Is Coronavirus Reducing Employee Confidence in Their Benefits?

Employers and their insurance brokers have a lot to consider as open enrollment nears. It is all hands on deck as they try to figure out the best possible benefits packages for 2021. Meanwhile, a recent survey from The Hartford seems to suggest that employees might be losing confidence in their benefits packages.

If The Hartford’s data is correct, it is not good news for employers. They rely on their benefits to hire and retain the best talent in their fields. Benefits also provide a way to offer additional non-cash compensation to employees. Employees losing confidence does not bode well for their efforts.

Declining Confidence Numbers

Business Wire reports that the Future of Benefits Study surveyed U.S. workers and employers in two phases, once in early March 2020 and then again in mid-June. What they found is surprising:

  • Confidence in the value of employee benefits: 80% in March; 78% in June
  • Confidence in employer decisions regarding benefits: 61% in March; 55% in June
  • Confidence that employers are keeping up with their competitors: 56% in March; 44% in June.

The numbers show that employees have less confidence in the value of their benefits in June as compared to March. They also have less confidence in the decisions their employers are making about benefits or that the benefits their companies offer are comparable to those offered by other employers. It is not a pretty picture.

Find Out What Employees Want

The Hartford’s study seems to indicate that stress over the coronavirus crisis is contributing to the loss of confidence. That notwithstanding, the course of action moving forward would seem apparent. Rather than just continuing with benefits packages as-is, employers should seek to learn what their employees want.

News articles and broad-based studies will not do. Instead, business owners and HR staff need to start talking directly to workers to better understand how they view their benefits. They need to hear directly from employee mouths what would make the best possible benefits package.

Insurance brokers would do well to encourage their clients to have such discussions with employees. The more feedback employers can give brokers the better brokers can put together benefit packages that make employees happy. In the absence of direct employee feedback, the growing lack of confidence is likely to continue.

Employers Are Responding

The good news in all of this is that The Hartford survey also shows employers are responding. According to phase 2 of the study, employers are showing an increased interest in a variety of nontraditional benefits, including:

  • student loan repayment plans
  • behavioral and mental health services
  • paid time off for volunteering
  • paid sabbatical time
  • employee assistance programs
  • critical illness and hospital indemnity insurance.

Dallas-based BenefitMall points out that not all benefits are insurance related. Employers can implement things like student loan repayment and paid time off for volunteering without involving insurance brokers. BenefitMall says there are numerous creative ways to structure these sorts of things.

In the meantime, employees increasingly want to know that their benefits packages mean something above and beyond giving them something to encourage them to stick around. They want to know that their employers do not look at benefits as just another compensation model. Rather, they want benefits that reflect a genuine interest in them as human beings.

Coronavirus appears to be impacting the level of confidence employees have in their benefits. Employers are looking to turn that around through the end of the year and into 2021. How they respond with next year’s benefits will go a long way toward determining the eventual outcome.

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