Voya research uncovers new workplace benefits and savings needs for higher ed institutions in post-pandemic world

WINDSOR, Conn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA) today announced the release of new results from its semi-annual survey of higher education retirement plan decision makers. Voya’s findings highlight the unique challenges and opportunities higher education institutions face today in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

Voya’s research consisted of two phases:

  • An online survey of retirement planning decision makers at more than 300 colleges.

  • In-depth interviews with a selected group of decision-makers.

The research found that recruiting and retaining staff are by far the biggest challenges facing higher education institutions – with a majority (80%) agreeing that attracting and retaining highly qualified administrators is much more important today.

The ability to attract and retain top talent has been a challenge for many industries, but for those in higher education it has only been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Brodie Wood, vice president and national practice lead for Voya’s education market. “Looking at today’s job market with more competition for companies for staff in general, in most cases colleges cannot compete with the benefits of flexibility that many jobs outside of the sector offer today – such as the desire to work fully remotely , which many colleges and universities do not allow. At the same time, these challenges present many unique opportunities for these institutions to further explore their service offerings to differentiate themselves from their competitors.”

Voya’s research also found that a majority (89%) of institutions agree that an organization’s overall employee benefits program helps attract and retain high-quality employees. Specifically, the key areas in which higher education institutions can focus on employee benefits include:

  • Retirement provision and employer agree. When asked about the top benefits for attracting talent, the defined contribution (DC) plan is number 1, followed by paid vacation and a defined benefit pension plan. Ninety percent also agree a DC retirement plan helps attract highly skilled staff, and 87% agree it helps withhold high quality employees. And in response to staffing pressures and the pandemic, half (50%) of institutions say they have started or increased employer adjustments to pension plans since January 2021.
  • Focus on holistic benefit. There is broad agreement among plan makers that employees face significant challenges when it comes to their ability to save for retirement, including: care responsibilities (87%), student loan debt (85%), and the impact of retirement Inflation (84%). As a result, some are addressing these challenges through wellness programs, e.g. B. Assistance with student loan repayments (49%) and planning for caregivers and staff with special needs and disabilities (42%). Additionally, 83% believe the idea of ​​matching student loan payments with a contribution to retirement savings is more important today than it was before the pandemic.
  • Support and advice on performance decisions. While 86% of companies agree more can be done to help employees make informed decisions about how to optimize their benefits in terms of workplace benefits and savings, an even larger proportion (90%) agree that financial advice and counseling services provided through the workplace are a valued component of the overall service offering.

Adaptation to the “new norm”

Voya’s survey also asked institutions about needs that have risen in importance, comparing their level of concern today to before the pandemic began. In today’s environment, several measures have become more important. Among the many other priorities rising to the top are:

  • Adoption of strong socially responsible business practices and policies across ESG areas (85%);

  • student loan assistance (82%);

  • Developing/expanding a diversity, equal opportunity and inclusion hiring strategy and/or talent attraction programs (81%);

  • Address mental health issues to better support employees (80%); and

  • Attracting and retaining highly skilled support staff (e.g., food service, garden maintenance, caretakers) (80%).

Interestingly, Voya’s research found that many colleges and universities include a description of their retirement plan in their offers to potential job applicants, with some noting that the value of their retirement plan and health insurance plan to employees and potential employees is more important than other employee benefits, including non-traditional services.

While benefits can play a crucial role for many organizations today in attracting and retaining talent, those in the higher education sector face even more complex requirements, so it is encouraging to see that the DC Plan is being seen as a key tool that organizations are using to address the challenge,” Wood added. “Knowing that there are other ways to support organizations through upcoming retirement legislation is also an important factor. It is therefore not surprising that 88% of colleges and universities believe that government support as outlined in current pension legislation ie SECURE 2.0 will help incentivize employees to save, improve pension plans and reduce costs for employers in the future.”

Pension advisors play a central role

With the increasing importance of old-age provision, the supporting role of the consultant also grows. According to Voya’s study, two in three (67%) of higher education institutions rely on the services of a plan advisor or consultant; of those who don’t, almost all plan to hire one in the next year. When it comes to the services provided by plan consultants, organizations report a wide range of support functions, including plan design, investment review/selection, fiduciary and regulatory support, plan compliance, plan transitions, and vendor due diligence, as well as the establishment of participant training programs and drafting of financial ones wellness programs.

When it comes to supporting the overall retirement readiness of their workforce, employers today have many options within their broad corporate benefits program,” added Wood. “Retirement plan advisors can play a crucial role for employers in creating a plan that both meets their needs and guides their employees to a financially secure retirement. As a result, it remains a focus for us at Voya to provide solutions that we know will support the financial professionals we work with and ultimately help enable better retirement outcomes for their clients.”

Voya serves corporate retirement and savings customers of all sizes and across all sectors, including public and private higher education institutions and other tax-exempt retirement markets. Specifically for higher education, Voya supports more than 1,500 higher education institution pension plans, and the average tenure of a higher education customer is nearly three decades.1 To learn more, visit VoyaHigherEducationMarket.com.

With a range of products, solutions and technologies to help employers and employees meet their organizational benefits and savings needs, Voya continues to provide solutions to enable actions that can help employees achieve positive outcomes in their health and wealth services to achieve. These include the recent launch of myVoyage, a new and unique digital platform for personalized financial advice and connected benefits in the workplace, as well as the integrated and holistic choice of myHealth&Wealth benefits.

As an industry leader focused on providing workplace benefits, savings and investment solutions in and through the workplace, Voya is committed to fulfilling its mission of providing a secure financial future for all Americans – individual, family, institution to allow a time.

All data, unless otherwise noted, is based on the results of the Voya study on retirement plan management in higher education conducted by Greenwald Research. The study consisted of two phases both with retirement plan decision-makers in higher education organizations, including: an online survey conducted on June 29, 2022 July 19, 2022, among 301 retirement plan decision makers from higher education organizations that offer a defined contribution plan, along with in-depth interviews with a select group of decision makers conducted in August 2022.

1. Voya internal data as of December 31, 2021.

About Voya Financial®

Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA) is a leading healthcare, wealth and investment company providing products, solutions and technologies that enable better financial futures for its clients, customers and society. Voya serves the needs of 14.3 million individual, workplace and institutional clients, employs approximately 6,000 people and has total assets under management and under management of $644 billion as of June 30, 2022. Certified a Great Place to Work by the Great Place to Work® Institute, Voya is purpose-driven and equally committed to conducting business in a way that is socially, environmentally, economically and ethically responsible. Voya has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as: one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies®; a member of the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index; and a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” on the Disability Equality Index. Visit voya.com for more information. Follow Voya Financial on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @ Voya.