Top Employees Want This One True Benefit

Jan 23, 2018

men-1979261_1280I looked up the definition of ‘benefit’ in the dictionary the other day and what I found surprised me. It is variously described as a gift, a perk, even a blessing or a godsend. These aren’t usually words that come to mind when we talk about group benefits. They each imply that it is an extra, a positive thing free of strings or obligations. Perhaps there is a free lunch somewhere. Let’s step back for a wider perspective. 

When we look at the broad swath of group benefits there are thousands of possible combinations and permutations of coverage that employers can offer their employees. There are different levels of life insurance, vision care, or options to include even orthodontics, just to name a few.

But in Canada, all these variations boil down to essentially five core benefits: life insurance, disability, extended health, dental. And then there’s retirement. It stands alone.

It stands alone because it’s somewhat outside the first four core benefits, which in some way strive to provide restoration for something that is either missing or damaged. If we think about these core benefits on a spectrum or a scale, four out of five are on the negative end. For example, it’s never a good occasion that necessitates a claim under the life insurance benefit. Few hands go up if you ask who might think otherwise. The same can be said for disability claims. Recipients may be glad of the insurance but the occasion is always a catastrophic event.

Equally, no one wants to be in a position where they’re claiming a lot on extended health and dental benefits. These kinds of claims usually indicate considerable toll in terms of physical deterioration, time spent at various service providers and out of pocket expenses.

Each of these foregoing kinds of benefits reinstate wholeness in some way to the recipient. The first two achieve this with cash and the second two use some kind of physical amelioration or rehabilitation.

Employers usually realize quite quickly they probably need this kind of group insurance plan to compete for the type of employees they want and need. That employee is likely age 40 or greater, as most employees today are found in the baby boomer or generation X age bands. So, questions arise about which benefit is most important to them? What issues are most on their minds?

In answer, we find that for many employees in this group dental is less important as they become empty nesters. We also find, perhaps surprisingly, that most employees don’t place a high value on either life insurance or disability benefits…those were the first two benefits on our positive/negative spectrum. Moving over to extended health, on the more positive end, numerous benefit plan surveys do indeed confirm that a comprehensive extended health plan is listed high in importance by most employees.

But for many, the most important true benefit is a retirement plan. Most employers have group insurance plans to cover all those things we don’t want to happen. Unfortunately, fewer have retirement plans, which are definitely an extra, and cover that one thing we do want to happen.

A well-funded and fulfilling retirement is something everyone wants to anticipate, to work hard for and to enjoy. It’s like a mirage that doesn’t disappear the moment we get close. Fortunate are the employees whose workplaces offer retirement plans for they have a leg up on actually reaching the dream.

It’s a highly alluring vision that employers can lever to attract and retain the top talent they need to be strong and successful. There’s an old adage that the best time for employees to start thinking about retirement is before their boss does. Maybe it’s time to turn that one on its head.

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