More to be Revealed in Upcoming Employee Benefits Book

Yesterday, at the National Business Group on Health’s 22nd National Conference on Health, Productivity and Human Capital in San Diego, California, MetLife vice president Ronald Leopold, M.D., unveiled proprietary research that identifies how employers fall within four key profile types when it comes to workplace benefits investments and strategies. The implications are that understanding one’s profile can help employers maximize the return on their benefits investment, which has become increasingly important in these challenging economic times. The research looks at benefits optimization, especially in the context of a new framework that challenges traditional notions of medical, retirement, work/life balance and benefits administration.

The four employer benefits profiles were developed by examining market research data on employer attitudes about benefits business objectives and strategies focusing on funding and choice in benefits. Under this analysis, employers fell into one of four categories which Dr. Leopold has termed: "Progressive," "Flexible," "Traditional" and "Standard."

"Understanding a company’s place on the benefits landscape can not only help an employer define its current approach to benefits, but also help to inform future benefits strategies that will help to achieve business objectives. The ideas that we’re exploring will be pivotal to re-crafting benefits strategies to meet the business needs of a new economy," said Dr. Leopold.

The information on the four employer types was developed based on research Dr. Leopold has completed in developing his book on the future of employee benefits, The Benefits Edge: Honing the Competitive Value of Employee Benefits, which is anticipated for release in spring 2009. He is also the author of A Year in the Life of a Million American Workers, an almanac of absence data that provides a comprehensive picture of one million American workers and their health conditions, illnesses and absence patterns over a one-year period.

MetLife’s Four Employer Profiles At-A-Glance

  • "Traditional" – Employers that take a "traditional" approach to benefits (17% of employers) demonstrate a commitment to the legacy of employee benefits. Health insurance and retirement plans are the cornerstones of their programs, and they tend to fund more of these core benefits than other companies do. While they may also offer voluntary benefits, these employers do not appear to focus heavily on matching those benefits with the specific needs of their employee populations or delivering or communicating about them in a targeted way.
  • "Standard" – Employers that take a "standard" approach to benefits (28% of employers) recognize the essential nature of health insurance and retirement plans. However, these employers often do not fully fund these benefits. They sometimes serve as a channel through which employees can gain access to group rates on a voluntary basis.
  • "Flexible" – Employers that take a "flexible" approach to benefits (23% of employers) are very aware of their competition (those they hire against and compete against in the marketplace). They seem to consider the trade off between offering choices and shifting costs and seem to support a wider range of benefits program through self-directed education, communications and decision support tools.
  • "Progressive" – Employers with a "progressive" approach to benefits (32% of employers) believe that the richness and diversity of their benefits platform provides a competitive advantage. They seem focused on meeting the diverse needs of their workforce, and provide more benefits beyond basic health and welfare offerings. They are among the first employers to offer benefits and programs that address work/life balance.

Interestingly, the MetLife research shows that the four employer types can be found across all industries and across companies of all sizes. Both quantitative and qualitative data were used to identify employer profiles that are based on how employers assess themselves relative to their competition in terms of benefits programs.

Employers, no matter what their type, can use MetLife’s forthcoming book and the holistic framework it outlines to think about how they might reallocate their focus and investment across the medical, retirement, work/life balance and benefits administration categories. For example, instead of approaching health benefits from the viewpoint of simply providing financial relief when employees are sick, employers may choose to cultivate health and wellbeing by implementing programs and benefits that help employees stay well, which could ultimately have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

"Benefits can be used as a unique strategic advantage by employers," added Leopold. "By thinking about their employees’ needs and providing access to programs and benefits that are competitive when compared with peer companies, employers can offer programs that help create a ‘membership organization’ that people want to be a part of."

At the conference, Dr. Leopold predicted that competitive employers will be forced to enter a new "Era of Sustainability," where there will be a greater focus on long term human capital strategies. Leopold noted that "it is no coincidence that sustainability, better health and financial security all draw from the same principles of reduced consumption and habits and behaviors that drive longer term results."

Celebrating 140 years, 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 and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. For more information, please visit


Karen Eldred