Now more than ever, employers need to step up their employee benefits game beyond providing group health insurance.

Thanks to the Great Resignation, employees are demanding more from their current and prospective employers. And those that don’t deliver lose employees or have trouble attracting new talent, as long-time colleagues head for the exits.

Good pay and a robust health insurance package still win the day, but employers are having to do more to sweeten the pot, according to a new survey by MetLife.

One of the biggest factors affecting American employees is stress and burnout and the survey reflects these sentiments, with respondents saying they all want more flexibility in their work.

By enhancing benefits packages with an emphasis on physical, mental, financial and social well-being, employers can channel these concerns into action. In so doing, they’re more likely to promote resilience and productivity as the COVID-19 pandemic’s challenges continue, MetLife says.

Seven in 10 employees surveyed told MetLife researchers that a flexible, customizable benefits package would increase their loyalty to their employer.

Furthermore, smaller employers are ramping up their benefits package to attract talent: Two-thirds of all employers nationwide with fewer than 100 employees are planning to add non-medical benefits to their compensation mix.

‘Must-have’ benefits

The popularity of medical insurance is well established. And under the Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent workers don’t have a choice: They must offer a qualified health plan to their employees working over 30 hours per week.

However, a number of other benefits are proving extremely popular — and many employees are considering these benefits “must haves,” and moving them to the top of the list when they consider their employers’ value proposition.

Among these must-have benefits:

  • Prescription drug coverage
  • 401(k)s or other retirement plans
  • Dental insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Vision care
  • Accident insurance
  • Long-term and short-term disability insurance
  • Accidental death and dismemberment insurance
  • Defined benefit pension plans
  • Critical illness insurance
  • Hospital indemnity insurance
  • Financial planning and education workshops
  • Cancer insurance
  • Legal services
  • Pet insurance

Find out what they want

But just improving benefits or adding benefits without consulting staff can backfire. It’s important employers understand their employees’ needs before embarking on changes to their benefits.

Mercer also notes that employees are more concerned these days about having the right lifestyle fit at their employer, so businesses should take into account differences in their employees’ lifestyles.

Employers are using a number of strategies to gather information on which benefits employees will be more interested in. Here’s what they are doing to get the answers they need:

  • Employee surveys: 61%
  • Analysis of needs based on employee demographics: 46%
  • Input from employee resource groups: 35%
  • Focus groups: 26%
  • Other sources of information: 46%

Best practices 

The study’s authors recommend employers consider the following measures:

  • Have a spectrum of non-medical benefits that are relevant for employees in every age group that works for you.
  • Recognize the importance of supplemental benefits such as accident and critical illness insurance that provide vital “gap” coverage. If many employees are living paycheck to paycheck, this could be invaluable in the event of a crisis in their lives — for very little in premiums.
  • Beef up your communication and education efforts, both in person and via technology. Partner with an enrollment communication firm.
  • Integrate financial wellness into your employee wellness plan. Consider workshops, lunch & learns, brown-bag events and other forms of outreach.