Employee benefits are essential for all organizations that consider their workforce as their greatest asset. This is especially true within the services industry which relies on hiring and retaining talented employees to serve customers. Furthermore, benefits have proven to be a strong measure to retain employees.

Metlife, a global insurance solutions provider in the UAE, conducted a survey in 2014 called Global Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS). This was the first such survey conducted in the UAE. The UAE is a very important market to study given its significant standing in the Middle East as the hub for tourism and trade. Over the years, the country has successfully diversified its economy, steering away from oil.

The strong growth has brought its own set of concerns as highlighted by the EBTS survey. 40% of employers anticipate near-term challenges due to shortage of talent. The booming property market, which has fueled inflation in the country, and rising healthcare expenditure, have created significant challenge for employers and employees.

A third of employees mentioned that they feel distracted at work due to financial concerns. In particular, healthcare costs and obtaining adequate health insurance coverage are the top concerns for employees. Employers are playing an active role by encouraging employees to participate in wellness programs and use their benefits so they can improve their mental, physical and financial well-being. This is a win-win because a healthy employee is a happy employee who can perform more efficiently and positively contribute to the organization’s growth.

Key highlights of the survey

Employee attrition is a growing concern. 39% employees have reported that they hope to switch to a new employer in the coming year. Employee attrition is a big concern for employers who want to remain the employer of choice. According to the the EBTS survey, hiring and retaining employees were among the top three concerns for employers. The biggest concern for employers proved to be managing benefits with their current HR resources.

 

In terms of benefits, the level of service, financial strength and products offered by the provider were more important than the cost of service for employers, of which was a concern for 65% of the respondents. This highlights that employers are not merely reducing costs when it comes to employee benefits but are truly taking charge of the quality of service available to their employees. While they appear to be cost conscious, they are looking to maximize the Return on Investment for benefits.

Employers need to do more soul searching.

In the survey it was revealed that there is a strong difference between how the employers perceive themselves and how their employees perceive them. For instance, 63% of employers believe that their company is “a great place to work at” while only 43% of employees agreed.  Similarly, 65% of employers responded that their employees are loyal to them, while only 38% of employees felt the same way.

Employee benefit optimization crucial for retention. Employers in the UAE recognize the crucial role played by benefits in retaining employees. 91% of the respondents believe that an optimal benefits program has a positive effect on employee satisfaction, higher productivity, health  and wellness (85% each). 84% of employers believe that employee benefits can help increase staff retention. Although employees do value benefits, only 53% feel as though it is their main concern.

However, it should be noted that the employees who place a higher value are more likely to be the ones satisfied with their work. Improved benefits also turned out to be the second biggest factor to make an employee stick to their current employer and not look for new opportunities. According to Metlife’s analysis, if an employer is able to increase an employee’s perceived value of benefits by one point on a five-point agreement scale, it can yield an increase of 12% in the employee’s sense of commitment.

Financial worries can impact productivity considerably. It comes as no surprise that financially secure employees are more productive as they spend considerably less time worrying about their financial situation. One in two employees responded that they spend a lot of time thinking about their financial issues at work than they should, while a third of the employees felt they were distracted at work due to their financial worries.

In terms of the types of financial concerns employees have, the UAE is different due to common concerns such as credit card debt or low savings rates, are less pronounced in the Emirates. Instead, UAE employees are more concerned about healthcare costs, loss of income and retirement. The surveyed employees were willing to share premium costs for benefits solution that protected their financial uncertainties, such as disabilities, and offered treatment options abroad.

Health benefits part of VIP SOLUTIONS for top executives.

Over half the employers stated that they offer special benefit packages for executives including supplementary health benefits, additional coverage and life insurance. Employees show a strong willingness to avail such type of benefits even if it requires sharing of cost. Metlife suggests that a good health insurance package isn’t just about covering healthcare costs but about covering end-to-end healthcare needs for employees from screening to wellness.

Only 38% employees find current communication effective.

Communication, is thus the biggest area of improvement where employee benefits are concerned. Only 38% employees of employees feel that the communications they get effectively educate them on their benefits. Further, 81% of employers rate improving the effectiveness of benefits communications as important.

In terms of how employers can communicate better, about three in four employees find digital platforms such as mobile apps and company website (72% and 71%, respectively) most effective. Two other modes of communication that stood out were employee benefits handbook (71%) and face-to-face meetings (67%). Supervisors and/or Managers, being the first point of communication for employees, can play an important role to deliver strong, supportive and positive messages around these health and wellness activities.

Redesigning benefits packages and effective communication need of the hour. The UAE has become a prominent diversified economy that has attracted global talent given the vibrant opportunities available in the country. It is essential that the employers take the right steps in retaining their valuable employees through the redesigning of employee benefits packages and improving communication. Benefits can deliver employee engagement and are an effective tool in retaining employees. In addition, wellness programs can deliver higher ROI for employers. Self-awareness of one’s health, preventive health measures, proactive screen and stress management are all important areas to target when communicating with employees.

 

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