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Mercer Sees Emergence Of A New ‘era Of Accountability’

Dramatic social, demographic, economic and legislative changes have introduced an era of accountability never before seen in the employer-employee relationship. To proactively assist employers in navigating these new dynamics, Mercer has launched “ Making Accountability Work: Effective Employer Strategies in a Multigenerational Age” (

Mercer has identified a convergence of external forces that has ushered in this era of accountability and is redefining the very nature of work, health care and retirement, including:

Multigenerational workforce – The Millennials (those born after 1981) surpass the size of the Baby Boom generation and are bringing a vast influx of 20-somethings into the workforce. On the other end of the spectrum, 54% of pre-retirees plan to delay retirement 1 which means four distinct generations (Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalists – each with its own set of values, attitudes, opinions, and needs) are working side-by-side for the first time in history.

Consumer choice – An explosion of options and access to information has shifted greater decision-making and financial responsibility for health care and retirement planning to the individual, with 72% of large employers offering voluntary benefits to fill gaps in core employer-paid benefits, 2 and the average number of 401(k) investment options increasing to 19, compared with only five options 20 years ago. 3

Do-it-yourself culture – Health and retirement programs are following the popular trend toward a do-it-yourself approach, with two-thirds of large employers expecting to offer a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP) in the next three years 4, and defined contribution plans serving as the primary retirement plan for 78% of workers. 5

Business risks – Health care reform requirements and retirement plan expenses are increasing just as employers face heightened scrutiny on spending and risk management. As a result, 54% of employers offering pensions are likely to use a de-risking strategy in the next two years 6 and 58% currently use or are considering a defined contribution approach to control the cost of providing health benefits. 7 Employers also face a daunting workforce dilemma; while 64% believe that managing critical talent is essential to success, only 30% say they have programs that are “extremely effective” in achieving this goal. 8

Upon analyzing the significant workplace pressures created by this era of accountability, Mercer has identified three critical areas in which to focus its consultative guidance and targeted solutions for employers:
  • Navigating the changing health and benefits landscape – Employers need strategic guidance to address the cost and complexity of health care reform, which has resulted in a growing demand for new benefit solutions, along with the growing demand for benefit program flexibility, consumer control, and easy-to-use decision aids.
  • Securing retirement outcomes – Plan sponsors face the challenge of mitigating ongoing pension costs and risks while providing the appropriate defined contribution and savings programs, tools, and education needed to foster a retirement-ready workforce.
  • Driving talent performance – To drive performance, organizations need help effectively forecasting talent needs, engaging multigenerational employees, mobilizing workforces, rewarding performance, and developing skills.

“For the first time, the workforce is made up of four generations, all of whom are being asked to take more personal ownership of their health, retirement and careers,” said Pat Milligan, Mercer’s President of North America. “This shift toward greater accountability presents enormous challenges for today’s employers, but also represents a significant opportunity to re-energize employee value propositions, control costs, manage risks, and better engage workforces.”

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