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Study: Voluntary Benefits Popular with Younger Workers

Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company released its 10th annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, a widely respected report that measures and summarizes the key developments regarding the workforce benefits landscape.

This year’s study was conducted in fall 2011, and based on 1,519 interviews with benefits decision-makers and 1,402 interviews with employees. Both groups included individuals at both large corporations and smaller companies.

Younger workers willing to pay
As usual, this year’s MetLife report contains some fascinating and useful insights. In particular, it points to the growing gap between the attitudes and needs of younger workers (Gen X and Gen Y), versus their older, “boomer-generation” counterparts. Even more specifically, the study findings point to a growing willingness on the part of younger workers to pay for voluntary insurance benefits. For example, here’s how the employee group breaks out on the subject of interest in voluntary benefits that they can choose and pay for themselves:

Gen Y (21-31) 56 percent
Gen X (32-47) 58 percent
Younger Boomers (48-56) 44 percent
Older Boomers (57-66) 41 percent


Interest in specific voluntary benefit products mirrors this trend. For instance, 51 percent of Gen Y workers indicated an interest in purchasing life insurance benefits, versus only 26 percent of older boomers. And 46 percent of Gen X employees interviewed were interested in purchasing auto and/or home insurance, while only 34 percent of younger boomers were interested in this product.

Steve Eisenberg is vice president and Voluntary Benefits practice leader for Lockton’s Northeast region. We asked him if he is seeing similar trends in his work with clients—and what the implications are for employers seeking to offer the most effective benefits program for their workforce.

“Absolutely, we are seeing this trend across the board,” he says. “Younger workers are much more connected and interested in financial matters. They’ve seen what happened to the boomer generation when the recession hit, and they’ve learned that they need to take personal ownership for their lives and their finances.”

Opportunity for employers

For employers, Eisenberg sees this as an opportunity to design a robust benefits program that meets the needs of the workforce, and also keeps costs in line.

“There are so many creative options available,” he says. “For instance, an employer might offer a paid disability plan that provides a certain level of benefits, and then offer employees the option to purchase additional coverage. Or, as deductibles keep rising for major medical coverage, employees could have access to purchase supplemental plans that can offset out-of-pocket expenses.

“This approach gives the employer the opportunity to meet some real needs—and boost satisfaction with the benefits program—but without spending ‘hard’ dollars.”

Eisenberg believes that any employer should pay attention to the generational differences regarding attitudes about benefits. He emphasizes the strategic and holistic approach that Lockton takes in working to design the best benefits solution for each client.  “We expect to have a lot of conversation, and do a thorough analysis of the client’s workforce before we even think about what the solution might be,” he says.

“A well-designed benefits program can be a competitive advantage—fostering employee satisfaction, building employee loyalty and retention, and boosting productivity. That’s what we want for every one of our clients.”

For more information on Lockton’s unique approach to designing a benefits strategy, please contact me at rruotolo@lockton.com.

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