Workplace benefit plans are key part of employees’ future financial success but the majority of employers don’t think their employees value the benefits that are offered.

The Guardian Workplace Benefits Study measured how Americans perceive and value their employee benefits. What it found is that employers are out of touch with how their employees value their workplace benefits, such as insurance, retirement and health.

Only 16% of employers believe they are responsible for providing benefits to employees and fewer than two in 10 employers believes their employees are extremely satisfied with their benefits, the study found.

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“Employers do believe they play a role in helping employees and their families achieve financial security,” according to the study. The research shows “employers remain committed to offering affordable benefits that meet employees’ needs. More so than last year, employers are demonstrating a renewed focus on improving employee satisfaction and helping employees make the right benefits choices for their financial needs.”

Nearly two out of three employees believe employers are obligated to offer benefits, and one in three employees said they are extremely satisfied with their workplace benefits package, while a majority say they are satisfied with their benefits. Three-quarters of respondents say they are happy with their jobs.

“It’s not only important to offer benefits, but to help employees make informed and educated decisions that fit their particular needs,” says Ray Marra, senior vice president, group products at Guardian. “Providing more personalized, easy-to-access professional guidance and decision-support tools will help employees achieve financial security.”

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Most employers expect health care costs to go up because of the Affordable Care Act, so many plan sponsors expect to redesign their plans.

“Compared to last year, though, fewer employers say that asking employees to pay for more benefits is a part of their strategy,” according to the report. “Instead, they are aiming to find increased efficiencies and savings by reducing their benefits administrative burden.”

Many employers have turned to third-party administrators, carriers and brokers to help them navigate the changes effectively.

Employers in this year’s study say they want to increase access to education and help employees make the right financial decisions. They are looking at ways to improve their enrollment processes and ongoing communications.

Guardian found that income has a huge impact on how employees perceive workplace benefits. Workers who made between $25,000 and $49,999 a year were not as positive about their workplace plans as others who make more money.

“They are less likely than those with higher incomes to feel their benefits meet their specific needs, are affordable or improve their health or financial security,” the report found.

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Employees believe their benefits play a major role in their financial security, with 42% saying they rely on their workplace benefits for all or most of their financial preparedness, Guardian found. Sixty-five percent of employees believe their benefits positively impact their financial security while only 54% of employers believe that.

The report found that smaller employers actually have a better gauge on how their employees feel about their benefits. It is the largest employers, those with 5,000 or more employees, who “dramatically underestimate employee satisfaction with their benefits.”

Guardian found that many workers do not own other forms of insurance, including disability and life insurance, or have retirement savings plans if these are not offered through their jobs.

“Even when employers offer these benefits, many workers do not take advantage because of poor decision-making and/or ineffective communication and education efforts,” Guardian said.

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver.

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