Results of a Workplace Benefits Report prepared by Bank of America Merrill Lynch suggest to its researchers that the positions of employers are evolving to meet the needs of workers coming out of the recession.
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According to responses by C-level managers polled in April about workplace issues, 94% of employers view it as important to retain older employees for a longer time than companies once expected, the report showed. The survey also noted that higher percentages of employers favoring certain worker-friendly policies — with 50% of employers now offering flexible or customized work schedules; 33% educating employees on retirement-income and healthcare topics; 32% presenting continuing education and development opportunities; 22% allowing remote-workplace possibilities, and 21% offering extended benefits to older employees.
The study, based on responses from 650 executives and HR and benefit plan leaders, examined ways in which employers help address the financial needs of perhaps the most demographically diverse workforce in history.
Accepting an Aging Worker Population
“HR leaders are playing more strategic roles within organizations seeking to harness the experience and intellectual capital of older employees in order to remain competitive, while adapting both physical and operational aspects of their businesses to accommodate them,” according to Andy Sieg, head of Retirement Services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
From the workers’ side, he said, longer life expectancies “and baby boomers’ desire or need to keep working are leading to an aging population of American employees that will require more age-friendly workplaces and benefit plans designed to meet the unique needs of multiple generations.”
Help with Financial Goals
And overall, the results suggest that companies are feeling an increased sense of responsibility toward the financial future of their employees, in the view of researchers. The study showed that 59% of employers feel that greater sense of responsibility in terms of helping employees meet their financial goals, for example, while 53% feel that responsibility includes providing financial benefit plans and access to financial education and advice, together.
Since the beginning of the recession began, 47% of employers have seen an increase in how often prospective employees ask about the company’ financial benefit plans. Plus, “behavioral shifts” related to retirement plans have been noticed, according to the report, signified by 58% of employers describing pre-retirement employee as more active and hands-on, and 36% saying that younger employees are enrolling in financial benefit plans earlier. The study found 26% of employees contributing enough to receive the full company match at an earlier age, in the view of respondents, while 19% see employees maxing out contributions at an earlier age.
Worries about Social Security, and the movement away from traditional pension plans by employers, have led workers to become more dependent on 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans. And 75% of employers, assuming that the trend continues, expect that more employees will enroll in 401(k) plans or increase their contribution rates, according to the study. Also, 79% of employers also anticipate increased demand for access to 401(k) saving and investment advice, with 85% saying that older employees will work longer to extend their benefits.
BofA Merrill had Market Strategies International, which isn’t one of its affiliates, conduct an online survey between April 19 and April 23, producing the results of the workplace study.