The majority of public sector employees are loyal to their employers and pleased with their benefits. So what better time to start adjusting the design of benefits packages to contain costs?

This is the question posed by MetLife in announcing the results of its 12th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.

Interviews with public employees and benefits managers found that 59 percent of public sector employees “strongly agree” with the statement ‘I feel loyal to my employer.’ Even more — 64 percent — said they were satisfied with their benefits.

“Because public sector employers are facing decreasing budgets and increasing benefit costs, they are looking to employees to pick up more financial responsibility for their benefits, yet fearing this cost-cutting strategy will have negative effects on employee loyalty, attraction and retention,” MetLife said in a release announcing the survey results. “However, by taking a closer look at benefits programs and incorporating cost-saving solutions, such as voluntary benefits, public sector employers can maximize their benefits strategy and achieve their talent objectives.”

MetLife said survey respondents showed a willingness to “bear the responsibility” of increased cost sharing: “75 percent of public sector employees are very interested in a wider array of benefits that they can choose to purchase and pay for on their own. Nearly two-thirds of public sector employees say they are willing to pay more for benefit costs in order to get the choice they want.”

Given that situation, MetLife advised that now is the time to amp up the voluntary benefits offerings to both achieve cost savings and make happy employees even happier.

Here are the guidelines for implementing this strategy:

  • Raise voluntary value: Based on the data supporting employees’ willingness to share costs in exchange for greater choice, “public sector employers can develop attractive benefit offerings by incorporating products that address specific employee concerns.”
  • Recognize the impact of financial wellness: Half of employee respondents said they were worried about retirement savings, so MetLife suggests making available “financial education programs [to] boost employee confidence while positively impacting employee productivity.”
  • Make benefits easy-to-understand and simplify enrollment: Always good advice, of course, but in light of survey data that showed “nearly one-third of public sector employees are not very confident they made the right benefits decisions during their last annual enrollment,” employers can help “by ensuring that communications are simple and that materials are delivered according to employee preferences.”
  • Recognize benefits appreciation: There’s a disconnect between how employees view their benefits packages and how employers think they view them, according to this study. While two-thirds of employees are happy with their benefits, only 46 percent of employers believe their workers are satisfied with them. By communicating more with staff about satisfaction levels with benefits and which benefits deliver the most value, employers will be gathering critical information on current package design. In other words, a solid foundation for creating an even better package may already exist, MetLife said, so find out what’s working before the tinkering begins.