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Survey Report

2019/2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey Report

More security, greater flexibility and a stronger focus on wellbeing

February 26, 2020

Employees are struggling with financial and health-related issues that impact their wellbeing, and employers are taking note. How can employers meet the diverse needs of today’s multigenerational workforce? New survey reveals key insights to help design a new benefits deal.
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Today’s employees are struggling with financial and health-related issues that impact their wellbeing, and employers are taking note. Designing benefits plans to help workers manage and maintain their health and finances — and thus remain engaged and productive at work — is a top priority for companies around the globe.

But how can employers meet the diverse needs of today’s multigenerational workforce? Younger workers are facing job insecurity, student debt and high housing costs, while baby boomers are approaching retirement, working longer in greater numbers and are concerned about their health and retirement savings.

In addition, the shift from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC) plans is leaving many workers feeling vulnerable, as it places more responsibility on workers to manage both the costs and risks associated with their financial futures. At the same time, much of the world has seen relatively slow economic growth over the past decade, making it harder for employers to pay for the rising costs in benefits or to significantly increase worker pay to meet increasing demands.

The challenge of providing benefits that satisfy everyone is leading employers to reassess their benefits packages in two main ways:

  1. Provide greater benefits choice to meet a growing and broader range of needs

    Employers are looking to maximize the value of their benefits spend by providing programs that better meet their employees’ needs. The idea of increasing choice and flexibility in benefits programs is not new, however, technological advances are removing some of the roadblocks associated with providing greater choice; reducing the administrative burden and tackling engagement challenges. The emergence of flexible and streamlined administration platforms is enabling a more efficient and customized benefits delivery approach.

    This suggests a new benefits deal for employees, with more flexibility and choice and a broader focus. But for this new deal to be effective, employers must understand their workforces’ wants and needs, and actively engage employees in their benefits decisions. The traditional methods to encourage engagement — communication, education and incentives — have had limited success. Employers are increasingly looking toward using nudges and social connections to motivate sustainable behavior change.

  2. Focus on integrated wellbeing

    Traditionally, employers have offered stand-alone benefits to address specific issues. But such a narrow view can only go so far to address the broader challenges employees face today. As such, employers are embracing the challenge to address employees’ total wellbeing. This is not as simple as offering a few targeted programs; these are complex issues that need to be tackled as a whole and with the support of the people closest to us. Employers recognize the need to take an integrated approach to helping employees thrive physically, achieve financial security, attain emotional balance and build strong personal connections.

Key findings

These two forces are leading employers to seek to create a new benefits deal. Willis Towers Watson’s 2019/2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey reveals five key findings for employers in doing so:

  1. 01

    Promote financial security

    Many employees are living paycheck to paycheck, and most workers fear they are falling behind on their retirement savings. These financial worries are having a wider impact: Financial issues are strongly linked to stress and anxiety, poor health, unhealthy lifestyles and reduced job effectiveness. Responding to these stresses, workers are seeking more support from their employers via enhanced benefits deals, with many willing to sacrifice pay in exchange.

  2. 02

    Meet the needs of a changing workforce

    While employees are looking for greater security in their benefits packages, what security means can vary widely by age, gender, salary, life circumstance and individual outlook. One size does not fit all.

    If benefits packages are to meet individual needs, employers need to protect core benefits while offering flexibility and choice. Today’s employment deal will need to evolve to encompass a broader range of employee benefits, including voluntary as well as workplace perks.

  3. 03

    Enable choice and help employees make smart decisions

    How can it make sense for employers to think about expanding choices and broadening the benefits deal, when employees often struggle with the complexity of choices they already face?

    One option is to narrow and make more manageable the range of choices offered to employees; however, our research suggests employees typically prefer a wider, not narrower, array of options. The question then becomes, how can employers effectively support this? Traditionally, employers have focused on education and communication to help employees make more informed decisions. While this works for some employees it clearly does not work for all, technology and decision-support tools to guide smarter choices are increasingly the favored options for employees.

  4. 04

    Flexible work arrangements

    The world of work is evolving, and organizations are adapting to new workforce demands. Alongside a greater focus on choice and flexibility across benefits, employers are looking to modernize policies on flexible work and leave arrangements that allow employees to better manage their work/life balance. Our research highlights the value of such policies: Workplace flexibility is closely linked with how much employees appreciate their benefits and the desire to remain with their employer.

  5. 05

    Leverage social connections to drive employee wellbeing

    To promote sustainable behavior change, employers are moving away from a focus on incentives and penalties and moving toward using nudges and social connections (via the wider workplace culture and employee community groups). Our research reveals a strong correlation between a socially connected workforce and many behaviors that promote wellbeing, such as participating in healthy activities, lowering levels of stress and anxiety, and taking positive steps to improve financial situations. For employers, enhancing social connections is potentially a key new lever to improve employee engagement in benefits programs.

About the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey

This figure shows the participants by region (9,500 in North America, 5,043 in Latin America, 15,254 in EMEA, and 10,305 in Asia Pacific).
Figure 1. About the survey

Willis Towers Watson has been examining trends in employees’ attitudes toward their benefits for nearly 20 years. Since 2013, these surveys and analyses have been performed on a globally consistent basis, providing detailed insights that help guide employers in developing benefits programs that are attractive to employees and deliver the most value to employers.

This latest biennial edition of the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey gathers responses from more than 40,000 employees working at midsize and large private sector companies in 27 markets (Figure 1). The results reflect the views of all employees, except for those in the U.S. and Canada, where we focus on full-time employees. This report represents a high-level summary of the survey results.

Title File Type File Size
2019/2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey PDF 3.4 MB
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