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Employees Value Voluntary Benefits, but Few Employers Measure Program Success
January 31, 2006
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CHICAGO, Ill., -- While workplace differences abound between Baby Boom and Generation X employees, there are at least two similarities, according to Aon Consulting.

Aon Consulting surveyed employers nationwide and found that Baby Boomers (ages 45-60) and Generation Xers (ages 25-40) both purchase disability coverage more than any other employer-offered voluntary benefit*.

Specifically, 45 percent of those surveyed say Baby Boomers purchase disability coverage, while 37 percent say Generation X workers do the same. In addition, life insurance (individual whole life, universal life and variable life) ranks second for both groups (23 percent for Baby Boomers and 24 percent for Generation Xers). However, the similarities end there, as companies rank long-term care insurance as the third most popular voluntary benefit for Baby Boomers (11 percent), while individual home/auto/liability insurance is third among Generation X workers (14 percent).

"Obviously, there are generation-neutral issues, which are represented in the popularity of disability coverage and life insurance," said Garry Sullivan, senior vice president with Aon Consulting. "At the same time, an increasing number of Baby Boomers have begun caring for their parents, which has prompted many of these workers to purchase long-term care insurance as a voluntary benefit for themselves. Similarly, many Generation Xers are buying their first homes, making homeowners insurance a popular voluntary benefit choice for this group."

Companies surveyed indicate that disability coverage (37 percent) and life insurance (19 percent) are the most popular voluntary benefits among all employees as well. Long-term care insurance (26 percent) and retiree medical/Medicare supplemental insurance (19 percent) are the top two voluntary benefits that employees are requesting, but currently are not offered by many employers.

"It makes sense that disability coverage and life insurance are the two most popular voluntary benefits overall, since that is consistent with Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, the two groups that make up the majority of the workplace," said Sullivan. "However, the fact that long-term care insurance and retiree medical/Medicare supplemental insurance are the top benefits employees are asking for suggests that Baby Boomers are providing the greatest input on the topic."

Employees Value Voluntary Benefits, but Employers Fail to Measure Success

The Aon Consulting study also found that companies offer voluntary benefits as a tool to attract and retain employees (29 percent), in response to employee requests (28 percent) and to help employees with work/life balance (25 percent). What's more, 80 percent of workers perceive voluntary benefits to be extremely valuable or valuable. However, 67 percent of companies do not measure success of these programs, or do so only as needed.

"Employers should measure success of their voluntary benefits programs every 12 to 24 months to ensure employees are getting the most out of the plans," said Sullivan. "These programs can be very beneficial to employees and help serve as a point of differentiation for employers. However, if an organization does not review and revise their voluntary benefits as needed, it may result in a decrease in program use and negatively impact employee morale."

Additional Data Points

This survey also revealed the following.

-- More than three-quarters (77 percent) of surveyed employers offer voluntary benefits.

-- Nearly 50 percent of companies surveyed say they will not add any voluntary benefits to their offerings during the next three years. Meanwhile, 27 percent say they plan to add only one voluntary benefit during that time.

-- More companies offer pet insurance (4 percent) than identity theft "insurance" (3 percent).

Results from the Aon Consulting study, titled "What's Hot and What's Not in Voluntary Benefits," are based on responses from 83 U.S. employers. Forty- three percent of these companies have 500 or fewer employees, 23 percent have between 500 and 2,000 workers, 24 percent have a workforce of 2,000 to 10,000 and 10 percent have more than 10,000 employees.

* Voluntary benefits - benefits (other than supplemental group term life insurance) that are fully paid by employees through payroll deductions.

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