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Attract and Retain Employees with Voluntary Benefits

September 29, 2021

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

A new survey by Corestream revealed that employee demand for voluntary benefits, particularly mental health and financial wellness offerings, to ease burdens brought on by the pandemic is increasing. More employers are offering a larger variety of voluntary benefit categories to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce.

82% of employers surveyed offer three or more types of voluntary benefits compared to 71% in 2020. The top three voluntary benefits HR professionals added as new offerings to employees within the last 12 months are:

  1. Mental health (48%)
  2. Financial wellness or assistance (37%)
  3. Life insurance (25%)

Employees demand financial wellness and mental health benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic led to some of the most challenging times for employees and their families in the areas of physical, financial, and mental health. Amid the pandemic, employees asked for – and continue to demand – voluntary benefits that address all three concerns. Evidence shows that as employees ask for more assistance, employers are also listening and delivering.

  •  This year, 80% of employees shared that they would take advantage of financial wellness and financial assistance programs offered by their employer compared to 69% in 2020.
  • The top three financial wellness benefits employees would sign up for, if offered, are purchasing programs (48%), low-cost loans (45%), and debt refinancing (29%).
  • The top three supplemental health benefits employees are interested in signing up for, if offered, are Life Insurance (54%), Accident Insurance (35%), and Critical Illness Insurance (35%).

Voluntary benefits are key to hiring and retaining talent. The survey found that according to HR professionals, voluntary benefits improve retention and employee engagement and help attract new talent. Employees increasingly recognize that voluntary benefits play a major factor in their decision to work for and/or stay with an employer.

  • HR professionals believe that offering more voluntary benefits will retain employees (83%), engage employees (72%), and attract new talent (72%). They also believe that a more robust voluntary benefits offering will save employees money (63%) and increase employee productivity (53%).
  • Voluntary benefits are increasingly affecting employees’ decision to work for and/or stay with an employer. Today, three in four employees (76%) said voluntary benefits would impact their employer’s ability to retain them compared to 68% in 2020.

There is a communication gap. Results from the survey underscore a communication gap between HR professionals and the employee base they serve. Less than a fourth (22%) of employers shared that they communicate benefits to employees on a regular cadence throughout the year. This helps explain why only 54% of employees agree they have an adequate understanding of the benefits available to them. Additionally, over a third (36%) of HR professionals believe that their employees don’t fully understand the core and voluntary benefits available to them.

  • Less than half (49%) of employees agree that there are enough communication materials leading up to open enrollment.
  • 29% of HR professionals express that their employees will not be well prepared to make choices during the next open enrollment, and that the HR team will have an influx of questions during open enrollment.
  • Email is still the preferred method of communication for most employees (67%).

“Millions of employees are looking for reasons to stay in their jobs as they give serious thought to leaving – the Great Resignation is real,” said Neil Vaswani, CEO and co-founder of Corestream. “These mindset changes and life reprioritizations caused by the pandemic are here to stay. The newest data indicates that, compared to just one year ago, employers have a much bigger opportunity to improve employee retention by adding highly demanded voluntary benefits and helping employees understand the value of each of them, as well as how to best use their features. Mental health and financial wellness are clear priorities, as well as life, pet, accident, and critical illness insurance.”

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