Robust Benefits Are Critical Today—But Make Sure Your Employees Are Using Them

“More doesn't equal better; relevancy and personalization are essential.”
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Benefits have emerged as a way to attract and retain employees during the Great Resignation, and the typical suite of offerings likely won’t cut it anymore.

That’s the take from Tina Provancal, chief product and strategy officer at Benefitfocus.com, a benefits management company based in Charleston, South Carolina. But just as important as offering benefits is making sure employees are using them. Provancal spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about what to offer, how to know what your talent wants and how to monitor what is working.

How can benefits combat the Great Resignation? 

With the adoption of remote work expanding the availability of jobs and the Great Resignation raising expectations of employers, benefits allow companies to be more competitive with their offerings. While a sufficient paycheck can go a long way, it is no longer the only way to attract, retain and protect talent—benefits are key in addressing issues for employees and their life situations.

Beyond a baseline of medical and other core benefits, some valued benefit offerings I recommend all employers consider include supplemental offerings like accident insurance and hospital indemnity, as well as financial wellness, mental health and eldercare support.

People pay the most attention to their medical benefits when they or a loved one need medical assistance, which is usually a stressful and emotional time, and not a time when an employee wants to engage in an intimidating and all-consuming benefits process. Being employed by an organization that provides the needed support and guidance during these times is a powerful tool, and companies who provide that support, take care of employees and contribute to the cost-sharing component will stand out. 

I also strongly encourage employers to consider omnichannel support options to streamline benefits and benefits support access. According to Statista, in Q4 of 2021, 54.4 percent of web traffic came from mobile devices. Having an online experience optimized for mobile and offering various call and secure chat options for employees to access support, information, obtain clarity and engage with their benefits is essential to meet employees where they are.

Why is access to quality data important for driving open enrollment success?

Open enrollment is only successful if the employees enroll in benefits relevant to them. Enrollment, population health and claims data are crucial components that connect the dots between employee benefits utilization and plan design to help employers see the effectiveness of their programs. The analysis and presentation of the different data sets help employers see if people are making the right decisions for their situation. These insights enable employers to offer more comprehensive benefit options and empower employee benefit choice.

In the end, employees want options, particularly when employers are serving five generations of workers. At the same time, if employees aren’t using the benefits, get rid of them. Even if they’re free for the employer, they just create more noise and muddle the value of meaningful benefits that can drive impact. More doesn’t equal better; relevancy and personalization are essential—and data is the key to figuring out what that looks like for a specific employee population.

How should employers decide what benefits are most attractive to the workforce and make them available?

In addition to leveraging enrollment, population health and claims data, the easiest way to learn what benefits are most attractive to your workforce is to ask them. Make sure you genuinely listen and make the conversation personal by asking groups and individuals if the available benefits are the most helpful. It’s also important to be aware of what’s happening in the market and stay on top of the shifting needs in the broader workforce. Use this to inform benefits plan design but let employee needs, input and feedback drive the course of action. The companies that best articulate benefits’ value are the ones who win the workforce, and making benefits available means marketing the value effectively.

People often enroll in the same benefits every year despite complaining about what they enrolled in and what’s available to them. Employers need to consider what they are offering and how they are making employees aware of the options. You could have the best benefits in the world, but if your employees don’t see the value, they’ll go to where the perceived value of benefits is better. 

How can employers provide telehealth options as satisfactory as in-person healthcare?

There needs to be a genuine human connection for telehealth options to succeed in lieu of in-person healthcare. Whether you’re seeing a doctor through a screen or sitting in a clinical office, if people feel they are truly being listened to and treated appropriately, it creates a positive experience. Benefitfocus has seen a 300 percent increase in telehealth usage from 2019 to 2020 and a 40 percent increase from 2020 to 2021. It’s an attractive alternative and often a smart choice for employees’ health and wallets because of easier access and decreased travel time.

Creating clear parameters based on real cases can help users optimize the telehealth experience by understanding which situations telehealth would be a great tool and when someone may require in-person care. In addition to offering competitive medical benefits and a valuable provider network that meets the demands of the employee population, having an easily accessible, trustworthy point of contact to facilitate the usage of telehealth and in-person options is key to a personalized and worthwhile experience.

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