~ MetLife’s 12th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study Reveals That Although Voluntary Strategies are Paying off, Employer Focus Appears to Have Dipped ~

MetLife’s 12th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, released today, reveals that employee satisfaction with benefits reached 50% in 2013 – the highest level since the Study began over a decade ago. A full report examining these findings is available by visiting BenefitTrends.MetLife.com.

“Employees who are very satisfied with their benefits are more than twice as likely to report being very satisfied with their jobs. Because of this, offering a wider variety of benefits pays dividends for both employers and employees,” said Todd Katz, executive vice president, Group, Voluntary & Worksite Benefits, at MetLife. “The Study takes this even further, showing that benefits are a strong driver for employee loyalty— 44% of employees say that having benefits customized to meet their needs would increase their loyalty.”

In addition, the research shows the ability to personalize benefits selections appeals to employees. Over three quarters (78%) of employees want a greater variety of benefits to choose from and 80% would value benefits customized to individual circumstances and age. And, more than ever, employees are ready to share responsibility for this variety: 60% are willing to bear more of the cost in order to have a choice of benefits that meet their needs.

Despite this heightened employee satisfaction, the Study also found a surprising dip in the number of companies that agree with the statement, “voluntary benefits are a significant part of our company’s benefits strategy,” ending a rising trend seen over the past three years. In 2012, 58% percent of employers cited voluntary benefits as a significant part of their strategy. This number dropped to 50% in 2013.

“This shift in employer focus is somewhat unexpected. But, rather than a change in strategy, this is likely a result of employers being consumed by health care reform and cost control challenges,” noted Katz. “The employee satisfaction numbers make it clear that voluntary benefit strategies are paying off for employers and that attention should not be shifted from existing plans. Changing course now may have negative effects on loyalty and productivity in the future.”

This is especially true since retention continues to be a priority, with 87% of employers reporting that this is a very important benefits objective. Equally critical is managing benefit budgets, with 88% citing cost control as a very important benefits objective and 80% reporting that optimizing benefits plans to reduce costs is a most important strategy. When making benefits decisions, nearly three-quarters (74%) of employers claim cost is an important consideration.

However, cost control and retention objectives do not need to be at odds—voluntary benefits allow employers to offer a wider variety of benefits, addressing employees’ desire for greater choice, without impacting benefits budgets. This is good news to over half of employers, 54%, who plan on maintaining the same benefits budget.

“Results from the Study support the value of voluntary benefits and their role in helping businesses meet their objectives,” stated Katz. “The Study found that 40% of employees are looking to their employer for more help in achieving financial security through employee benefits. This is up from 29% last year and illustrates the important role voluntary benefits can play in an overall benefits strategy.”

To learn more about how employers and employees are navigating a changing benefits environment, including more details on employer and employee loyalty perceptions, cost barriers and the need for financial education, access MetLife’s 12th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study by visiting BenefitTrends.MetLife.com.

Research Methodology

MetLife’s 12th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study was conducted during October and November of 2013 and consisted of three distinct studies fielded by GfK Custom Research North America. The employer survey comprised 1,510 interviews with benefits decision-makers at companies with staff sizes of at least two employees. The employees survey comprised 1,203 interviews with full-time employees age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees. The broker survey comprised 524 interviews with brokers and consultants who sell group employee benefits to companies of all sizes.

About GfK

GfK is one of the world’s largest research companies with more than 13,000 experts working to discover new insights into the way people live, think and shop, in over 100 markets, every day. GfK is constantly innovating and using the latest technologies and the smartest methodologies to give its clients the clearest understanding of the most important people in the world: their customers. In 2012, GfK’s sales amounted to €1.51 billion. To find out more, visit www.gfk.com.

About MetLife
MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates (“MetLife”), is a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs. MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.metlife.com.


Judi Mahaney