"The American worker is more engaged about what benefits are offered at work and they are looking to their employer as the primary support for their financial savings and retirement planning," Leopold says. "We've kind of gone from a world where we used to think of our employer as the place where we got our salary to a place where we get the means to a more successful financial future by way of the benefits they offer."
Leopold expects employers to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach to benefits as the workforce becomes more diverse. The most expensive and in-demand benefit is health insurance and its costs will continue to escalate.
The consultancy Towers Watson estimates that companies spent, on average, $9,552 per employee for health benefits in 2009, up 6% from 2008. Large employers faced health care cost increases of roughly $532 per employee. Health insurance costs could rise 10% this year.
Aon's 2009 Benefits and Talent Survey found that chronic medical conditions accounted for 50% or more of annual medical expenditures. Among respondents who plan to change their medical plans this year, 56% are introducing or expanding wellness programs, including those that target stress, smoking and obesity.
Leopold foresees increasing creativity in how companies offer benefits. Many incentives can be provided as opt-ins for employees at little or no cost to employers.
"There are a lot of ways that smaller employers, and certainly larger employers can leverage the value of working for them," he says. "Many employees are thrilled that they can get a better rate for their car and home insurance, have it deducted from their paycheck and view that as part of a value proposition for working for a company."
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