Are you using the proper communication channels to inform your employees about their benefits? Take a look at this great article from HR Morning about how to manage to communicate with your employees to keep them satisfied at work by Jared Bilski.
Good benefits communication is more important than the actual benefits you offer – at least when it comes to employee satisfaction.
Proof: When a company with a rich benefits program (i.e., better than industry standard) communicated poorly, just 22% of workers were satisfied with their benefits.
On the other hand, when an employer with a less rich benefits program communicated effectively, 76% of employees were satisfied with the benefits.
These findings come from a Towers Watson WorkUSA study.
At the at the 2017 Mid-Sized Retirement & Healthcare Plan Management Conference in Phoenix, AZ., Julie Adamik, the former head of Employee Benefits Training and Solutions at PETCO, highlighted the five most common benefits communication mistakes that put firms in the former category.
1. The information is boring. Many employees assume that if the info is about benefits, it’s probably boring. As a result, they tend to tune out and miss critical material.
2. The learning styles and preferences of different generations aren’t taken into account. With multiple generations working side-by-side, a one-size-fits-all approach is doomed to fail.
3. The budget is too low. If your company has a $15 million benefits package, you shouldn’t accept upper management’s argument that a $2,500 communication budget should cover it. HR and benefits pros need to take a stand in this area.
4. The language is “too professional.” Assuming that official-sounding language is better than “plain speak” is a common but costly communication mistake.
5. There’s too much information being covered. Cramming everything into a single open enrollment meeting is guaranteed to overwhelm employees.
Employers also need to be wary of relying too heavily on tech when it comes to benefits communication. Even though there are plenty of technological innovations in the world of benefits services and communications, but HR pros should never forget the importance of old-fashioned human interaction.
That’s one of the main takeaways from a recent Health Advocate study that was part of the whitepaper titled “Striking a Healthy Balance: What Employees Really Want Out of Workplace Benefits Communication.”
The study broke down employees’ preferred methods of benefits communications in a number of areas. (Note: Employees could select more than one answer.)
When asked how they preferred to receive health cost & administrative info, the report found:
Regarding their wellness benefits:
In terms of personal/emotional wellness issues:
Finally, when it came to managing chronic conditions:
See the original article Here.
Bilski J. (2017 April 4). 5 benefits communication mistakes that kill employee satisfaction [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/5-benefits-communication-mistakes-that-kill-employee-satisfaction/
Are you having trouble controlling your healthcare cost? Take a look at this interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisor on how rising healthcare costs are affecting employers by Bruce Shutan.
With the fate of healthcare reform in limbo, new research suggests employers are moving forward with a host of incremental changes to their health and wellness plans in hopes of curtailing costs on their own.
Kim Buckey, VP of client services at DirectPath, an employee engagement and healthcare compliance technology company, has noticed a slowdown in adoption of high-deductible health plans and cost-shifting strategies that aren’t quite living up to expectations. DirectPath’s 2017 Medical Plan Trends and Observations Report, based on an analysis of about 975 employee benefit health plans, found employers applying creative methods for cost control.
Buckey noted greater use of health savings accounts, wellness incentives, price transparency tools and alternative care options.
Slightly more than half of the employers studied by DirectPath offer a price transparency tool, while another 18% plan to do so in the next three years. Price-comparison services were found to save employees and employers alike an average of $173 and $409, respectively, per procedure.
In an effort to reduce costs and the administrative burden of tracking coverage for dependents, surcharges on spouses who can elect coverage elsewhere soared more than 40% within the past year to $152 per month.
The number of plans that offer wellness incentives rose to 58% from 50% between 2016 and 2017. Rewards included paycheck contributions, plan premium discounts, contributions to HSAs and health reimbursement arrangements and reduced co-pays for office visits. HSAs were far more popular than employee-funded HRAs (67% vs. 15% of employers examined), while employer contributions to HSAs increased nearly 10%.
Barriers to care and cost containment
A separate survey conducted by CEB, a technology company that monitors corporate performance, noted that although as many as one-third of organizations offer telemedicine, more than 55% of employees aren’t even aware of their availability and nearly 60% believe they’re difficult to access.
DirectPath and CEB both found that the average cost of specialty drugs increased by more than 30%. This reflects research conducted by the National Business Group on Health. Nearly one-third of NBGH members said the category was their highest driver of healthcare costs last year.
The pursuit of a panacea for rising group health costs has been meandering. When Buckey’s career began, she recalls how indemnity plans gave way to HMOs and managed care, then HDHPs, consumer-directed plans and private exchanges. “There is no one silver bullet that’s going to solve this problem,” she explains, “and I think employers and their advisers are starting to understand that it’s got to be a combination of things.”
More employers are now realizing that cost-shifting isn’t a viable long-term solution and that “whatever changes are put in place will require a well thought-out, year-round and robust communication plan,” she says.
There’s also a serious need to improve healthcare literacy, with Buckey noting that many employees still struggle to understand basic concepts such as co-pays, deductibles and HSAs. Consequently, she says it’s no wonder why they often “just shut down and do whatever their doctor tells them.
“So I think anything that advisers and brokers can do to support their employers in explaining these plans, or whatever changes they choose to implement,” she continues, will help raise understanding and eventually have a positive influence on behavior change. This, in turn, will help lower employee healthcare costs.”
Shutan B. (2017 April 5). Are healthcare cost-shifting efforts at a tipping point? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/are-healthcare-cost-shifting-efforts-at-a-tipping-point
Do you know everything you need to know about your 401(k)? Check out this great article from Employee Benefit News about the top 10 misconceptions people have about their 401(k)s by Robert C. Lawton.
Unfortunately for plan sponsors, 401(k) plan participants have some big misconceptions about their retirement plan.
Having worked as a 401(k) plan consultant for more than 30 years with some of the most prestigious companies in the world — including Apple, AT&T, IBM, John Deere, Northern Trust, Northwestern Mutual — I’m always surprised by the simple but significant 401(k) plan misconceptions many plan participants have. Following are the most common and noteworthy —all of which employers need to help employees address.
1. I only need to contribute up to the maximum company match
Many participants believe that their company is sending them a message on how much they should contribute. As a result, they only contribute up to the maximum matched contribution percentage. In most plans, that works out to be only 6% in employee contributions. Many studies have indicated that participants need to average at least 15% in contributions each year. To dispel this misperception, and motivate participants to contribute something closer to what they should, plan sponsors should consider stretching their matching contribution.
2. It’s OK to take a participant loan
I have had many participants tell me, “If this were a bad thing why would the company let me do it?” Account leakage via defaulted loans is one of the reasons why some participants never save enough for retirement. In addition, taking a participant loan is a horribleinvestment strategy. Plan participants should first explore taking a home equity loan, where the interest is tax deductible. Plan sponsors should consider curtailing or eliminating their loan provisions.
3. Rolling a 401(k) account into an IRA is a good idea
There are many investment advisers working hard to convince participants this is a good thing to do. However, higher fees, lack of free investment advice, use of higher-cost investment options, lack of availability of stable value and guaranteed fund investment options and many other factors make this a bad idea for most participants.
4. My 401(k) account is a good way to save for college, a first home, etc.
When 401(k) plans were first rolled out to employees decades ago, human resources staff helped persuade skeptical employees to contribute by saying the plans could be used for saving for many different things. They shouldn’t be. It is a bad idea to use a 401(k) plan to save for an initial down payment on a home or to finance a home. Similarly, a 401(k) plan is not the best place to save for a child’s education — 529 plans work much better. Try to eliminate the language in your communication materials that promotes your 401(k) plan as a place to do anything other than save for retirement.
5. I should stop making 401(k) contributions when the stock market crashes
This is a more prevalent feeling among plan participants than you might think. I have had many participants say to me, “Bob, why should I invest my money in the stock market when it is going down. I’m just going to lose money!” These are the same individuals who will be rushing into the stock market at market tops. This logic is important to unravel with participants and something plan sponsors should emphasize in their employee education sessions.
6. Actively trading my 401(k) account will help me maximize my account balance
Trying to time the market, or following newsletters or a trader’s advice, is rarely a winning strategy. Consistently adhering to an asset allocation strategy that is appropriate to a participant’s age and ability to bear risk is the best approach for most plan participants.
7. Indexing is always superior to active management
Although index investing ensures a low-cost portfolio, it doesn’t guarantee superior performance or proper diversification. Access to commodity, real estate and international funds is often sacrificed by many pure indexing strategies. A blend of active and passive investments often proves to be the best investment strategy for plan participants.
8. Target date funds are not good investments
Most experts who say that target date funds are not good investments are not comparing them to a participant’s allocations prior to investing in target date funds. Target date funds offer proper age-based diversification. Many participants, before investing in target date funds, may have invested in only one fund or a few funds that were inappropriate risk-wise for their age.
9. Money market funds are good investments
These funds have been guaranteed money losers for a number of years because they have not kept pace with inflation. Unless a participant is five years or less away from retirement or has difficulty taking on even a small amount of risk, these funds are below-average investments. As a result of the new money market fund rules, plan sponsors should offer guaranteed or stable value investment options instead.
10. I can contribute less because I will make my investments will work harder
Many participants have said to me, “Bob, I don’t have to contribute as much as others because I am going to make my investments do more of the work.” Most participants feel that the majority of their final account balance will come from earnings in their 401(k) account. However, studies have shown that the major determinant of how much participants end up with at retirement is the amount of contributions they make, not the amount of earnings. This is another misconception that plan sponsors should work hard to unwind in their employee education sessions.
Make sure you address all of these misconceptions in your next employee education sessions.
Lawton R. (2017 April 4). The 10 biggest 401(k) plan misconceptions[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/the-10-biggest-401-k-plan-misperceptions?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001
Is your health starting to suffer from sitting down at work all day? Take a look at this interesting piece from Employee Benefits Advisor about the effects that sitting down all day can have on your health by Betsy Banker.
In the continuing conversation about employee health, there’s a workplace component that isn’t getting the attention it should— and it’s something that workers do the majority of every workday.
Sitting has become the most common posture in today’s workplace, and computer workers spend more than 12 hours doing it each day. Science tells us that the consequences are great, but our shared cultural bias toward sitting has stifled change. Many employees and company leaders struggle to balance well-being and doing their work. And it’s time for employers to do something about it.
Rather than accept the consequences that come as a result of the sedentary jobs employees (hopefully) love, it’s time to elevate the office experience to one that embraces movement as a natural part of the culture. Such a program will address multiple priorities at once: satisfaction, engagement, health and productivity. Organizations of every size and structure should embrace a “Movement Mindset” and say goodbye to stale, sedentary work environments.
There are many benefits to incorporating the Movement Mindset:
· Encourages face time. As millennials and Generation Z take over the office, attracting and retaining top talent is a key initiative for companies. Especially in light of the Society for Human Resource Management findings that 45% of employees are likely to look for jobs outside their current organization within the next year. Research has shown that Gen Z and millennials crave in-person collaboration, and users of movement-friendly workstations (particularly those ages 20 to 30) report being more likely to engage in face time with coworkers than those using traditional sit-only workstations.
Standing meetings tend to stay on task and move more quickly. Their informal nature means they can also be impromptu. Face time has the added benefit of building culture and social relationships, increasing brainstorming and collaboration, and creating a more inclusive work environment.
· Keeps you focused. For those who sit behind a desk day in and day out — which, according to our research, about 68% of workers do — it can be a feat to remain focused and productive. More than half of those employees admit to taking two to five breaks a day, and another 25% take more than six breaks per day to relieve the discomfort and restlessness caused by prolonged sitting. It may not seem like much, but considering that studies have shown it can take a worker up to 20 minutes to re-focus once interrupted, this could significantly impact the productivity of today’s office workers.
It’s time to connect the dots between extended sitting, the ability to remain focused and the corresponding effect these things have on the overall health of an organization. Standing up increases blood flow and heart rate, burns more calories and improves insulin effectiveness. Individuals who use sit-stand workstations report improved mood states and reduced stress. Offering options for employees to alternate between sitting and standing during the day could be the key to effectively addressing restlessness while improving focus and productivity.
· Addresses sitting disease. The average worker spends more than 12 hours in a given day sitting down. In the last few years, the health implications surrounding a sedentary lifestyle are starting to come to light (like the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and early mortality). It’s a vicious cycle where work is negatively affecting health, and poor health is negatively impacting engagement and productivity. Not to mention, the benefits span long and short term, with impacts on employee absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as health and healthcare costs. Offering sit-stand options to incorporate movement back into a worker’s daily regimen is a great way to offset those implications, while showing employees that their health, comfort and satisfaction are important to the company. Plus, a recent study found that if a person stood for just an extra three hours a day, they could burn up to 30,000 calories over the course of a year — that’s the same as running 10 marathons or burning off eight pounds of fat.
Our sit-biased lifestyles are beginning to be seen as an epidemic; it’s the new smoking, and office workers who spend their days behind a desk are at great risk. Providing a sit-stand workstation is more than just a wellness initiative. It offers significant opportunities for companies to retain and attract talent, improve a company’s bottom line, and offer employees a workspace that gives them the ability to move in a way that can actually improve productivity.
Embracing the Movement Mindset can turn the tables on the trends, going beyond satisfaction to create a cycle where work can positively impact health and good health can improve engagement and productivity.
Banker B. (2017 March 27). Why sitting is the new office health epidemic [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/why-sitting-is-the-new-office-health-epidemic?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000
Check out the top trends that employees are looking for in an employer wellness programs by Page Elliott.
With open enrollment in the rearview mirror, many benefits professionals have been able to see which new wellness benefits have been a hit and which have been a miss. Increasingly, employees expect the benefits on offer to go beyond physical health and exercise and extend into a broader concept of wellness.
Meeting this appetite can benefit employers significantly — research has shown happier employees are considerably more productive.
The industry has answered the call in recent years and employers and brokers are bringing more and more benefits to the table that offer employees tools to better navigate their lives domestically, at work and in general.
Here are the top seven benefits to consider for upcoming enrollment periods that help look after employees personal well-being beyond the purely physical.
There are a multitude of reasons why employees often require costly legal representation: divorce, financial woes, neighborly disputes, property transactions, estate planning, etc. For most employees the costs and time required to attend to these issues are financially and emotionally draining.
The added stress created can cause a substantial loss in productivity in the workplace. As such, legal protection benefits are increasingly seen as an important step to keep a company’s workforce well and thriving.
According to a 2016 survey by Willis Towers Watson, 59 percent of employers now offer legal plans as a voluntary benefit.
According to a study by Northwestern Mutual, some 58 percent of Americans believe their financial planning needs improvement and money remains the leading cause of stress in America today.
Offering financial coaching can be a bedrock voluntary benefit for employers given that it is central to protecting employees from falling into the kind of dire straits where other benefits like legal protection need to be used.
Financial coaching can help employees with everything from building a monthly budget that gets them back in the black, to planning their college fund or retirement saving more carefully. Financial coaching as an employee benefit can help employees thrive instead of just survive.
Identity theft is fast becoming the third certainty in life — according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 18 million people fell victim to identity theft in 2014 (that’s seven percent of U.S. adults in just one year).
Identity theft leads to financial and healthcare fraud that can be a crippling mess for victims to unravel and take many years (and many work hours!). The emotional effects of identity theft are well documented and easy to understand: anger, frustration and feelings of violation and vulnerability and the corresponding impact on wellness are clear.
Identity theft remediation and monitoring services can provide employees with critical resources to handle the frustrating complexities of rectifying fraud conducted using their own identities.
While a healthy chunk of all our paychecks goes towards paying for our health care insurance and services — a fiendishly complex and constantly evolving ecosystem — many Americans don’t understand the most basic terms.
Health advocacy has been a growing voluntary benefit over the last few years because it can help employees navigate a complex and exhausting system, offering both administrative and even clinical support. Health advocacy can reduce employee anxiety, improve overall wellness through better heath decisions and also help consumers get a better financial deal from their health care choices.
Research indicates that meditation has substantial benefits in terms of encouraging better attention, memory and emotional intelligence (and who couldn’t use some more of each on a daily basis?)
Mindfulness has been a top topic for HR pros for a long time, and many have made big strides in incorporating this concept into corporate culture. This has included encouraging employees to try extra-curricular relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.
Some companies have gone as far as offering apps like Headspace to employees as a voluntary benefit at low or no cost.
The prevailing wisdom relating to employees’ personal problems has always been stay well out of it. However, more and more companies are seeing the upside of providing assistance to employees without getting directly involved in their personal lives.
One increasingly popular method for helping people manage the conflicts that exist in their lives outside of the office is to offer relationship counseling. While this remains a rarity on most voluntary benefits portals, expect to see this popping up more and more in subsequent open enrollment periods.
According to a survey by Care.com, over 70 percent of employees say the cost of childcare impacts their career decisions. Not wildly surprising given that nearly a third of families pay in excess of $20,000 per annum for child care — a figure that represents a shockingly high portion of the average U.S. household income of around $52,000.
Related: Are you ready for the millennial baby boom?
Offering dependent care deduction has been a popular benefit for a number of years and more and more parents are taking this up as part of their flex spending arrangements. Assistance can go beyond the tax break though and a growing number of companies are offering services that can make managing child care vastly easier, including child care resource and referral services that can help with back-up arrangements when daycare centers are closed.
Elliott P. (2017 March 21). 7 wellness benefits to maintain employees’ zen[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/21/7-wellness-benefits-to-maintain-employees-zen?kw=7+wellness+benefits+to+maintain+employees%27+zen&et=editorial&bu=BenefitsPRO&cn=20170326&src=EMC-Email_editorial&pt=Benefits+Weekend+PRO&page_all=1
Did you know that there is a direct corelation between financial and physical health? This article from Benefits Pro is a great read explaining the link between an employee’s financial and physical health by Caroline Marwitz
LAS VEGAS — Are poor physical health and poor financial health connected? The benefits industry is making the link, if you consider how many deals between health-related benefits companies and retirement providers have occurred lately.
Obviously, the poor, at least in America, have a more fragile state of health than the more affluent. And as we age, the potential for unplanned health events to hurt us financially increases — and that’s important for retirement advisors and plan sponsors to remember. But what about your typical employees who are neither poor nor elderly?
A study in the journal Psychological Science looked at worker attitudes and actions to find out whether poor physical health and poor financial health might be linked, and how.
The researchers studied employees who were given an employer-sponsored health exam and were told they needed to change certain behaviors to improve their health. Which employees made the changes and who blew them off?
The researchers accounted for external factors such as different levels of income and physical health, and differences in demographics. Yet the results were still startling:
“Employees who saved for the future by contributing to a 401(k) showed improvements in their abnormal blood-test results and health behaviors approximately 27% more often than noncontributors did,” the researchers concluded in Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Retirement Planning Predicts Employee Health Improvements.
The employees who made the behavior changes to better their physical health were also the ones who were taking action to better their financial health.
Employee attitudes about the future and how much control they have over it affect whether they take care of their physical health and their financial health. That sense of control, or conversely, that feeling of no control, and thus, no investment in long-term results, is one reason why some employees might not participate in retirement plans, and, maybe, wellness and well-being programs.
What if, along with the retirement health-care cost calculators many retirement plan providers offer, there was a fatalism calculator too? That way you could see right away each person’s sense of control or feelings of inevitability about their future and help them more efficiently.
Because if someone is more fatalistic, telling them about their 401(k) match or pension options isn’t going to make them enroll in a retirement plan. Scaring them with statistics about the high costs of health care in retirement isn’t going to do the trick either. Instead, consider the following points for such employees:
Look behind employee behavior for the unexamined biases and long-held assumptions that are causing it. If they can see that it’s not who they are that determines their future but what they do, it’s a start.
Marwitz C. (2017 March 19). Employee financial health connects to physical health [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/19/employee-financial-health-connects-to-physical-hea?ref=hp-top-stories
OSMA’s Health Benefits Plan: Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
In response to the changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) plans to offer a Health Benefits Plan (HBP). The OSMA HBP will be a self-funded multiple employer welfare arrangement developed for Ohio physician practices. The HBP is currently pending approval by the Ohio Department of Insurance. If approved, it would be an innovative alternative to the ACA.
Q. How is the OSMA’s HPB different from the ACA?
A. Unlike the current ACAstructure, the OSMA HBP
• Will be a self funded plan for small physician practices.
• Will offer a variety of plan designs that meet the minimum essential coverage requirement, including:
• Eight different options with deductibles ranging from $ 500 to $6,350 for single coverage (2x for family
• Several plans with copays and prescription drug cards
• Will allow for the continued use of Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA) and Health Saving Accounts (HSA).
• May be less expensive than many comparable options under the ACA.
• Will allow for changes in benefits and contribution roles al renewal without being “locked in” by the grandfathered status, and no monthly administrative billing fee.
Q. Will my current plan rates go up under the ACA?
A. The ACA premium will be dependent on a variety of factors and specific to each group. Our in-house insurance agent will help you understand your options and will be in a position to help you get the most affordable benefit option available.
Q. Do I have to switch doctors?
A. The OSMA HBP utilizes the SuperMed Plus network from Medical Mutual of Ohio, one of the largest networks of providers and facilities in the state. You should, however, always check to make sure your doctor is in network prior to any service. (https://providersearch.medmutual.com/NetworkRealignment.aspx)
Q. Does the OSMA HBP provide the employer with a Summary Plan Description (SPD)?
A. Yes. We provide each employer with an SPDfor the OSMA HBP that meets ERISA compliance regulations. (All employers are responsible for providing SPD’s for all of their health and welfare benefits.)
Q. What is the cost to me for joining the OSMA HBP?
A. Each group will have a monthly funding rate based on a variety of factors including but not limited to:
• Number of CoveredEmployees
• Medical History
• Tobacco Usage
Q. Why should I change plans now?
A. Due to the constant policy evolution of the ACA and the uncertainty of future year premiums, many groups will be able to experience a competitive rate that may not be available from Ohio’s ACA Marketplace. The OSMA Insurance Agency will provide an easy to understand comparison between the ACA plans and the HBP.
Q. If I leave my current plan (including an ACA plan) will I be subject to preexisting conditions limitations?
A. No. The coverage will be offered on a guarantee issue basis with no preexisting condition exclusion.
Q. What happens if I decide to leave the OSMA HBP in the future?
A. Members may elect to withdraw from participation in the Plan at the end of a calendar month by giving written notice to the Plan at least thirty (30) days prior to the end of such month.
Q.Is there a fee to be part of the OSMA HB Plan?
A. No. There is no fee to join the OSMA Health Benefit Plan but at least one insured must be an active member of the Ohio State Medical Association.
Q. Is the OSMA HBP permitted by the ACA?
A. Yes. The OSMA HBP is a self-fund ed option allowed under the ACA. The OSMA Insurance Agency is authorized to offer health insurance plans as a Federally-facilitated Marketplace Certified agent and Certified Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Professional.
Q. What is the OSMA Health Benefit Plan’s legal structure?
A. The OSMA HBP is technically known as a multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA). A MEWA provides health and welfare benefits to employees of two or more employers who pool their contributions, enabling them to offer health insurance rates and benefits typically available only to larger groups.
Q. How secure is the OSMA’s HBP?
A. The Ohio Department of Insurance and several federal government agencies coordinate the oversight and regulation of the OSMA HBP. This multi-jurisdiction gives the State of Ohio’s Department of Insurance primary responsibility for overseeing the financial soundness the OSMA HBP, while the U.S. Department of Labor provides oversight for employee benefit plans and the Internal Revenue Service ensures the nonprofit tax status of the OSMA HBP.
Q. Is there a situation when my practice should use the ACA’s marketplace options?
Q. How do I learn more about the OSMA Health Benefit Plan?
A. Contact Saxon’ s Expert at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at http://gosaxon.com/get-the-best-of-both-worlds-with-osma/
For the full download click Here.
Learn more about OSMA Here.
Are your employees being properly educated on the benefits on their financial well-being? If not take a look at this article from Benefits Pro about the value of educating your employees in financial wellness by Jack Craver
Money Management International, a nonprofit credit counseling organization, is touting the results of a recent survey it conducted as evidence that employers can significantly reduce stress among their employees by offering them financial counseling resources.
MMI announced recently 86 percent of the 150 employees it provided financial counseling to at an Oregon-based nonprofit health agency say they have less stress related to money as a result of the counseling.
In addition, most of the employees at Samaritan Health Services say the counseling led to them achieving certain financial goals, such as reducing debt (60 percent), setting aside more money for retirement (38 percent), boosting their credit score (30 percent) or buying a home (8 percent).
“At MMI, we know that financial coaching, counseling, and education work, but seeing the incredible, positive impact this program has made on the financial outlook of these clients is simply amazing,” says Julie Griffith, Mapping Your Future account manager, in a statement accompanying the study’s release.
Other research has shown employers are increasingly viewing financial counseling as a key component of wellness initiatives due to the significant psychological and emotional toll money-related anxiety takes on employees.
In addition to causing depression, sleep deprivation and all sorts of health problems that reduce an employee’s productivity, financial stress often distracts employees from their work. A survey last year showed that 37 percent of U.S. employees report spending time on the job thinking about or dealing with personal finances.
The awakening to the importance of financial wellness coincides with a number of studies which shed light on young Americans’ lack of savings. One study found a solid majority of Americans have less than $500 in savings. Another found that the U.S. personal savings rate was just 5.7 percent, roughly half of what it was 50 years ago.
Craver J. (2017 March 08). The benefits of financial wellness counseling [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/08/the-benefits-of-financial-wellness-counseling
Has your employee benefits program grown old and stale? Take a look at the great article from Employee Benefits Advisors about the benefits of upgrading your employee benefits to match your employees’ needs by Chris Bruce.
Historically, employee benefits have been viewed as a routine piece of the HR process. However, the mentality of employees today has shifted, especially among the growing population of millennial employees. Today’s workforce expects more from their employers than the traditional healthcare and retirement options, in terms of both specific benefit offerings and communications about those offerings.
For companies, it’s critical they address the evolving needs of their workforce. With unemployment rates plunging to their lowest levels since before the financial crisis, the search for talent is heating up, and organizations need to work harder than ever to retain top talent in a competitive job market. To do this, I see three steps that organizations need to take when rethinking their benefits strategy and engaging with employees: embrace a proactive rather than reactive benefits strategy, think digital when it comes to employee communications and consider the next generation of employee benefits as a way to differentiate from the competition.
1. Reconsider your benefits evaluation process
The benefits process at most companies is reactive — executives and HR only look to evaluate current offerings when insurance contracts expire or a problem emerges. When the evaluation does happen, the two factors that often concern employers the most are product and price. Employers often gravitate toward well-known insurers that offer the schemes that appear familiar. However, this can often lead companies to choose providers who fall short on innovation and overall customer experience for employees.
This approach needs to be flipped on its head. Companies should be proactive in determining which benefit schemes best meet the needs of their workforce. The first step is going straight to the source: talk to employees. Employers can’t know what benefits would be most appealing to their employee base unless they ask. By turning the evaluation process to employees first, companies can better tailor new benefits to meet the needs of their workers, and also identify existing benefits that might be outdated or irrelevant, therefore saving resources on wasted offerings.
Data and analytics also are playing an increasing role across the HR function, and benefits is no exception. By leveraging technology solutions that allow HR to track benefits usage and engagement, teams can better determine what is resonating with employees and where benefits can be cut back or where they should be ramped up.
2. Put down the brochure and think digital engagement
Employee education is another area of benefits that can often perplex companies. According to a recent survey from Aflac, half of employees only spend 30 minutes or less making benefit selections during the open enrollment period each year. This means employers have a short window of time to educate employees and make sure they are armed with the right information to feel confident in their benefits selection.
To do this effectively, HR needs to move past flat communication like brochures, handouts and lengthy employee packets and look for ways to meet employees where they live — online. By testing out innovations that create a rich experience, while still being simple and intuitive, employers can grab the attention of their workforce and make sure key information is communicated. For example, exploring opportunities to create cross-device experiences for employees so they can interact on-the-go, including augmented reality applications or digital interactive magazines. Additionally, for large corporations, hosting a virtual benefits fair can provide a forum for employees to ask questions in a dynamic setting.
3. Embrace the next-generation of benefits
As organizations become more savvy and nimble, personalization will have a huge impact in encouraging employee engagement and driving satisfaction among today’s increasingly diverse workforce. We have already started to see some companies embrace this new approach to benefits, adding out-of-the-box items to normal offerings — from debt consolidation services and wearable health tracking technology to genome testing and wedding concierge services.
The fact is, the days of “status-quo” benefits are gone, and employees today want benefit options that match their current life circumstances. To best engage employees, organizations need to be proactive in evaluating benefits regularly and using analytics to track usage, identify opportunities to implement digital communication elements and look for ways to introduce new benefits to meet the needs of their employee base. By following these steps, organizations can gain a competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.
Bruce C. (2017 March 10). Why employers should rethink their benefits strategies [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-steps-employers-can-take-to-rethink-benefits-strategy?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000
There are many different ways to attracted new talent to your workplace. Take a peek at this freat article from Employee Benefits Advisors about which benefits are best for attracting new talent by Paula Aven Glagych
Live trees indoors, pets at work and an in-office happy hour. Underground Elephant is very forward-thinking when it comes to how it treats its employees and the benefits it offers.
From its fun headquarters space in the east village of San Diego to its outside-the-box thinking on workplace benefits, the digital marketing company “wants to really create an environment where employees want to come to work every day and feel like they are being rewarded,” says Amy Zebrowski, HR business partner at Underground Elephant. “It is a very challenging and fast-paced environment.”
Underground Elephant, which was founded in 2008, provides marketing and technology services to financial service and insurance companies. It offers staffers healthcare and retirement benefits but wanted to show them that it is invested in their education and their family’s education by offering a choice between three non-traditional benefits. People who have worked for the company for one year can choose between a student loan repayment program through Student Loan Genius; a 529 college savings plan through Gradvisor; or $2,000 in company stock options.
If they choose the student loan or college savings plan options, Underground Elephant will contribute $1,500 a year to the program.
Gradvisor founder and CEO Marcos Cordero had wanted to offer a student loan reimbursement program for a couple of years. The company hires many entry-level employees straight out of college, trains them and helps them build their careers at the company.
“We know a lot of employees with student loan debt. We wanted to help them address that and support their financial wellbeing. We didn’t want to exclude employees who don’t have student loans. Our goal was to create a more inclusive program,” Zebrowski says.
Student Loan Genius’ platform allows employees to explore different loan repayment options and to find the one that best fits their situation. Employees can also have their student loan payments taken directly out of their paycheck each month.
The Gradvisor 529 college savings plan helps parents and grandparents save money for future educational expenses.
The cost of college
Cordero says that his 529 platform is popular because recent Gallup data shows that “for employees with children under 18, this is their number one financial concern. It supersedes retirement and unexpected medical bills.”
He added that the cost of college is rising faster than any other expense in the home and millennials, in particular, are feeling the pinch. Many of them left college with huge student loans and they want to make sure their children don’t fall into the same trap. Baby Boomers are also intrigued by the 529 plan because they have “more disposable income to help grandchildren save for college,” Cordero says.
He believes that this benefit will continue to grow over the next decade, but currently “more employers offer pet insurance than college savings.” That is in large part due to the state-by-state complexity of the programs. Each state offers a different 529 plan.
The Gradvisor platform takes into consideration an employee’s risk tolerance, financial situation and household tax filing when determining the best 529 plan for them. The company serves as a fiduciary so it takes “all of those inputs and recommends the most suitable and best fit investment option and asset allocation for the client. We don’t get any commissions or sales charges from the 529 plan. Our advice is 100% objective,” he says. Companies pay to offer the program on a per user per month basis.
“If you look at our stats, our customers tend to save earlier. We’re rolling out this really intuitive step-by-step platform that takes a lot of that fear or intimidation away,” Cordero says.
The average parent who takes advantage of Gradvisor starts saving when their child is five years old, compared to seven in the general population, which adds a couple more years of compounded growth. They also save twice as much as the average person.
Both the student debt repayment and college savings benefits programs were introduced to the company’s employees in January for implementation in March.
“The response has been great. All of our employees are excited about it. It can be a huge help with financial expenses if you are paying toward a student loan it is reducing the overall interest of the life of the loan. Overall it is very positive,” Zebrowski says.
The company’s primary goal in offering these three benefits was to retain good employees and to “show we are invested in their education and their family’s education and financial wellness,” she says.
Based on the company’s younger employee base, there are more participants in the student loan program, but there’s also a lot of interest in the 529 plans.
“I think a lot of people are conscious of the future and saving for families down the line. We’ve had a good response to both,” Zebrowski says.
The company offers a 1% employer match on all employee contributions to its 401(k) plan. The company employs 55 people currently and has been listed as one of the fastest-growing companies in its industry.
The benefit of perks
Underground Elephant wants to be innovative with its benefits because California’s tech industry is very competitive. Many people want to live in San Diego, so “attracting talent, in addition to that retention piece, that certainly factors in,” she says.
The company’s new headquarters building is unique in that it has live trees in the middle of the work space.
“The idea is to make it more open to give people the feeling of being connected to the outdoors,” she says. It has pool, ping pong and is setting up a new game room so employees can get together and have fun. It also has an onsite bar where the company offers regular happy hours.
Employees can bring pets to the office and it has a snack area where the company provides breakfast or lunch once a week.
For the past couple of years, the company has participated in a forum program where the company is divided into groups of eight to 10 employees and these groups participate in challenges throughout the year, including cultural challenges, scavenger hunts, community and charitable events.
“Each year we reevaluate our cultural programs to see what is working and what isn’t working; what people enjoy. The goal is to create as much engagement as possible,” she says.
Underground Elephant offers a full suite of health benefits, including full medical, dental and vision, long and short term disability and voluntary life insurance.
“We want to prepare people for success here or outside the company. Ultimately, the goal is to give people the skills and experience to promote within Underground Elephant or to transfer to other jobs as well,” she says. “Our people tend to be very successful.”
Glagych P. (2017 February 28). Progressive benefits are the lure for new talent [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/progressive-benefits-are-the-lure-for-new-talent?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000