Employee benefits strategies are rapidly changing in response to the constantly evolving work environment. Increasingly, employers are taking a closer look at their benefit plans to see if they still align with the demands of today’s workforce.
Historically, employee benefits strategies have focused mainly on traditional healthcare and retirement offerings. But todays employees – especially the Millennial generation – expect a broader and more flexible array of benefit offerings. They also expect a shift in how, when and where those benefit offerings are communicated to them. As a result, benefit plans need to look very different from those of the past in order to attract and retain the best talent.
Healthcare coverage still represents the most important benefit for most employees. However, today’s medical, dental and auxiliary benefit plans are increasingly driven by wellness and prevention programs designed to improve employee health and lower plan costs for employers. Whereas employees used to focus mainly on co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, they now seek a diverse array of benefits; popular benefits range from mental well-being and smoking cessation programs to remote work environments, tuition reimbursement, and more.
Employee Benefit Strategies for Today’s Workforce
As unemployment declines, the competition for top talent is heating up. Therefore, employee benefits are becoming an increasingly important tool for recruiting. To ensure your company’s benefit offerings align with the evolving needs of your workforce, industry professionals recommend the following strategies.
Take a proactive approach to employee benefits
Most employers take a reactive approach to employee benefits. Every few years they review the plan, focusing mostly on products and price. This leads to a tendency to seek out large brand-name insurers that offer familiar benefits products at the lowest price. Using a reactive approach discourages innovation and often fails to address the different needs of diverse workforces.
Instead, employers should poll employees to find out where the current plan isn’t meeting their needs and what needs to be changed. Data analytics can play a key role in this process by tracking employee benefits usage. The collected data can identify new products employees would value and help eliminate outdated, irrelevant, and seldom-used offerings.
In addition to being proactive, employers should consider replacing or integrating printed brochures and lengthy plan documents with a more modern approach to communication. One way to educate workers about your benefits plan is through digital engagement. By meeting employees where they conduct most of their communications – online and via their smart phones – you’re more likely to get and keep their attention.
After establishing more technology-based channels, continue reaching that audience with simple, intuitive digital communications that communicate essential information about your benefits plan.
Embrace next-generation benefits
As more products and services across industries become increasingly customized and personalized, so can benefits. Innovative product offerings such as wearable health tracking technology, debt consolidation services, genome testing and more, are more modern options for younger and more tech savvy employees. To ensure you choose the right out-of-the-box benefit options, poll employees on their benefits preferences, track usage and identify opportunities.
Offer voluntary benefits
Voluntary benefits offer an effective way to meet the increasingly diverse benefit needs of today’s workforce. These can range from life insurance and accident coverage to legal plans; hospital indemnity plans; discounts on home and auto insurance; pet insurance and more. Voluntary benefits can also include consumer directed healthcare accounts, like Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) or Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), or accounts to help defray the cost of child care, like Dependent Care FSAs.
With voluntary benefits, employees select only the benefits they want, and often pay the full cost for each one they select. This enables employers to offer valuable benefits at little risk to the company, while offering a more substantial benefits package to employees.
Motivating Employee Engagement
Updating employee benefits strategies can feel like a waste of time and money if employees don’t engage with the new benefits. Yet, people often hesitate to change their benefits for several reasons.
Many are satisfied with their current benefits package and don’t want to take the time and effort to update it. Others find benefit products to be too complex to make informed decisions about which offerings they should choose. Still others may be close to retirement and don’t want to rock the boat before they get there.
To encourage employees to update their benefits package:
- Learn. Before you change your benefits strategy, first check in with your employees. Using their feedback, assess your current benefits plan to see where it’s outdated, where improvements are needed, and what new options should be included.
- Educate. Educating employees is very important. Explain to your team why you’re updating the company’s benefits offerings and the value the benefits bring to employees. Then conduct a benefits audit with each employee to see what has changed in their lives. Did they get married, divorced or have a baby? Are they caring for elderly parents? Are there any health issues they need to address? Remind employees what benefits they are currently enrolled in, identify any new “pain points” and recommend the appropriate benefit offerings to meet their current needs.
- Communicate. To drive engagement, communicate often and in many different ways. Videos, blogs, case studies, newsletters, FAQs, brown-bag lunches, etc., are great ways to deliver information on how to use the plan and the benefits of doing so. Use social media and other digital technologies to make information available 24/7.
- Make it fun. Provide employee engagement programs that make learning about and participating in benefit programs fun and enjoyable. For example, offer wellness, yoga or physical fitness classes where employees can interact with each other off the job. Take advantage of creative educational programs offered by service providers, such as the Captain Contributor Program. Provide rewards for employees that engage in benefits, such as wellness or smoking cessation programs, which can save you (the employer) money.
Healthier, happier employees increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and serve your customers more effectively. Keep current with the needs of your workforce, provide meaningful benefits to employees, and encourage them to get involved. Everyone will benefit – including your bottom line.
DataPath, Inc. is a leading provider of healthcare technology solutions for the administration of employee benefits. Learn more about Summit, our cloud-based benefits administration platform.