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April 6 — Despite improved employment and economic conditions, financial concerns among employees continue to grow, particularly for millennials, and they want these concerns addressed by their employers, according to a survey released April 4 by insurance company MetLife.
It found that almost half (44 percent) of millennials say they want their employer to help them solve their financial concerns, a response more than double that of employees from the baby boomer generation (20 percent). Similarly, three-fourths (75 percent) of millennials say their employers have a responsibility for the financial well-being of the workforce.
There is a lot of interest in financial wellness, and employees want more education on how to save, Todd Katz, executive vice president of group, voluntary & work site benefits at MetLife, told Bloomberg BNA April 5. However, only about 30 percent of employers actually offer these kinds of programs, Katz said.
MetLife's “U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study” surveyed 2,508 benefits professionals and 2,612 full-time employees between November 2015 and January 2016.
Millennials grew up watching their parents go through financial hardships and also likely struggled at the start of their careers because of economic recessions, Amy Hirsh Robinson, principal with Interchange Consulting Group in Los Angeles and unaffiliated with the MetLife survey, told Bloomberg BNA April 5. “That experience at a young age has helped shape their values around money and the need for financial security.”
Contrary to generational stereotypes, Robinson said, this group of employees has created a “huge demand” at companies for programs like 401(k) matching and tuition debt reimbursement. These employees want benefits that are focused on savings, she said.
According to Katz, employers can create workforce loyalty and engagement if employees are more satisfied with their financial benefits. However, he said, HR needs to first communicate what those benefits are.
There’s a disconnect where employers think they are communicating effectively but employees are “just not getting it,” Katz said. Personalizing communications about available benefits to various employee groups is really important, Katz said, particularly one-on-one consultations.
The first step for HR is to determine how employees would like to receive their benefits communications, which can vary by location, type of industry and even corporate culture, Katz said. In any approach, HR should give employees choices, such as via online tools, telephone support and face-to-face support, he added.
One approach to financial benefits is to make them part of an overall wellness strategy. Indeed, employers increasingly are investing in “total well-being” programs that target financial and emotional health in addition to physical well-being, according to a survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health.
The survey, released April 1, revealed that employers are adding programs that help employees manage stress and assist with financial challenges, Karen Marlo, vice president of benchmarking and analysis at the NBGH, told Bloomberg BNA April 6.
Specifically, 76 percent of the 129 employers surveyed provide financial health programs.
Employers already have some financial wellness infrastructure through retirement savings programs, Marlo said, but they could expand this into education programs on how to budget, pay off student debt, save, or even refinance student loans. “The ultimate goal is helping employees become the most productive version of themselves,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Highlights from the MetLife survey are available at https://benefittrends.metlife.com/us-perspectives/opportunity-is-knocking/. The NBGH survey is available at http://www.businessgrouphealth.org/pressroom/pressRelease.cfm?ID=276.
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