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Build Benefits Programs and Improve Workplace Satisfaction

(July 20, 2010)
MetLife Study Highlights Cost-Effective Strategies Small Businesses Can Use to Build Competitive Benefits Programs and Help Improve Workplace Satisfaction

MetLife, a leading provider of employee benefits, today announced the availability of a new resource designed to equip small business employers and brokers with practical benefits strategies to help motivate and retain their workforce while closely managing costs. Building A Better Benefits Program Without Breaking The Budget: Five Practical Steps Every Small Business Should Consider highlights the connection found between employees' benefits satisfaction and job satisfaction and addresses the implications given that only about one-third of small business workers (those working for employers with fewer than 500 employees) say they are very satisfied with their benefits offerings and only about half say they are very satisfied with their current job. The small business supplement to MetLife's 8th Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study is available at metlife.com/sbtrends2010.

"As the U.S. economy emerges from recession, there are big expectations for small businesses to provide the engine that will drive the American economy. Retaining top talent and increasing employee job satisfaction are two strategies that may help small business employers face this challenge successfully. The MetLife study points to ways that benefits programs can be strategically leveraged to support many important business objectives in a cost-effective manner," said Scott Beck, vice president, Broker and Consultant Strategies Group, MetLife.

Increasing the Small Business Value of Non-Medical Benefits

According to MetLife's 8th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, 43% of all employees agree that benefits are a very important reason why they remain with their employers. This number drops to 31% for employees at smaller companies.

"While healthcare legislation has grabbed the attention of small business owners and brokers, it is important to recognize that health coverage may become less of a differentiator when it comes to hiring, retaining and motivating workers. Non-medical benefits like dental, disability, life insurance and voluntary offerings will likely play an increasingly significant role in driving employee loyalty, retention and engagement," added Beck.

Building a Better Benefits Program Without Breaking the Budget: Five Practical Steps Every Small Business Should Consider outlines steps that small business owners can take to strengthen their non-medical benefits program and optimize benefits value:
    1. Manage costs for dental, disability and life insurance while increasing employee loyalty. Many small business owners underestimate the value that their employees place on non-medical benefits like dental, disability and life insurance. While 59% of small business employees say these benefits contribute to their feelings of employer loyalty, only 34% of employers recognize this. The resource outlines ways that employers can control their budgets while still offering benefits that drive loyalty. The cost of dental benefits, for example, can be more effectively managed by ensuring that plan design reflects current, research-based treatment protocols, a reduction of options that are underutilized and undervalued by employees and a focus on preventative services.

    2. Deliver budget-conscious wellness programs to aid productivity and help control medical costs. While 61% of larger employers offer wellness programs, just 22% of small companies offer the programs. However, 67% of small businesses believe wellness programs are effective at reducing medical costs. Low-cost options can be implemented by small businesses to help create a culture of health and control long-term costs. Options can include leveraging local health organizations and associations that can help to educate employees on healthy behaviors, or providing convenient access and time off to participate in wellness programs like weight loss, exercise and smoking cessation.

    3. Help employees become financially secure and support productivity goals at the same time. About one in five small business employees admits that in the last 12 months, he/she has taken unexpected time off to deal with a financial problem or taken more time than should be spent at work to deal with personal financial issues. In fact, 64% of small businesses strongly believe that employees' productivity is impacted when they are worried about personal financial matters. Small businesses can consider tapping into local financial institutions and services to provide retirement and/or financial planning options during work hours, or provide access to web-based financial resources for their employees.

    4. Simplify benefits communications for greater benefits effectiveness. Only one in five small business employees believes that his/her employers' benefits communications effectively educate the employee about their benefits programs. The resource gives best practices for benefits communication including using multiple channels, removing jargon, and making messages relevant to key life events or life stages. Employers can also beta test communications to listen and learn from their employees prior to launching a full communication campaign.

    5. Leverage small business workplace advantages for increased worker loyalty. The MetLife Study found a loyalty gap in that nearly two-thirds of small businesses say they feel very loyal toward their employees but only about one-third of employees feel their employers have that strong sense of loyalty. Small business employers can take advantage of their company culture to foster an environment where work-life balance, which garners employee loyalty, is the norm.
Methodology
The 8th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends was conducted during the fourth quarter of 2009 and consisted of two distinct studies fielded by GfK Custom Research North America. The employer survey comprised 1,503 interviews with benefits decision-makers at companies with staff sizes of at least two employees. The employee sample comprised 1,305 interviews with full-time employees age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees. Of the interviews, more than 900 took place with decision-makers at companies with fewer than 500 employees, and more than 500 interviews took place with employees who work for these smaller businesses.

About MetLife
MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc.(NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its domestic and international subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force). The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions.

Colleen Gildea
colleen@interbiznet.com

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