Mid-size Employers Offer Great Opportunity for Worksite Marketers
WINDSOR, Conn., May 25, 2011 — While the number of employers offering voluntary worksite benefits remained steady throughout the recession, recent growth was brighter with mid-size employers (firms with 100 –999 employees), according to a new study conducted by LIMRA.
“Compared with 2002, nearly all products are more readily available today at mid-sized firms,” said Ron Neyer, assistant research director, LIMRA product research. “Marketing to larger firms is challenging due to saturation and small firms often are less focused on benefits and offer a smaller pool of warm prospects. In contrast, mid-size firms, looking to be more competitive, are interested in finding ways to expand their benefit package without adding cost to their business.”
In the past, employers have offered voluntary worksite benefits to boost morale, attract strong candidates, and retain employees. Now due to growing economic pressures, nearly 80 percent of employers say they are interested in using voluntary worksite benefits because these plans carry no direct costs to the business. Employers’ costs are not the only motivating factor for offering voluntary benefits. Two thirds of employers said they offer voluntary benefits because it is more affordable for their employees than if they purchased the coverage on their own, and to provide them with a wider array of benefits.
The study confirmed that an employer’s decision to offer a particular benefit is largely dependent on the amount of value they anticipate their employees deriving from the plan. Few of these employers appreciate how important insurance protection can be to younger employees. Only 2 in 3 employers believe a major medical plan is less important to employees under age 40 and less than a quarter believes that life insurance is truly valuable to their younger workers. However, this assumption may be unrealistic.
According to LIMRA research, younger workers are more engaged in learning about various benefits than in the past and most employees — both young and old — value benefits like medical insurance and dental insurance. This disconnect will likely challenge worksite marketers to get plan sponsors with a younger work force to expand their benefit offerings.
The good news is: The study found that overall voluntary benefits penetration improved across the board during the recession. LIMRA also examined regional trends, and found that the recent recession may have been the great leveler. Traditionally, voluntary benefits were more likely to be offered in the South, with Northeast employers considered to be the toughest sells. But differences between regions have diminished compared with previous studies. Greater employer awareness of voluntary worksite programs and strong marketing efforts played important roles in building employer participation in the previously less-welcoming areas.
Overall, LIMRA found some signs suggesting that the short-term outlook for voluntary benefits has dampened slightly during the recession. But there are also reasons to be optimistic:
- Participation rates of voluntary products have held relatively steady over the past four years.
- More than 4 in 10 businesses are considering adding a new voluntary benefit within the next two years.
- Employers who currently sponsor voluntary benefits are very satisfied with their programs.
- Half of employers not offering (but aware of) voluntary benefits are receptive to purchasing voluntary products.
“A great opportunity has emerged with employers who don’t currently offer voluntary benefits. They now display greater awareness of the benefits and more likelihood of purchasing a worksite product than in the past,” noted Neyer. “Unfortunately, our research shows that the industry is targeting these employers less frequently. Companies should consider adjustments to their strategies, product features, producer incentives, etc. to better reach and educate these employers, and capitalize on this warming market.”
LIMRA is a worldwide research, consulting and professional development organization that helps more than 850 insurance and financial services companies in 73 countries increase their marketing and distribution effectiveness. Visit LIMRA at www.limra.com.