Canadian plan sponsors say employee expectations for benefits are changing

While nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of Canadian plan sponsors believe their benefits plans meet current workforce diversity needs, 87 per cent noted employee expectations for benefits and the workplace have changed, according to a survey from Aon.

Today’s employees expect more flexible working hours (84 per cent), support to achieve work-life balance (79 per cent), a clear approach to employee mental health (78 per cent), more agile home and work options (77 per cent), a high degree of benefits personalization (56 per cent) and an emphasis on diversity and inclusion (51 per cent).

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According to survey respondents, emerging benefits areas include gender affirmation, fertility and family planning and virtual health care.

In addition, plan sponsor objectives are evolving. Primarily, they include ensuring benefits plans reflect the best market price, service and coverage (65 per cent), as well as improving employee satisfaction (62 per cent), cost management (61 per cent) and employee understanding of coverage (61 per cent).

Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of plan sponsors said they expect to see plan harmonization growing in importance over the next three years, followed by planning for future demographics (43 per cent) and addressing preferences influenced by employee age and gender (43 per cent).

And employee demand for more flexibility and choice is growing, with the top five voluntary insurance benefits (fully employee-paid) offered by employers including optional life (90 per cent), optional accidental death and dismemberment (72 per cent), supplementary travel (71 per cent), critical illness (49 per cent) and retiree health (44 per cent).

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“A static benefits strategy will no longer suffice,” said John Gerbrecht, vice-president and Vancouver practice leader of health solutions at Aon. “Evolving employee expectations — driven by demographics, a focus on diversity and inclusion and technology — mean employers have to be agile and open to more flexibility and personalization in benefits plans.

“We know robust benefits can help attract and retain talent, and many employers provide traditional health, dental and insurance benefits. But the workforce is changing and employers offering one-size-fits-all benefit solutions might find themselves unable to keep pace with those offering more flexible and varied plan offerings in a highly competitive marketplace for human capital.”