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Benefits play an increasingly pivotal role in the employer-employee relationship, according to the 2011 Mercer Workplace Survey, a nationally representative survey conducted annually by Mercer’s US Outsourcing business. Nearly eight out of 10 employees say their benefits are one of the reasons they work where they do, and almost as many (76%) say that benefits make them feel appreciated by their company. Both of these results represent significant increases from last year (Table 1).
“This increased emphasis on benefits as a pivotal part of the employee experience clearly offers employers an opportunity to position their benefits program as a differentiating strategy, which can be especially valuable as they strive to be an ‘employer-of-choice’,” said Suzanne Nolan, Partner and Director of Marketing and Communications for Mercer’s US Outsourcing business. “The positive implications of this heightened benefits awareness extend far beyond recruiting and retention – often leading employees toward greater engagement, personal accountability and overall satisfaction.”
According to the findings, employer-sponsored health care continues to be a critical component of the overall benefits offering. Even as health care costs continue to rise, employees appear ready to accept changes to the employer-employee cost sharing model. This year, almost half (44%) of the employees surveyed reported that they were asked to pay more out of their own pocket for health benefits in the last 12 months. Yet, 46% still identified their health benefits are “definitely worth” the cost (up from 38% in 2010).
In addition, there is a higher level of participation in programs that encourage personal accountability. Nearly a third of employees say they take advantage of their employer’s wellness program “a great deal,” up from only 23% last year, and 26% say they take advantage of their employer’s disease management program “a great deal,” up from 15% last year.
The impact of health care reform
Perhaps contributing to the growing importance of employer-sponsored benefits is the still uncertain impact of health care reform. While health care reform continues to receive mixed reviews among this insured population, the overall impression is slightly more positive than it was a year ago (Table 2).
“Across the board, we’re seeing employees warm up to the idea of health care reform, specifically when it comes to projecting how they will be personally affected,” said Ms. Nolan. “This emerging attitude shift reinforces the need to simplify the complex topic of health care reform and make it more understandable and meaningful for employees, especially as we anticipate the upcoming provisions of health care reform that will need to be implemented in 2014, which will most likely have a more significant impact on a broader number of employees.”
The survey also reveals that employees are much more aware of health care reform than they were a year ago. More than a third (36%) of surveyed employees – double the 2010 level (18%) – report that their employer has indicated changes in their health plan will occur as a result of health care reform. Yet, as employees ponder exactly how those changes will affect them, 75% said they would rather pay more out of pocket than have their health benefits reduced.
“Employees seem to be turning their uncertainty about the future – both in terms of health care reform and their own job security – into greater appreciation for their benefits and a desire to become more involved in their health care decisions,” said Ms. Nolan. “Employers can build on this momentum by providing the education and programs to encourage informed decision making and health-conscious behaviors.”
About the Mercer Workplace Survey™
The Mercer Workplace Survey tracks employee attitudes toward, and experiences with, employer-sponsored retirement, health and benefits programs.
The survey represents a national cross-section of active 401(k) participants defined as those currently contributing to a 401(k) plan irrespective of balance or having a 401(k) balance of $1,000 or more with their current employer whether or not they are currently contributing. Eligible non-participants and those only holding balances at previous employers are not included in this research. Respondents are also required to be enrolled in their employer’s health plan. Online interviews were completed with 1,507 participants between June 16 and July 1, 2011. The survey’s margin of error is plus/minus 2.6%.
To download the 2011 Mercer Workplace Survey Executive Summary, please visit http://www.mercer.com/mws-execsummary.
Mercer is a global leader in human resource consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Mercer works with clients to solve their most complex benefit and human capital issues by designing, implementing and administering health, retirement and other benefit programs. Mercer’s investment services include investment consulting, implemented consulting and multi-manager investment management. Mercer’s 20,000 employees are based in more than 40 countries. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., which lists its stock (ticker symbol: MMC) on the New York and Chicago stock exchanges.
For more information, visit www.mercer.com.