Research Suggests Cost-Effective Strategies to Help Employers Address Employee Loyalty and Retention Goals Through Employee Benefits

MetLife, a leading provider of employee benefits, today announced the availability of a new resource designed to help small businesses more effectively leverage benefits programs as employers seek to drive employee productivity, loyalty and retention while containing overall costs.  Small Business Benefits: Cost-Effective Strategies for Maximizing ROI, a supplement to MetLife’s 7th annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, is the result of surveying nearly 1,000 benefits decision makers at companies with fewer than 500 employees as well as hundreds of the employees who work for these smaller businesses.  The research supplement is available at

“Despite economic challenges, employee retention remains the top benefits objective for employers, but we have found that it is of even greater importance to smaller employers,” said Georgette Piligian, senior vice president, Small Business Strategy & Operations, MetLife.  “For smaller businesses, the loss of a few key employees can have a significant impact on costs and operations.  The MetLife study should help small businesses more effectively optimize their benefits programs as they strive to deliver on their business objectives.”

Benefits Linked to Loyalty & Retention

“To maximize the value of benefits, employers must first understand how they may help address retention and loyalty goals,” said Piligian.

According to MetLife’s 7th annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, approximately seven in ten (66%) workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees report that benefits such as life, disability and dental insurance are significant drivers of their feelings of loyalty towards their employer, behind salary and wages (85%) and health benefits (71%). While small businesses are on par with larger companies when it comes to offering medical insurance (95% and 96% respectively), the divide widens for other products.  For example, only 65% of small businesses with fewer than 500 employees offer dental insurance compared to 93% of those employers with 500 or more employees.

The addition of life, dental, disability and other insurance benefits can be important factors when considering overall job satisfaction among employees.  The study found that 73% of employees who were satisfied with their benefits were satisfied with their job, while just 22% who were not satisfied with their benefits were satisfied with their job – an indicator that attention to benefits satisfaction could have a positive impact on employee loyalty and retention.

Productivity is increasing in importance for small businesses as well.  For companies with fewer than 500 employees, productivity increased as a top benefits objective from 33% in 2007 to 43% in November 2008.  However, Small Business Benefits: Cost-Effective Strategies for Maximizing ROI reveals that smaller employers may not be leveraging benefits as effectively as they could be and offers several strategies that small businesses can implement as they seek to drive productivity and retention.  For most small businesses, this means maximizing the value of current benefits offered, deepening the pool of available benefits, and giving employees the tools, decision support and information required to make smart choices.

Voluntary Benefits
One significant – but often missed – opportunity for small businesses to maximize their benefits programs is to increase employees’ options through voluntary benefits.  The MetLife study found that only about one-third (31%) of employers with fewer than 500 employees see voluntary benefits as a cost-effective way to enhance the attractiveness of an organization’s overall benefits offering.  However, when it comes to voluntary benefits, employees say they like the convenience and time savings of buying at the workplace, the ease of payroll deductions as well as group rates.  Approximately nine in ten small business employees are interested in their employer providing a greater array of employee benefits that they can choose to pay for on their own. 

Wellness Programs
Similarly, small businesses may have the opportunity to actually reduce benefits costs through the use of workplace wellness programs.  At a time when small businesses say they are spending 61% of their total benefits dollars on medical insurance, there are many wellness initiatives that can be implemented at little to no cost to the employer, potentially helping to control future medical costs for the employer and employee.  In addition, employee interest in health and wellness is high.  For example, 73% of employees who participate in wellness programs said the top reason to participate is “I want good health.”

Companies can also promote employee health and wellness through voluntary benefits that contribute to employees’ overall health, such as dental benefits that not only treat oral disease but provide access to important oral health education.  While small businesses may not have the economies of scale to implement major wellness programs, Small Business Benefits: Cost-Effective Strategies for Maximizing ROI provides several low- and no-cost wellness program suggestions.

Education: One Key to Cost Effective Benefits Optimization
Small employers may also be missing an opportunity to educate their employees about their benefits options.  Only about one-third of workers at businesses with fewer than 500 employees report that their company’s benefit communications effectively educate them on their benefits options so they can select those that best meet their needs.  In these challenging economic times, employees are increasingly looking to employers for guidance on securing their personal financial safety net.  Forty-three percent of employees at small businesses have taken a greater interest in understanding the employee benefits they receive through their employer because of recent economic events.

“Increased employee interest in workplace benefits also means increased opportunities for employers to leverage benefits to help meet their business objectives,” said Piligian.  “Small businesses that are able to maximize the value of the benefits they currently offer – or increase the array of available benefits through the strategic use of voluntary benefits –  to address employee loyalty and retentions goals can help put themselves in a better position for sustained viability and continued growth when the economy recovers.”

Study Methodology
MetLife’s 7th annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends surveyed employers and employees at two different points in time, August 2008 and November 2008, to assess how employer and employee attitudes toward employee benefits may have changed from prior years, and, more specifically, how they may have been affected by the changing economic climate.   Both sets of research interviews were fielded by Gfk Custom Research North America.  More than 1,500 interviews were conducted with benefits decision-makers at companies with two or more employees, representing a mix of industries and geographic regions, and more than 1,300 interviews were conducted with full-time employees, age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees.  Approximately 1,000 interviews were conducted with benefits decision-makers at companies with less than 500 employees and approximately 600 interviews were conducted with employees who work at these smaller businesses.  The 7th annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends is available at along with a wealth of other related benefits resources.

About MetLife
MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance, employee benefits and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions.  Through its 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, visit


Karen Eldred
Joseph Madden