Employees Leaving in Droves? The Great Resignation Warrants a Serious Look at Your Benefits Package

Employee benefits packages are often customizable to meet the different needs of employees at various life stages. But this customization is only valuable if the employee knows they can make changes and select the right benefits for their lifestyle.
By: | June 11, 2022

The Hartford recently published its third annual Future of Benefits study examining employee and employer thoughts and attitudes toward employee benefits.

With current societal pressures changing the landscape of employment, the 2022 version of the study is particularly compelling. The Great Resignation and talent gap have affected every industry. At the same time, employees have more options than ever before.

The study focused on three key areas this year: Why employees are changing jobs, how disconnects between employer and employee are fueling discontent, and how mental health remains a critical part of employee benefits packages.

There is a clear difference between the way employers and employees view work and opportunities for the future — and this dichotomy affects employee retention.

Laura Marzi, marketing and strategy lead for group benefits at The Hartford, said: “Our Future of Benefits study showed that most U.S. workers believe it would be easy to find a job and many have taken or plan to take steps to leave their current job. As people switch companies, there is an enormous opportunity for workers to think beyond just the salary and really take the time to understand what benefits their new company is offering or what they might be leaving behind as they make the switch.”

Workers Believe It’s Easy to Find a Job

The Hartford’s Future of Benefits study found that 59% of U.S. workers believe it would be easy to find a new job. And people are moving positions and companies often. Fourteen percent of workers changed companies in the last 12 months, and another 20% plan to change companies within the next year.

Laura Marzi, marketing and strategy lead, group benefits, The Hartford

For those employees who are staying at their current company, they are still seeking change. Twenty percent of employees reported moving to a new role at their current employer in the last year, with another 20% planning a role change within the next year.

The study found the top five reasons people leave their jobs are higher wages, better workplace culture, greater career advancement opportunities, greater flexibility, and to escape poor treatment by management.

While a robust employee benefits program may not be able to help combat the higher wages, having great benefits can help fight the other reasons employees leave.

Great Disconnects Lead to Great Resignation

Perhaps more than ever, employers and employees have a disconnect regarding their feelings about work.

The pandemic changed everything, upending decades of established workplace culture in the first two-week lockdown.

And employees liked it — with remote work the rule, many employees found a new work-life integration they’d never had before. Not many clamored to return to long commutes, traffic and 40+ hours in the office each week.

The study showed employers have more confidence in their ability to retain their employees, with 96% of employers affirming they were taking positive steps to retain their workforce. In comparison, only half of employees (52%) agreed. And 69% of employers think their workers are satisfied with their jobs overall — but only 48% of workers agreed.

Two-thirds of employers (71%) feel their benefits package is better than their competitors. But representing another disconnect, 55% of employees agree.

The study found that benefits are underutilized across the board, however. Participation levels in various benefits remain consistent — and in some cases, consistently low. The study showed only 46% of employees carry critical illness insurance, for example.

Employee benefits packages are often customizable to meet the different needs of employees at various life stages. But this customization is only valuable if the employee knows they can make changes and select the right benefits for their lifestyle.

Marzi explained, “Personalizing the benefits education materials to really demonstrate how the benefits can fit in with their lifestyle and family needs is becoming more crucial. For example, some of the younger workers may need to understand how life, accident, or disability insurance may help protect their income when starting a family. Others who have a family history of certain illnesses may want to understand more about critical illness insurance.”

The study showed that 68% of employees want personalized information to help them make benefits decisions. Employers can demonstrate how customized packages support each employee’s goals.

Marzi continued, “Employers can reinforce that their workers are in control of their benefits decisions and demonstrate how their employees can customize their selection based on their specific needs to protect themselves and their families. Benefits education should occur year-round to keep them top of mind for workers, not just during onboarding or open enrollment periods.”

Mental Health Remains Critical Component of Benefits Packages

Employees feel stressed out and burned out — and employers say it affects the workplace. A full 71% of employers cited the deteriorating mental health of workers as a cause of financial insecurities.

Workers are experiencing various mental health symptoms and conditions contributing to workplace challenges: 42% of workers reported feeling highly stressed, 34% reported feelings of depression or anxiety, and 68% of workers said they were burned out.

The study also considered the top drivers of stress and burnout in workers and found economic and cultural considerations largely drove them. Workers cited work-life balance, workloads, debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and being able to save for the future as their most significant stressors.

At a time when mental health concerns are rising, conversely, the number of employers offering mental health services is dropping.

The study compared numbers from March 2022 to current and found employers offering wellness benefits dropped from 49% to 37% over this period, and those offering behavioral health services reduced from 37% to 27%. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) fared even worse during this time, with a reduction from 54% to a mere 30% of employers offering EAP to their employees.

Marzi spoke about the importance of employers providing mental health or wellness programs to their employees: “Employers can provide access to an employee assistance program (EAP) or other wellness programs that help workers improve mental and physical health.”

She continued, “Some of the bedrock benefits many employers offer, such as disability insurance, often come with support services such as an EAP. It comes back to the idea of meeting workers where they are and fostering an open and inclusive work culture where workers feel comfortable coming forward and asking for the support they need to remain healthy and productive.”

Employee Benefits are an Opportunity for Employers

Employers have a great opportunity to use their benefits package in positive ways. Employers can use the information in the Hartford’s 2022 Future of Benefits study to improve their benefits packages — and find new ways to promote the flexibility of their packages to employees.

Employees want to remain in control of their benefits, and employers can focus on helping workers customize their benefits to include the things that are important to them. When employees know what’s in it for them, the benefits package becomes a way to retain top talent. &

Abi Potter Clough, MBA, CPCU, is a keynote speaker, author and business consultant focused on Insurtech, leadership and strategy. She has over 15 years of experience at a Fortune 500 company with expertise in P&C claims operational leadership, lean management consulting, digital communications and Insurtech. As the past chair of the International Insurance Interest Group of the CPCU Society, Abi remains involved in many international initiatives and projects. She has published two books about change management and relocation. Abi can be reached at [email protected].

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