Happy with Your Benefits, Happy with Your Job

Half of all workers at best ‘somewhat satisfied’ with offerings; mixed feelings toward voluntary benefits

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS November 24, 2015

More than three-quarters of American workers say their workplace benefits package is important in their decision to take or reject a job, according to new research by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and research firm Greenwald & Associates.

The report, “Views on the value of Voluntary Workplace Benefits: Findings from the 2015 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey,” was published in the November 2015 EBRI Notes. Its findings are in line with recent research by the Society for Human Resource Management, which showed how HR professionals are increasingly leveraging employee benefits as a recruiting tool and to retain key talent.

Not surprisingly, EBRI found that 88 percent of workers report that employment-based health insurance is extremely or very important, far more than for any other workplace benefit.

“Workers overwhelmingly consider health insurance to be the most important workplace benefit,” wrote Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s health research and education program and co-author of the study. “We also find that many workers do not rate the benefits package offered by their employer as high.”

Fronstin noted that retirement benefits have dropped in the rankings in recent years, but that may be due to the introduction of additional benefits in the survey, such as paid time off.

Among other survey findings by EBRI:

Three-quarters of respondents stated that the benefits package an employer offers prospective workers is extremely (36 percent) or very (41 percent) important in their decision to accept or reject a job.

Job satisfaction and worker morale are strongly correlated with benefits satisfaction. For example, more than one-half (54 percent) of those who are extremely satisfied with their benefits are also extremely satisfied with their current job. Just 10 percent of those who say they are, at most, somewhat satisfied with their benefits say they are extremely satisfied with their job.

Nevertheless, 30 percent of respondents overall are only somewhat satisfied with the benefits offered by their current employer, and 20 percent are not satisfied. That suggests that half of all workers don’t view their benefits package as a powerful rationale to stay with their current employer.

“A total rewards approach to staffing management should include such benefits as health care, retirement savings and planning, flexible work, and professional career development benefits, which the majority of HR professionals [responding to the SHRM survey] agreed will all increase in importance during the next three to five years as part of recruitment strategies,” said Karen Wessels, researcher for workforce planning at SHRM.

Mixed Feelings on Voluntary Benefits

Voluntary employment-based benefits typically provide supplemental insurance coverage or services—such as life, disability, critical-illness and accident insurance, as well as pet coverage, ID theft protection, legal services and financial counseling—they are offered through an employer but paid for partially or solely by workers through payroll deductions.

Workers identify the lower cost (compared with purchasing benefits on their own) and being able to choose as strong advantages of voluntary benefits, EBRI found. However, they are split with respect to their comfort in having their employer choose their benefits providers, and think the possibility that they may have to pay the full cost of any voluntary benefits is a disadvantage.

Businesses should tailor their voluntary-benefit menu based on employee demographics (including age, income level and marital status), while looking for ways to enhance the core benefits package. “Employees want choices, and they want to be able to customize whatever packages are available to them,” Amy Hollis, a principal at Buck Consultants in Atlanta, told SHRM Online in a recent interview.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow me on Twitter.

Related SHRM Articles:

As Job Market Tightens, Touting Benefits Can Close the Deal, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2015

Getting Results from Voluntary Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, August 2013

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