2021 4th Annual Benefit Broker Survey Reveals Major Shifts in Employee Benefits
As we all transition into a post-pandemic environment, that doesn’t mean a return to what was previously known as the “norm.” In fact, 2020 helped us all reimagine how we live and work – and has, most likely, helped to shape permanent alterations to the workplace experience.
The seismic changes that rippled into every aspect of employee expectations are reflected in Sontiq’s 4th annual Benefit Broker Survey report. Among the survey’s findings, organizations are seeking to meet the needs of an ever-more-remote workplace. There is also a new emphasis on employees’ health and productivity. Thanks to the pandemic, the increased digital nature of virtual human interactions put more focus on protecting employees’ privacy, as well as their physical and digital health.
Six Key Findings Focused on Employee Benefit Adoption & Trends
Sontiq’s 2021 report reflects the input of the largest pool of benefit brokers ever surveyed, with more than 250 responding. Here are some of the major findings:
- Employers’ concern for employee wellness continues to grow and broaden. Rising healthcare costs were once the clear leading concern, topping the clients’ list for 83% of brokers surveyed in 2018. In 2021, however, employee wellness and rising healthcare costs tied as the top employer concern (64%). Delivering a competitive benefits package was the third most-cited (58%).
- The year of remote living played a role in the growth of telemedicine requests, offering employees a more convenient approach to physical and mental healthcare. Telemedicine, which wasn’t even on the survey in 2018, raced to the top of the progressive benefits pile. A full 73% of broker clients requested the coverage. As an outgrowth of this, many brokers realize that greater online convenience gives rise to related cybersecurity needs.
- In today’s highly digital environment, nearly half (42%) of benefit brokers surveyed said their clients expressed concerns over data breaches, cyber threats, and other security issues during the previous 12 months. But, fewer than half of brokers surveyed said they were equipped to help their clients handle a data breach.
- Identity theft protection concerns (54%) reached an all-time high in 2021. And the issue is inciting client action, with 65% of brokers reporting their clients requested a recommendation for identity theft protection to add to their employee benefits mix, compared to just 32% in 2018. One reason for the jump to action could be increased cybercriminal sophistication, necessitating a broader range of cyber protection options. This year’s top ID theft benefit request (61%) was Social Security number alerts, which rose 26 percentage points to leapfrog 2020’s top request, credit monitoring.
- For the first time, employee restoration protection around ransomware (22%) appeared as a requested benefit. This comes as little surprise given that in 2020, ransomware attacks were up 150% over 2019, with a 300% increase in the amount paid. Employees working in virtual environments are at greater risk for these malicious attacks, which use malware to encrypt files and lock victims out of their data until a “ransom” is paid.
- In this on-the-go world, mobile app access to benefits has become a table-stakes benefit. The vast majority (91%) of broker clients report that having a mobile app is “very important” or “extremely important.”
Watch the 15-minute webinar recording, “Exclusive Insight: The Future of Employee Benefits,” which discusses the 2021 survey revelations in more depth.
A Broader View of Employee Wellness
When looked at holistically, this year’s Benefit Broker Survey report highlighted the extended definition of employee wellness, which was the top concern of organizations for the second year in a row. Looking at the big movers in the survey, it’s clear that wellness is now being viewed through a wider lens than in past years, encompassing physical, mental, financial, and digital health. None of this is surprising in the context of a pandemic that affected physical and mental health, as well as moved people online where scammers thrive.
Organizations play a key role in protecting their employees’ digital well-being. Not only is it the right thing to do, but in reality, employee risk is employer risk. Employees are the top gateway for businesses to be hacked, whether through compromised devices or human error. Given that 2020 opened the door for new coronavirus-related fraud, as well as tried-and-true cybercrimes, protecting sensitive information from intrusive attacks is now more of a business imperative than ever.
Employers everywhere are taking decisive, proactive steps to protect their staff. Since 2018, there has been a more than 30% increase in the number of benefit brokers indicating clients are seeking identity theft solutions to include as part of their benefits packages. As one broker indicated, “Identity theft protection will be as common as locks on your house.”
Benefit brokers and advisors can become an essential partner to organizations when they bring new thinking to employee benefits packages that reflect the current environment. Organizations receive tremendous value from benefit brokers who help them understand and communicate how they can better support their employees’ holistic health and well-being.