During the recession and the slow economic recovery, American workers routinely heard the phrase "do more with less." And they did. Productivity gains by U.S. employers were always held up as a bright spot in the down economy.

Now, research by Metlife suggests that those gains may have come at the expense of employee loyalty. For example, only 47% of employees claim feeling very strong loyalty to their employer, a drop from 59% just three years ago.

Moreover, some employers have an exaggerated sense of employee loyalty. In the fourth quarter of 2010, 51% of surveyed employers report that their workers have very strong loyalty to them. However, 36% of employees plan on working for a different employer in the next 12 months.  

“Worker loyalty has been slowly ebbing over the last several years, and it is important that employers take action to turn the tide around. The short-term gains employers realized from greater productivity appear to be short-lived and now pose bottom-line challenges as key talent considers other employment opportunities that have arisen as a result of the improving economy,” says Anthony J. Nugent, executive vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife.

He adds: “There is no doubt that the rebounding economy will bring more opportunities for employees, especially the high performers. A well-architected benefits offering will play an increasingly important role in retaining employees and positioning organizations for future growth.”

Meanwhile, the data show employers are holding steady to their benefits objectives, which are controlling health and welfare benefit costs, retaining employees and increasing employee productivity. Being delusional about employee loyalty may sabotage employers’ efforts to achieve benefits objectives.

"Employers need to look at their benefits offerings differently – through a new holistic lens – in order to maximize their effectiveness as a retention tool for their unique workforce while meeting other business objectives," says Dr. Ronald S. Leopold, vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife.

Benefits satisfaction still strengthens employee loyalty. Employees who expressed a high-satisfaction level with benefits programs were about three times as likely to report feeling loyal to their employers (71%), compared to those who express a dissatisfaction with benefits programs (25%.

Analysts at MetLife found that employee loyalty was driven by salary and wages, retirement benefits (64%), and non-medical benefits such as dental, disability and life insurance (59%).

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • More than half (55%) of all employees do not find their benefits materials to be clear and comprehensive, and only about one in four is satisfied with his/her benefits communications.
  • Employees say they would like to see more frequent communications (34%); information tailored to life events (39%); and benefits information on the internet (44%).

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