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Fostering trust, enabling choice: The nuances behind Asian American benefit preferences


Employers are realizing that cultivating workplace diversity is more than just the right thing to do—it’s also good for the bottom line.

Research has shown that revenue at diverse companies is 19% higher than at monolithic companies due to higher levels of innovation.

And companies that rank in the top quartile for diversity outperform those in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability.

But part of the challenge of recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce is that not all demographics and ethnicities value the same workplace benefits in the same ways. Asian Americans are a case in point.

According to a recent Alight survey, Winning with Wellbeing, Asian Americans are less likely to take advantage of the benefits their employers offer than the general population (36% versus 42%).

The primary reason is that the perceived value of the benefits offered isn’t worth the cost to the employee. This is particularly true with wealth benefits such as employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Some 48% of Asian American employees surveyed don't use any employer benefits because they think they are not worth the cost—compared to 34% for the general population. 

This gap is even more prominent among older employees and more senior employees.  Roughly 50% of Asian American employees age 50 and older choose not to avail themselves of employer benefits. That figure rises to 60% for Asian Americans in upper management positions.

In other words, a significant number of Asian American employees with the most experience and organizational prestige don’t see the employee benefits their company offers as worth the cost.

Low utilization rates are one of the top things that keep benefits managers up at night—and it can be especially frustrating when a sizable portion of highly educated employees don’t see value in the benefits offered.

More than 54% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have a college degree, compared to roughly 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. overall. And that makes low utilization among Asian Americans a strategic concern for the business.

Employers want to attract and retain the best and brightest. But employees that aren’t happy with the benefits their employer offers may be tempted to look for other opportunities.

This raises the question of what benefits do Asian American employees tend to value? In general, the survey found that they rank ancillary benefits such as legal and support services, rewards, and personalized experiences higher than the general population.

They also tend to prefer custom-build benefits plans over lifestyle-based ones—and the top reason they cite for this preference is that it fosters greater trust.

So, what’s the takeaway from this snapshot of Asian American benefits utilization?

For one, we can’t assume that any community thinks and acts in lockstep with regard to benefit preferences. But we can see that simply offering a generous benefits package may not be enough to meet the needs of many employees.

Some employee groups value choice and control as much as low healthcare deductibles or high-matching contributions to retirement plans. One size doesn’t always fit all.

And a more nuanced approach that looks at the drivers behind low utilization can help employers build the benefits packages that better meet the needs of all employees.

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