivered on time. Companies with between 20 and 99 employees are most satisfied.

Employers prefer that voluntary benefit communications and service be provided through established channels:

  • Call centers (80 percent)
  • Personalized employee statements (61 percent)
  • Materials distributed at work (53 percent)

Employers consider email support to be more important after the sale than before, and one-quarter believe mobile technology is important to the sale. Nearly one-half say post-sale live, web-based support is valuable.

LIMRA surveyed more than 1,300 employee benefits decision-makers last spring. The trends are likely to accelerate as the economy grows and demographics change, Neyer said.

“As more millennials enter the workforce, the demand for online and mobile access to their benefits will increase,” he said. “Companies that stay current on these communication strategies are likely to have a competitive edge in this growing market.”