More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of U.S. employers plan to differentiate and customize their benefits programs over the next two years, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson.

As drivers to revamp their benefits strategy, personalize the employee experience and manage the costs of their offerings, survey respondents cited an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (73 per cent), a tight labour market (53 per cent) and rising benefits costs (50 per cent)

“Amid the ongoing pandemic, employers are under increasing pressure to manage their benefits costs while at the same time finding new ways to support their employees’ overall well-being,” said Jennifer DeMeo, senior director of retirement at Willis Towers Watson, in a press release. “As a result, many are now planning actions to enhance their benefits programs to create a competitive advantage.”

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Half (51 per cent) of employers said they believe their benefits programs address the individual needs of their workforce and even fewer (39 per cent) said they offer significant flexibility and choice in their benefits. And, while a majority (81 per cent) said they currently offer competitive benefits overall, only a quarter (26 per cent) rated their well-being benefits as market-leading. And fewer than half (47 per cent) said they consider their core benefits (health care and retirement) to be better than those of other employers.

The survey also found 69 per cent of respondents plan to make integrating employee well-being into the benefits package a top objective over the next two years. Notably, respondents said they plan to prioritize employee emotional well-being (86 per cent) over the next two years, followed by physical well-being (68 per cent) and financial well-being (67 per cent). In fact, 77 per cent said they’ve already added or enhanced online and virtual medical services and 53 per cent plan to do so in the next two years.

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Meanwhile, 73 per cent of employers said they’re planning to boost their support for mental health (stress, burnout and depression), 47 per cent said they’re planning to add or enhance their support for financial well-being (savings, budgeting, loans and counselling) and slightly more than a quarter (29 per cent) said they’re planning to add or enhance support for social well-being (charitable donations, volunteer opportunities and social recognition).

Just over a third (34 per cent) of respondents said they’re planning or considering the use of digital tools and technology to help employees feel connected and be productive, while about half (52 per cent) said they’re planning or considering the use of personalized communications to specific segments of the workforce.

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