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Personalized benefits empower – and protect – employees

We live in an increasingly customizable world: The media we consume, the food we eat, the beds we sleep in and the soap we use all can be personalized just for us.

It’s no wonder, then, that employees expect their benefits to be personalized, too. One-size-fits-all benefits are being replaced by personalized suites of coverage that empower employees to customize packages to fit their lives and ease their financial burdens.1 For employers, personalized benefits can be a tool to manage costs while attracting and retaining top talent.

Customized benefits fit neatly into the new ethos of flexibility precipitated by Covid-19. Within any business, no two employees are working exactly the same way at the same time with the same motivations. Each employee is unique; now their benefits can reflect that.

Industry experts expect there will be “pressure on organizations to realign their benefits offerings following the current crisis,” according to a 2020-2021 report from benefits software company Darwin.2 “It will no longer be enough for employers to offer the ‘standard menu’ of benefits to staff that have no local or personal relevance.”

Employees demand more from benefits

Employees in a variety of industries surveyed by Aflac during the pandemic said they expected their employers to provide expanded benefits to help them feel secure. Sixty-three percent of employees said they expected at least one expanded benefit, such as supplemental insurance or telemedicine options. Nearly 1 in 4 expected employers to offer supplemental benefits such as hospital indemnity and critical illness coverage to help them feel comfortable going to their physical worksites.3

About half of respondents (49%) also said the pandemic was a wake-up call to pay more attention to their benefits, and there’s growing awareness that a personalized benefits package can be an important safety net in case of illness or financial hardship. Forty-five percent are extremely or very interested in purchasing supplemental insurance to offset financial costs related to Covid-19. Interestingly, employees younger than 40 were most likely to say so.3

So what do employees expect on an employer’s menu of benefits? Traditional offerings such as dental, vision, life and disability remain crucial. Many people put off visits to the dentist and eye doctor in 2020 and are overdue for care. And with about 1 in 5 Americans having lost someone close to them to Covid-19,4 the fragility of health – and life itself – is all too real. That’s why employees are also paying closer attention to critical illness and hospital indemnity coverages. But they’re not stopping there, and employers can’t, either.

Personalized benefits can provide a financial cushion

Today’s employees aren’t just thinking about physical health. They’re also focused on financial health and want their employers to help them reach their goals.

Covid-19 has been an enormous challenge for families and businesses alike. A quarter of American adults either lost their jobs because of the pandemic or lived with someone who did, according to Pew Research Center data from August 20205 (fortunately, some of those jobs have come back). One in 4 said they had trouble paying their bills. Many people who kept their jobs faced reductions in pay and dim prospects for a raise.

As many businesses have struggled to remain open, they told Aflac that their top challenge when it comes to benefits is “offering robust benefits while staying within cost constraints.” But employers also know that benefits are key; 50% said offering supplemental insurance helps recruit employees, and 60% said it helps keep them.3

Personalized benefits can help ease this pain, often at little or no cost to the employer, and employees can pick and choose based on their needs and concerns: help with student loan repayment, identity theft protection, access to legal plans for people interested in buying real estate or writing a will, or pet insurance for that pandemic puppy.

Employers are also seeing the value of offering benefit selection throughout the year, not just during open enrollment. Some are giving employees one-on-one access to benefits consultants who can help them make the best personalized decisions, as well as data on benefits chosen by “others like you.”

As these unprecedented times have shown, each employee is unique, but everyone needs help planning for the unexpected.