As employees continue to deal with persistent inflation, pandemic-related concerns, mental health issues and more, they are asking their employers for help. But a growing number of employees say they aren’t getting what they need in terms of benefits their workplaces offer.
Employee satisfaction with their benefits fell to 61 percent in 2023, down from 64 percent in 2022 and hitting its lowest point in the last decade, according to new data released this week by MetLife.
This is in stark contrast to how employers view their employees’ benefit satisfaction. In fact, from 2018 to 2023, the gap between actual employee satisfaction and employer perceptions of employee satisfaction widened from 3 percentage points to a staggering 22 percentage points, according to the company’s annual benefits study. insurance giant, which surveyed 2,840 benefits leaders and 2,884 full employees. time employees.
A likely reason for the decline in benefits satisfaction is higher employee expectations in the wake of significant financial and mental health issues, said Missy Plohr-Memming, senior vice president of national account sales and group benefits at MetLife.
“Since the start of the pandemic, employee demands have increased dramatically,” he said, explaining that MetLife research shows that the average number of “must-have” benefits for employees has increased from 6.6 in 2020 (pre-pandemic ) to 8.3. in 2023. Those benefits include stalwarts like health insurance, paid leave and retirement plans, but also newer options like financial wellness, employee assistance programs and stress management.
“While employers have worked to expand their benefit offerings, they simply have not been able to meet changing employee expectations quickly enough,” Plohr-Memming said. MetLife research shows this: 61 percent of employees say they are interested in certain benefits their employer does not currently offer, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2022.
Dissatisfaction with benefits is also likely to contribute to job dissatisfaction. While overall job satisfaction increased year over year to 69 percent in 2023 from 66 percent in 2022, according to MetLife findings, it remains at an all-time low. The 2023 figure is tied with 2020 as the second lowest rate since 2013.
Financial and holistic health in decline
Benefits discontent, as highlighted by new data, comes at a precarious time for employees, who are struggling with a host of well-being challenges. Inflationary pressures, fears of a recession, and continued pandemic concerns are among the factors impacting employees and contributing to overall declines in well-being. It stands to reason that employees who are unhappy with their health and well-being would also be unhappy with their benefits if they think their employers aren’t doing enough to improve things.
Other recent data has shown that mental health, which has declined significantly since the pandemic began, has barely improved from the nadir it reached at the start of the health crisis in 2020. The problem has only been exacerbated by declining financial health. as a result of record levels. the cost of living and recession fears. As a result, employees have been saving less, diving into retirement accounts and living paycheck to paycheck.
“This financial risk impacts our mental health: Are we going to pay for groceries? Do we need to cut back on health spending? It’s no small feat,” said Paula Allen, global research and total wellness leader at Telus Health. a healthcare company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, recently said SHRM online. “It also erodes our emergency savings, which is very important; having that cushion is very, very important for mental well-being.”
The MetLife study also shows a significant decline in overall holistic health (incorporating physical, financial, mental and social health), and financial health in particular is on a steep decline. Only 55 percent of employees said they are doing well financially, although employers don’t seem to understand the full extent of the problem: 83 percent said their employees are doing well financially.
The MetLife survey found that a sharp decline in financial well-being is not only primarily responsible for declining overall health, but is also closely linked to worsening mental health. Nearly half (48 percent) of employees cited financial concerns, up from 31 percent in 2022, as the cause of their worse mental health. MetLife found that stress and burnout are also significantly higher than before the pandemic.
The latest data indicates that although many employers have prioritized employee well-being in recent years, there is still much work to be done.
“Employers should consider the changing needs of their workforce and offer benefits to meet their needs,” Plohr-Memming said. “For example, employee interest in financial wellness tools and resources has increased dramatically: 45 percent of employees view those offerings as a ‘must have,’ compared to 18 percent in 2019.”
So what exactly do employees want? In addition to better support for holistic well-being and more benefits offerings, such as financial resources, they want something quite simple: attention. MetLife survey reveals that feeling cared for at work is a key factor in employee well-being, but 42 percent of employees say they don’t feel cared for by their employer.
“As the economy and labor market remain volatile and workplace trends fluctuate, employers cannot afford to overlook employee care,” said Todd Katz, executive vice president of group benefits. from MetLife. “When organizations genuinely demonstrate care for their employees, they are much more likely to effectively overcome macroeconomic challenges and come out on top for both current employees and job seekers alike.”
Plohr-Memming said HR leaders should “consider every element of the employee experience through the lens of caring,” including purposeful work, a social and supportive culture, flexibility, work-life balance and employment, professional growth and training, wellness programs, benefits and compensation.
“HR leaders should also recognize that care is not the same for all employees,” he explained. “Therefore, rather than prescribing a one-size-fits-all approach, organizations should seek to address the varied and often specific needs of their employees. This will not only improve employee experience and outcomes, but will also help achieve results for employers, including greater loyalty, productivity and greater job satisfaction.”