Even though they have to pay for most or all of the premium, voluntary benefits are popular with employees because they can customize their benefits package. Employees can select traditional voluntary benefits such as gap coverage, short-term disability, cancer, critical illness, dental insurance and hospital supplemental policies to help round out their healthcare coverage needs. But it’s the non-traditional voluntary benefits that will give employees perhaps the most leverage to truly customize their employee benefits preferences in the year ahead, according to Elizabeth Halkos, Purchasing Power’s Chief Revenue Officer. She says the new year will see non-traditional voluntary benefits continue to evolve and rise in popularity.

Here are Halkos’ predictions for non-traditional voluntary benefits for the coming year:

 1. Non-traditional voluntary benefits will experience continued customization. Non-traditional voluntary benefits in the marketplace today include a variety of options depending on employees’ diverse needs. For example, workers with pets may be interested in pet insurance through payroll deduction; those with children under 18 might choose cyber security insurance. But watch for continued customization as non-traditional voluntary benefits take on more generational and life-stage focus. Today’s diverse workforce spans three generations (Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers) who look at work, life, money and finances in totally different ways and thus have varying benefits needs and preferences. The ability to choose benefits that meet their life-stage needs is something employees want.

2. Count on more innovation in non-traditional voluntary benefits products. Several non-traditional voluntary benefits have been available for many years such as group legal plans, pet insurance and employee purchase programs. This past year has seen some very specialized, out-of-the-box employee benefits appear – such as egg harvesting. Count on seeing more innovation in non-traditional voluntary benefits as well in 2015.

3. The most popular non-traditional voluntary benefits will likely be financial wellness-based. While gains in the stock market and the economy have led some companies to believe their employees are also recovering financially, that’s not the case. According to most research, many employees are struggling financially and the stress associated with it is taking its toll as well. Employees are stressed out from financial concerns and they admit it distracts them at work. Non-traditional voluntary benefits that directly or indirectly improve employees’ financial wellness are the ones that more employers will offer and the ones in which more employees will participate.

4. Financial education is a new direction for non-traditional voluntary benefits and employers will take a more active role in improving financial literacy. Because employers are now realizing the impact that financially stressed employees who are distracted at work have on their bottom line, they are taking a more active role in financial wellness education for their workers. But this isn’t your grandparents’ definition of financial education. Typically, financial education has meant saving, retirement planning and employee benefits education. These are important, but a comprehensive financial education program has much more. In 2015, look for employers to take a more active role in improving financial literacy by offering non-traditional voluntary benefits that offer tools and programs that not only educate, but also help in the short-term and change behavior.

5. What do these trends mean for brokers? You’ll certainly want to advise your clients to consider offering non-traditional voluntary benefits that appeal to today’s multi-generational workforce (see article below on tips for matching benefits to the three generations’ needs). Likewise, you should look at your portfolio and make sure you are able to provide those essential benefits. With employers likely taking a more active role in improving their employees’ financial literacy, be sure to align yourself with a provider that encompasses that capability. And along those lines, watch for some exciting announcements from Purchasing Power in the next few months!

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