Harnessing growth through wellness: the future of workforce benefits

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LIMRA-EY US research shows the diverse needs of different generations of workers – and how insurers and benefits providers can satisfy them.

In brief

  • The working world is forever changed – remote and hybrid models are here to stay, and the gig economy will continue growing.
  • With millennials and Generation Z now comprising a majority of workers, benefits plans designed primarily for baby boomers and Generation X must be modernized.
  • Stakeholders are looking for digitalization and data-driven solutions, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) or advanced analytics.

The workforce benefits market continues to experience transformational change due to the shift to remote and hybrid working, the ongoing expansion of the gig economy and intense competition for talent. While foundational benefits (e.g., medical, life and dental insurance) remain central to attractive benefits programs, employees now place significantly more value on a broader range of benefits, particularly across different dimensions of wellness.

The study confirms both the large scope and the accelerated pace of that change, and it demonstrates how flexible and holistic strategies pay off for employers. Our latest report also illustrates the need for insurers and other benefits providers to develop portable and personalized solutions if they are to drive growth in a challenging economic environment.

Download the 2023 Workforce Benefits Study report

It also introduces the Wheel of Wellness, a holistic model for designing flexible, high-value benefits programs that help organizations attract the talent that they need and build a happier, healthier, and more productive and financially secure workforce.

Key finding 1: The workforce has never been more heterogeneous, fluid and virtualized – and will only become more so in the years to come

As baby boomers retire in great numbers and Generation X ages, Generation Z and millennials will comprise a large majority of the workforce within a decade. For insurers and benefits providers, the demographic shift equates to a fundamental change in target customer segments.

Not only do younger workers want more and different benefits, many of them are also exploring and engaging in nontraditional employment.

The new work reality
of Generation Z and millennials surveyed are pursuing freelance or gig work.

For employers, meeting these diverse needs is a challenge. In our survey, almost one-third of all employers and 40% of those with 1,000 or more workers said that meeting the needs of the multigenerational workforce was a key challenge. And as contractors, freelancers and gig workers become more important, employers will look to engage them via benefits.

Key finding 2: Meeting the expanding and unique benefits needs across generations is critical to attracting and retaining talent

The competition for talent persists despite an uncertain macroeconomic landscape and changing workforce dynamics. Benefits remain a powerful tool for employers to attract and retain the talent that they need to meet their objectives – and employers recognize that they need to offer more.

In 2023,
of employers feel that it is somewhat or very likely that employees at their company will expect a wider variety of benefits options in the future.

Many types of benefits included in our survey have seen increases in both employer and employee interest since 2021, with the most significant increases among small employers. Core traditional benefits remain important, but the most dramatic growth in employee interest has been in nonmedical benefits. Consider that employers see paid family leave as the second-most important benefit in the eyes of employees, rated nearly as important as medical insurance.

The holistic wellness revolution

Based on our research and ongoing conversations with market stakeholders during the last several years, we believe the Wheel of Wellness to be a useful framework for shaping benefits strategies that produce the value that organizations are looking for and connect employees with the coverages and services that they want. Specifically, the Wheel of Wellness:

  • Generates insights into the full range of employee needs and how employers and benefits providers can improve future benefits offerings relative to different areas of wellness
  • More precisely targets employee populations and subsegments, which is useful for employers whose workforces skew toward certain generations
  • Prompts the development of more data-driven and customizable programs for benefits guidance, communication and engagement

Such a holistic approach to benefits design and delivery can also help employers meet their talent management objectives in line with the new employment realities, a more diverse workforce and the growing consensus about the importance of wellness.


Key finding 3: Digitalization is the way for employers to satisfy generational preferences for engagement and maximize benefits ROI


The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalization (i.e., the migration of business processes to digital technologies) over the last few years, and workforce benefits were no exception. Like our 2021 study, this year’s research shows that all stakeholders are ready for more digitalization, as well as increased interest in fully integrated and data-driven ecosystems. Rising expectations for digital benefits delivery have been shaped by the rich, intuitive experiences provided by leaders in other industry sectors – a trend that is sure to continue.


Insurance carriers and other benefits providers increasingly compete based on the strength of their digital capabilities and the richness of the service experience they deliver. That’s true, because both employers and employees are looking for efficiency and personalization.

In 2023,
of employees surveyed say that they value personalized, digital experiences as they shop for, select and use their benefits.

Digitalization is critical to aligning benefits delivery to both employer and worker preferences, driving new levels of engagement and enhancing the value of benefits programs. Stronger digital capabilities will enable insurers and benefits providers to differentiate based on more than just price and to, ultimately, harness growth.


For all of the fundamental changes that the workforce benefits industry has experienced recently, stakeholders can expect a great deal more in the years to come. Because the workforce is changing, benefits must also change. One factor will not change, however: the critical importance of benefits to attracting and retaining the talent that all types of organizations need to succeed. The strategic decisions and tactical moves that carriers, benefits providers, brokers and other industry stakeholders make in the coming months will shape their growth opportunities in the years ahead.

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