Benefits Frustration Impacting Employees

This is a guest post from Robert L. Miller, vice president and senior consultant at Gregory & Appel Insurance. A longer version of this article first appeared in the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Have employees reached the tipping point where higher health care costs have forced them to think seriously about jumping ship? According to national surveys, the answer is an emphatic yes.

According to the Ninth Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends by MetLife, “This year’s findings reveal a work force that has grown more dissatisfied and disloyal, to the point where a startling one in three employees hopes to be working elsewhere in the next 12 months.”

The study also shows that, year after year, employees who are satisfied with their benefits (especially their health plans) are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. The more satisfied people are with their job, the higher the productivity levels and the less likely they become a turnover statistic.

Many employees are struggling to make ends meet with the rising costs of goods and services while their pay remains the same or marginally increased. The “affordability gap” is getting wider, according to the Towers Watson Health Care Cost Survey 2011.

This is an issue employers struggle with at every renewal. Employers pay 36% more for health care than they did just five years ago, and employees contribute over 45% percent more over the same period.

As the economy continues to pick up, top employees will keep an eye open for that next job that has better benefits at a lower cost for them. This will have a major impact on a business if it starts losing top talent.

Surveys have shown that employees in all age groups rate health care as their top concern. Yet employers continue to believe employees are loyal, and they do not appear tuned in to this potential flight risk. But as the economy recovers, there is evidence employees are more likely to seek other employment opportunities — especially as many are feeling frustrated in their jobs.

Employers must lower their health care cost and engage their work force to become partners in this ongoing struggle to control cost. Without significant changes to medical plans and getting employees more engaged, morale will continue to decline and bring productivity down with it.

This is not the time to lose sight of how benefits help with employee attraction, retention and productivity. Start communicating with employees about health care cost, what they can do to help costs and share the true cost of medical coverage.