Despite this, almost two-thirds (61%) of employers believe employees are happy with their benefits package, according to Willis Towers Watson’s Benefit Preferences report.
As well as a gap between employee and employer attitudes towards benefits, the study also revealed that employees who were offered choice over their benefits tended to appreciate them more.
Almost three-quarters (72%) of employees able to tailor their provision via flexible benefit schemes said their package met their needs, compared with just 23% among those offered no benefits choice.
Given the option, 66% of employees said they would sacrifice salary for more generous pension benefits. Health insurance saw a marked rise in popularity, with 39% calling for improved provision in lieu of salary (a 16% increase from 2015).
“These findings reinforce the importance of employers actively engaging with their staff to identify the benefits they most value, aligned to their workforce demographics,” said Mark Ramsook, director of sales and marketing at Willis Towers Watson Health and Benefits.
“Furthermore, employers should ensure their benefits programmes are being effectively communicated and leveraged to maximise engagement and address associated employee requirements. This is particularly important for traditional core benefits, such as pensions and health insurance, which continue to be valued highly according to the study, and which will invariably attract the highest levels of spend.”
The research also showed a benefits generation gap. While Baby Boomers were more likely to cite retirement planning as their preferred benefit, younger workers were more likely to choose unpaid annual leave.
“Providing flexibility in benefits not only creates better appreciation from employees overall but also helps companies to engage all segments of the workforce, avoiding situations where certain employee groups do not feel their benefits are relevant or engaging,” added Ramsook.
Technology can play a key role, he said. “Employers looking to introduce flexibility around benefits choice should investigate the considerable advancements that have been made in supporting technology platforms, off-the-shelf solutions and digital communications.
“These can hold the key to the successful introduction of flex schemes, enabling it to be cost-effectively managed and administered."
He added: “Employers, however, should give careful consideration to the balance of benefits they offer, how they will support and enhance the lives of employees, and how flex schemes are structured to ensure they support companies’ overall benefits strategies.”Willis Towers Watson's Benefits Preferences report is part of its Global Benefits Attitudes Survey completed by 2,824 employees at medium and large private sector companies in the UK.