As employees assume more personal and financial burden for health and welfare, they also take on new attitudes and perceptions of value.

This is one of the underlying precepts of the Health Populi blog, and it’s directly addressed in MetLife’s seventh annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends.

While people take on more responsibility for health and retirement savings, they’re looking to employers for more counsel and support to help them manage the risks involved with both.

In this regard, the chart illustrates a key finding from the study. There are large gaps in the perception of value between employees and employers’ understanding of the value of health and retirement benefits.

MetLife’s survey was fielded in August 2008 and again in November 2008 following the severe decline in the economy. Employees began to sober up by the latter month, as 46% of employees agreed with the statement, “Because of the economic events of the past few months, I have taken a greater interest in understanding the employee benefits that I receive through my employer.”

Only 39% of employees said they were confident in their ability to make the right financial decisions, based on the November 2008 polling. And, 51% of employees said they obtained the majority of their financial products through the workplace.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: In recent years, Americans have become a nation of value shoppers: value meals at fast food joints, happy face price breaks at Walmart and blue light specials at Kmart, and learning to love Southwest Airlines with a stop or two along the way.

As consumers morph into health consumers they’re looking for value in all aspects of their lives that can bolster their health, well being, and financial security (which has become part of an overall healthy life both literally and metaphorically). Employers have played a leading role in the delivery of health services and plan information to workers for over 50 years in the U.S. That’s a long time of learned habits among both the lead player and those who support that lead — workers.

Employees in the MetLife survey say that retaining productive employees during the economic downturn is Job #1. To do so, the new-and-improved role employers can understudy is that of concierge for health and financial information that helps employees take on the mantle of self-care — for health, for saving, for well being.