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Canadian employers need to rethink benefit plans as employee expectations evolve

Diversity, work/life balance and generational differences drive change: Aon survey

TORONTO (November 26, 2019) – As the demographics of the workforce change, so do the needs and expectations of employees. Plan sponsors will need to be flexible and open to more flexibility and personalization in benefits, according to a new survey of plan sponsors by Aon, the leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. While nearly two-thirds of sponsors think their benefit plans meet current workforce diversity needs, nearly 90% say employee expectations have changed and three-quarters believe the need to improve is ongoing.

“A static benefits strategy will no longer suffice,” said John Gerbrecht, Vice-President and Vancouver Practice Leader, Health Solutions, at Aon. “Evolving employee expectations – driven by demographics, a focus on diversity and inclusion, and technology – mean employers have to be agile and open to more flexibility and personalization in benefits plans.

“We know robust benefits can help attract and retain talent, and many employers provide traditional health, dental and insurance benefits,” Gerbrecht added. “But the workforce is changing, and employers offering one-size-fits-all benefit solutions might find themselves unable to keep pace with those offering more flexible and varied plan offerings in a highly competitive marketplace for human capital.”

Key Findings

  • While 63% of plan sponsors surveyed said their plans meet current workforce diversity needs, 76% said the need to improve is ongoing – and 87% noted that employee expectations of benefits and the workplace have changed.
  • Compared with past expectations, employees today expect more flexible work hours (84%), support to achieve work/life balance (79%), a clear approach to employee mental health (78%), more agile home/work options (77%), a high degree of benefits personalization (56%), and an emphasis on diversity and inclusion (51%).
  • Emerging benefit areas include gender affirmation, fertility and family planning, and virtual medical care.
  • Sponsor objectives are evolving. The primary objectives today are ensuring plans reflect the best market price, service and coverage (65%), improved employee satisfaction (62%), cost management (61%) and improved employee understanding of coverage (61%). In the next three years, almost two-thirds of sponsors (62%) see plan harmonization growing in importance, followed by planning for future demography (43%) and addressing preferences influenced by employee age and gender (43%).
  • As employee demand for more flexibility and choice grows, voluntary benefits (fully employee-paid) can offset coverage gaps and add choices that address individual needs and lifestyle.
  • The top 5 voluntary insurance benefits offered by employers are:
    • Optional life (90%)
    • Optional accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D): (72%)
    • Supplementary travel (71%)
    • Critical illness (49%)
    • Retiree health (44%)

For more information or to download the full report, click here.

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