Voluntary Benefits Now Must Haves for Employers?

Apr 25, 2018
| Michael Altiero
Voluntary Benefits More Important Than Ever

Employee benefits are important for employers for many reasons. Recruiting, happiness, and retention are all important workforce areas that are impacted by a company’s benefit offerings.

For many years, employee benefits were thought of mainly (if not completely) as health insurance, retirement savings such as a 401(k), vision insurance, and dental insurance.

But over the last decade, employers both big and small have looked to enhance their offerings as the war for talent picked up. One way of doing this was by offering voluntary benefits in addition to standard offerings.

For a while, these were seen as “nice-to-have,” but a recent survey from Willis Towers Watson shows this in no longer the case.

Voluntary Employee Benefits Are Now Viewed as Essential

The 2018 Emerging Trends: Voluntary Benefits and Services Survey was conducted by Willis Towers Watson in November 2017. The survey was taken mostly by larger employers, with 80% of respondents having 1,000 or more employees.

In total, 336 United States employers encompassing a wide range of industries participated in the survey.

Perhaps the most prominent finding from the survey was that only 5% of participants said that voluntary benefits have little importance to their employee value proposition. This means that 95% view voluntary benefits as important.

For comparison 41% of employers said voluntary benefits would have little importance 5 years ago.

Another finding showed that 69% of employers believe voluntary benefits will be a key component of their employee value proposition in 3 to 5 years.

We have written before about top employee benefits trends in 2018, with voluntary benefits and personalization being two of them. Voluntary benefits offer employers the ability to offer personalized benefits to current and potential employees that boost recruiting efforts and lower turnover.

Which Voluntary Benefits Are Viewed as Most Important?

In addition to the above statistics, the survey also explored which voluntary benefits are becoming the most popular for employers and how they will be viewed over the next 3 years.

Here are the results:
  • Student Loan Consolidation Programs: 8% offer now – expected to increase to 34% by 2021
  • Financial Planning and Consulting Services: 50% offer now – expected to increase to 60% in 2021
  • Identity Theft Protection: 36% offer now – expected to increase to 63% by 2021
  • Pet Insurance: 34% offer now – expected to increase to 57% by 2021
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: 16% offer now – expected to increase to 33% by 2021
  • Critical-Illness Insurance: 43% offer now – expected to increase to 71% by 2021
  • Hospital Indemnity: 24% offer now – expected to increase to 50% by 2021

Regarding the changing perceptions of voluntary benefits, and the expected growth to come, Sherri Bockhorts, managing director, Benefits Delivery and Administration, Willis Towers Watson, offered these insights:

“The good news is that improvements in enrollment technology are making it easier for employers to expand their voluntary benefit offerings — and the expanded choices are resonating. We’re seeing an increasing number of employees elect voluntary benefit products.”

Voluntary Benefits Are Also Critical for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMB)

While the survey from Willis Towers Watson primarily involves input from large employers, SMBs also stand to gain from offering and improving voluntary benefits.

And while this was a challenge for smaller employers years ago, more options are available today to help improve not just voluntary benefits, but also traditional employee benefit offerings.

Working with your benefits broker to explore available options can help enhance employee benefits. This can aid in recruiting and retention efforts, which are pivotal to business growth and success.

In today’s competitive talent market, small and medium-sized employers cannot risk providing substandard benefits, or they risk missing out on the best talent, while also losing their own top performers to other businesses.

By knowing the value voluntary benefits provide, small employers can take the steps that are necessary to be able to offer them to their workforce.

What’s the difference between co-employment and employee leasing? Check out our eBook, Co-Employment vs. Employee Leasing: The Differences Brokers (and Clients) Should Know, to learn more about how different they really are!

Co-Employment vs. Employee Leasing