Ed­i­tor’s Desk

What’s the point of hav­ing a ro­bust ben­e­fits pack­age if em­ploy­ees aren’t tak­ing ad­van­tage of it?

Employee Benefit News - - CONTENTS -

I knew that en­gag­ing em­ploy­ees in ben­e­fits was a pain point for many em­ploy­ers. But a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion with Brian Mar­cotte made me re­al­ize just how se­ri­ous the prob­lem is. “What keeps em­ploy­ers up at night is en­gage­ment,” said the pres­i­dent and CEO of the National Busi­ness Group on Health. “It’s en­gage­ment in all these ben­e­fits and tools — the full scope of re­sources that em­ploy­ers make avail­able. How do they make these avail­able at the time em­ploy­ees need them, and how do they max­i­mize them and achieve their goals from a health and well­be­ing per­spec­tive?” Be­cause em­ploy­ees of­ten ask their em­ploy­ers for more ben­e­fits — call­ing for paid leave, stu­dent loan ben­e­fits and other perks that make them healthy and happy — it doesn’t al­ways cross my mind that there al­ready are a num­ber of work­place of­fer­ings that of­ten go un­no­ticed and un­der­uti­lized by em­ploy­ees. The rea­son for the prob­lem is noth­ing new: Ben­e­fits are com­plex and con­fus­ing, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion isn’t al­ways pri­or­i­tized. And let’s face it, em­ploy­ees have other things to do be­sides fever­ishly re­search­ing their em­ployer’s ben­e­fits ros­ter — un­less it’s at a time when they re­ally need help. As Mike Thomp­son, pres­i­dent and CEO of the National Al­liance of Health­care Pur­chaser Coali­tions, told me, the fo­cus on putting the em­ployee in the mid­dle, mak­ing work­ers the cen­ter of these de­ci­sions, hasn’t turned out to be the best strat­egy. “I don’t think it’s work­ing the way it’s in­tended,” he said. What seems to be miss­ing from the equa­tion is more ed­u­ca­tion and con­tin­ual support for work­ers. One so­lu­tion, as Thomp­son pointed out, is a stream­lined ap­proach, where one ven­dor leads the way and guides em­ploy­ees to all the other re­sources avail­able to them, as op­posed to hav­ing a whole ar­ray of ven­dors and ex­pect­ing em­ploy­ees to nav­i­gate the maze. Other an­swers are ev­i­denced by the com­pa­nies who made the list of the coun­try’s big­gest 401(k) plans (p. 10). Some of the na­tion’s largest em­ploy­ers are au­to­mat­i­cally en­rolling em­ploy­ees and au­to­mat­i­cally in­creas­ing con­tri­bu­tions in their com­pany’s re­tire­ment plan, tak­ing away some of the guess­work and en­gag­ing work­ers in a mean­ing­ful ben­e­fit right away. Yet another so­lu­tion is found in a new study from Worl­datWork and Korn Ferry, which dis­cov­ered that a num­ber of em­ploy­ers are in­creas­ing per­son­al­ized, pro­gres­sive health ben­e­fits in an ef­fort to reach an al­ways-on work­force. Of­fer­ings such as telemedicine and ac­cess to a 24-hour nurse line shot up by dou­ble-digit per­cent­ages in the past year. They are be­ing touted as a way to get em­ploy­ees ac­cess to care when they need it most, even on week­ends and af­ter hours. Like­wise, stress re­duc­tion (of­fered by 65% of em­ploy­ers), weight man­age­ment (70%) and smok­ing ces­sa­tion pro­grams (84%) can be ac­cessed 24/7, im­prov­ing be­hav­ioral changes in a pos­i­tive way for em­ploy­ees and em­ploy­ers. (See more on p. 26). It’s a smart idea: There’s more to en­gage­ment than let­ting em­ploy­ees know cer­tain ben­e­fits ex­ist. It’s also about de­sign­ing them in such a way that em­ploy­ees are able to use them. Em­ploy­ees aren’t 9-5 any­more, so we can’t ex­pect our ben­e­fits to be, ei­ther. Af­ter all, what’s the point of hav­ing a ro­bust ben­e­fits pack­age if em­ploy­ees aren’t tak­ing ad­van­tage of it?

Send let­ter, queries and story ideas to Ed­i­tor-in-Chief Kathryn Mayer at [email protected]­me­dia.com — Kathryn Mayer

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