The key take-away is that security is top of mind for employees young and old, and that sentiment is fairly consistent around the globe.

Employers have historically provided employee benefits in order to attract and retain talent, realize tax advantages, improve performance, and secure better discounts, terms and access. As the benefit landscape evolves, will these traditional motivations become more or less important, or will new ones emerge?

A convergence of forces is transforming the workforce: globalized markets, changing workforce demographics, new customer needs and fiercer competition, to name a few. In some ways, the future is already here: The cost of turnover is rising, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for many traditional companies to attract the critical-skill talent they need.

To forecast their future benefit needs, companies first must visualize their future workforce. By 2017, Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) will comprise the majority of the adult population in the U.S. By 2020, 37% of all Millennials — who will number 2.56 billion worldwide — will live in China and India, according to United Nations estimates. What are their expectations for work, rewards, learning and development? Are Millennials’ needs really that different from those of previous generations?

Willis Towers Watson’s extensive research into employees’ attitudes about their benefits suggests that the more things change, the more they stay the same. That is, employer-sponsored plans continue to play a vital role in providing employees with both short- and long-term financial protection. Employees still expect these programs. And employers whose benefit programs are highly valued reap rewards in attraction, retention and employee engagement.

As attractive opportunities lie in wait, we set out five steps every employer should consider for getting ahead of the curve:

  1. Align your organization’s benefit strategy with its business objectives.
  2. Aim for global consistency with local relevance.
  3. Provide core security and increase employee choices.
  4. Improve the employee experience.
  5. Create a platform on which to deliver high-performing programs.

In justifying such guidance, this article explores the most significant factors affecting the benefit marketplace in recent decades, and the economic and workplace forces that will shape the benefit universe of the future.