Benefitting the Whole Company

Employee benefits help a business stand out in a competitive field

Cover story - photo from MetLife.jpg

By Helen Zhong

Employers across the globe today continue to face a fiercely competitive environment for bright and experienced talent. Remuneration, benefits packages, work culture and reputation of an organization are among the crucial factors that differentiate an employer from its peers in this competitive landscape. Employee benefits matter greatly in Asia’s war for talent because they can be an effective tool for engaging employees and delivering real value for them.

To explore what the upcoming trends in employee benefits may look like, global insurance and employee benefits provider MetLife is launching its China Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS) at AmCham China Oct. 26.

Started in the US in 2001, MetLife’s annual EBTS is now in its 13th edition. Building on the success of its US editions, MetLife expanded internationally in 2007 and has since released global editions focusing on employee benefit trends in mature and emerging markets outside the US, including regions such as Australia, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and the United Kingdom. This year marks the first time the survey has been conducted in Beijing and Shanghai.

The EBTS is distinct from other studies because it combines both employee and employer perspectives. The data in the reports provide insight into the financial concerns, needs, habits and expectations of employees. Meanwhile, for employers, the report delves into their perceptions on benefits objectives and current practices. Additionally, the questions asked are similar in each market, offering the company the opportunity to provide a deep perspective on global trends and make comparisons wherever possible.

As the world’s most populous country, and with a diverse and rapidly changing economy, China presents some fascinating employment challenges. MetLife is keen to understand the perspectives of both Chinese employers and their employees on benefits objectives and current practices. The study is conducted by a leading research firm, and consists of two quantitative studies that are done simultaneously with employers and employees.

To provide an idea of what our findings revealed, below is a preview from MetLife’s China EBTS, which focuses on how companies must do a better job embracing talent.





Disconnect between employees and employers

An aging population and workforce mobility are likely to make the problem of talent shortage even worse in the future, which will affect employers in the next 12 months. Companies are already reporting a shortage of experienced middle managers and technical employees, and for organizations operating in less attractive locations, the situation is particularly difficult.

Based on the EBTS findings, there seems to be a disconnect between employees’ sense of devotion to their companies, as expressed by the employees themselves, and their manager’s perception of employee commitment. While 68 percent of the Chinese employers think their employees are “loyal” – that is, they consider themselves emotionally bound to the organization – only 39 percent of employees agree. This is a wider gap than many other markets. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, the gap is 53 percent to 51 percent, respectively. This means managers often find out that their employees are unhappy only after they have sought employment elsewhere.

From the perspectives of employees, it is understandable that higher salary is something they want from their employers. However, they also want their companies to create an environment that’s attractive beyond just money and more conducive to a high-performance culture over the long term. This includes factors like avoiding high-stress environments and long hours. Helping employees to understand the broader employee proposition is critical. Articulation and implementation of these value propositions can differentiate an organization and empower HR departments, helping with recruitment and retention of talent, as well as driving up commitment and productivity. 

What companies can take away

The study will dive deeper into this disconnect between employers and employees. It also highlights the following topics:

- Salary is not enough to win employee hearts and loyalty

- Benefits enhance the employment relationship

- Employees will pay to personalize their benefits

- Healthy employees mean lower costs and higher productivity

- Communicating the whole benefits package has value

Our study also provides recommendations for employers and suggests that employers have a big opportunity to engage better with employees, make them more satisfied with their work and make their businesses more attractive to the talent they need to compete both at home and globally.

Finally, we also make comparisons between the US and China. With the US being a mature market and this being the first time the study has been conducted in China, we can now evaluate benefits trends in the world’s two biggest economies side by side.

All in all, benefits are a great way to stay ahead in the hyper-competitive hiring market of China. Businesses who want to excel will need to provide ample benefits that suit both employee and employer needs. 

Helen Zhong is the Vice President of group and employee benefits at Sino-US United MetLife Insurance Company Limited, an AmCham China member company. The briefing session for the EBTS will take place Oct. 26 at AmCham China’s Conference Center. Contact or 400-081-1056 for more details.