The surprising key to keeping top workers (and attracting new ones)

The economy is showing signs of recovery, but increased financial pressure on employees shows little sign of letting up – particularly when it comes to health care benefits. As businesses work to shore up their bottom lines and strengthen themselves for the future, many are increasing health insurance deductibles and co-payments. In some cases, they’re eliminating benefits altogether.

All of these changes to health care plans and payments have left workers nervous and concerned that their families might end up underinsured and under-protected. Savvy employers are responding to those worries by sweetening their health care benefits plans.

In addition to providing major medical coverage, they’re also providing access to voluntary insurance policies, which can be customized to fit workers’ individual needs and incomes. This means employees can select the options that best fit their lifestyles and household budgets. At the same time, because voluntary insurance premiums are employee-paid, companies can control their costs while knowing they’ve done right by their workers.

“But wait,” you might be saying. “How do we know our employees are interested in voluntary health care plans? And, if they are, how do these plans benefit our company?”

Each year, Aflac conducts the Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR), which is a survey designed to gauge employer and employee opinions about health care issues and coverage.1 As part of our 2013 survey, we asked 5,299 workers to share their thoughts about voluntary health care insurance. Fully 60 percent said they’d be interested in voluntary coverage if their employers made it available. Driving that interest, of course, is the financial uncertainty mentioned earlier. Aflac also asked workers about their financial situations and here’s what we found:

  • 45 percent have less than $1,000 on hand to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses, and 25 percent have less than $500.
  • In the event of an accident or illness, 40 percent would have to borrow money to cover medical costs from friends or a 401(k), 28 percent would have to pay by credit card and 14 percent simply have no idea how they would cover the bills.

It’s no wonder, then, that workers are feeling somewhat panicky – many have no financial safety nets, so they’re attracted to voluntary insurance that pays policyholders directly and covers unexpected costs stemming from illness, injury and even death.

If you’re looking for additional reasons to add to employees’ health benefits options, there are many. The recession has placed a heavy burden on not only workers who’ve lost their jobs, but also those left behind to shoulder heavier workloads. Worker discontent is rampant, as evidenced by a Right Management survey revealing that 86 percent of employees plan to actively look for new jobs in 2013.2

As the job market improves, companies should be looking for ways to combat turnover, not to mention ways to attract the best and brightest new workers. Making health care offerings part of retention and acquisition efforts is often overlooked, but these benefits can go a long way toward increasing worker satisfaction and productivity.

The AWR also found that employees who believe their companies care about their well-being are more likely to remain in their jobs. Forty-four percent of workers who don’t believe their employers take care of them said they’re at least somewhat likely to move on within the next year, compared to 8 percent who at least somewhat agree that their employers take care of them.

The bottom line: Employers risk losing workers to competitors if they don’t offer flexible and robust benefits plans that meet workers’ needs. What’s more, they also diminish their chances of luring talented new employees to their workforces.

2013 Aflac WorkForces Report” conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, accessed Jan. 24, 2014 -
Right Management employee survey accessed Jan. 24, 2014 -

This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation.

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