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February 27, 2009
Which Benefits Do Employees Value Most?
A new survey identifies which employer-provided benefits employees are most satisfied with—and which are most important to them.

In the Principal Financial Group survey, 1,179 employees and 625 retirees were asked to indicate their satisfaction with each benefit program offered by their employer by rating it on a scale of 1-10 for the fourth quarter of 2008. The survey found that 68% of respondents rated their level of satisfaction with their employer’s defined benefit plan with an 8, 9, or 10, making it the highest-rated benefit among respondents. Meanwhile, 58% rated their employer’s profit sharing/bonus plans highly and 55% indicated a high level of satisfaction with their life insurance plan.

Health insurance was rated highly by 54% of respondents in the Principal Financial Well Being Index survey. Principal noted that this was a significant change over employee responses a year earlier, when 49% reported a high level of satisfaction with their healthcare benefits. The same percentage of respondents (54%) indicated they were highly-satisfied with their employer’s defined contribution retirement plan.

Disability insurance (49%) and dental insurance (48%) didn’t fare as well, though 9% indicated a higher level of satisfaction with dental insurance compared to the fourth quarter of 2007 (39%).

The survey also asked respondents to identify which benefits were most important to them, again using a 10-point scale (with 10 being “Very important.”) By far, respondents indicated that health insurance was the most important benefit to them, with 89% rating it with an 8, 9, or 10 in terms of importance. (This figure remained unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2007).

Interestingly, the perceived importance of nearly every other type of benefit was lower in the survey for the fourth quarter of 2008 when compared to a year earlier: Defined contribution retirement plans were deemed highly important by 71% of respondents in 2008, but by 4% less than a year earlier. Similar results were found for defined benefit plans (51%, down from 57%), life insurance (47%, down from 53%), profit sharing/bonus plans (34%, down from 44%), and stock options (16%, down from 20%). The only benefit that increased in perceived importance was dental benefits—up 2% from the previous year (70%, up from 68%).

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