Nearly half (44 per cent) of employers that offer retirement benefits said employee productivity has been better than normal over the past year, compared to 29 per cent of employers that don’t offer retirement benefits, according to a survey by Maru Group Ltd. on behalf of the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan.

The survey, which polled more than 800 Canadian employers, also found fewer than one in five (18 per cent) employers offering retirement benefits said productivity has worsened, compared to 23 per cent of employers that don’t offer retirement benefits.

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The more robust the retirement savings program, the more likely employers were to report improved productivity, noted the survey. Respondents offering a defined benefit plan netted 38 per cent higher productivity, while those offering defined contribution plans reported a 31 per cent higher rate and employers offering group registered retirement savings plans cited a two per cent higher productivity rate. For respondents that don’t offer any retirement benefit, the net figure was a seven per cent increase. Of note, the survey showed offering dental or health benefits isn’t positively associated with productivity.

“The survey found that a majority of employers see a connection between reducing employees’ financial stress and productivity,” said Steven McCormick, senior vice-president of plan operations at the HOOPP, in a press release. “And a majority also agree that it’s important to offer retirement benefits to reduce stress.”

Notably, 73 per cent of employers said they agree employees feeling financial stress are less productive. A similar number (76 per cent) agreed it’s important to offer benefits that will reduce employees’ financial stress.

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As well, the vast majority of employers that offer retirement benefits said they’re very or extremely important to recruitment (83 per cent), retention (86 per cent) and the stress management of employees (85 per cent).

Although most of survey respondents were hopeful for the future beyond 2021, optimism is even higher among those that offer retirement benefits, with 92 per cent saying they’re somewhat or highly optimistic about their success beyond 2021, compared with 85 per cent of Canadian businesses overall.

The majority (70 per cent) of respondents also agreed there’s a looming retirement income crisis. Almost two-thirds (60 per cent) said they feel responsible to help employees with retirement, given the state of retirement security in Canada. Additionally, 62 per cent agreed that business leaders should engage the broader community to consider the potential business value of offering workplace retirement plans and another 62 per cent said their business sector would benefit from more retirement benefit portability.

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