Why Voluntary Benefits Aren’t Really So Voluntary for Today’s Employers.

Attracting and retaining top-notch talent is the number one reason employers provide competitive benefit packages. Interestingly, Mercer found that 89 percent of employers are now including voluntary benefits as part of their comprehensive benefits offering. Simply put, employees are used to seeing these options in their new-hire paperwork, and the trend isn’t likely to change for good reason.

Voluntary insurance benefits were originally added to benefit packages as a way to fill gaps in health insurance plans. While provided by employers, they’re paid for entirely (or near entirely) by employees through payroll deduction.

Typically, life insurance, disability, dental and vision are the most common options. But competitive employers are getting creative with their suite of benefits. In fact, we’re starting to see employers offer financial planning, online education, pet insurance and other employee-requested plans. Before we talk about the benefits most requested by employees, let’s review the three reasons voluntary benefits aren’t so voluntary anymore.

  • Employees are demanding them. With the workforce changing and employees leaving companies more frequently, your best talent is likely to choose an employer who offers the benefits they want.
  • Employees are worried about their financial future more than ever. Voluntary benefits like life and disability provide financial security. By offering these plans, employees are more focused on their work, and less so on the day-to-day financial demands during stressful times.
  • They’re inexpensive. Buying voluntary benefits under a group plan is more cost-effective than it is for employees to purchase them on their own. 

What are the newest trends and most requested voluntary benefits?

  • Identity theft protection
  • Pet insurance
  • Long-term care insurance, including cancer care
  • Discounts on things like everyday purchases at retail outlets and travel benefits
  • Wellness, nutrition and fitness discounts

Not surprisingly, employees are asking for benefits that help them better balance competitive, demanding careers with healthy, enjoyable personal lives. The best employees appreciate employers that ease that burden. But education is key for employees to really understand (and respond positively) to the value of the total benefits package. If your goal is to attract and retain the best staff, then start by asking what benefits they value most. Then consider deploying the following methods to communicate their worth:

  • Use financial benefit statements during the new hire process, as well as annually during open enrollment.
  • Provide hypothetical cost modeling for employees so they understand the potential financial implications of a short/long-term disability or illness compared to the modest cost of the insurance.
  • Offer monthly education via email about the financial risks of being uninsured
  • Encourage employees to use voluntary benefits such as financial planning and lifestyle enrichment.

Turnover will always be part of running a business. Fortunately, a thoughtfully designed voluntary benefits package can mitigate the loss of great employees.

Interested in adjusting your voluntary benefits package? Please talk with your PBG representative.