An individualized approach to health and well-being benefits can driveÂ engagement in a multigenerational workforce.
By Marta Chmielowicz
Facing rising costs of living and significantÂ transformation in the world of work, todayâs employeesÂ are more stressed than ever. According to WelltokâsÂ Well-being Wake-Up Report, 64 percent of allÂ employees say they feel stressed at workâincluding 63Â percent of baby boomers and 57 percent of millennials.Â In fact, 35 percent of all employees and 50 percent ofÂ millennials have seriously considered switching jobs dueÂ to stress.
And employees increasingly expect their employersÂ to address the stress issue, with 60 percent of surveyÂ respondents reporting that they feel it is importantÂ for companies to offer health and well-being resourcesÂ that encompass physical, emotional, financial, andÂ social health.
But organizations are still lagging behind. âWhileÂ employers are taking notice, only 33 percentÂ of respondents say their employers offer stressÂ management programs to them,â says ScottÂ Rotermund, co-founder and chief growth officerÂ at Welltok. âThis underscores the importance ofÂ effectively providing the right support to the rightÂ individual when and where it is needed, or risk greaterÂ employee burnout and turnover.â
Benefits for All: Understanding Individual Goals
A benefits program that takes into consideration eachÂ employeesâ biggest stressors and delivers a breadth ofÂ offerings to alleviate those concerns is key. While it mayÂ be tempting to group segments of the population intoÂ generational buckets, Emily Bailey, managing principalÂ of OneDigitalâs Hartford, Conn. operations, suggestsÂ that employers need to evaluate the needs of eachÂ individual when crafting their benefits approach.
âBoth HR managers and businesses in generalÂ should stop thinking of the population in buckets ofÂ generations and start to see it as evaluating the needsÂ of a human being,â Bailey explains. âItâs less aboutÂ how old you are or what generation you fall into, andÂ more about assessing what keeps people from beingÂ productive at work and what is weighing on themÂ when they come in every day. For one person, it mightÂ be caring for an aging parent and for another, it mightÂ be caring for their newborn baby.â
Anne Gilson, regional managing director of HRÂ consulting for OneDigitalâs Mid-Atlantic operations,Â says that organizations should not attempt to rigidlyÂ define each generationâs needs, but it may be helpful toÂ consider the lifecycles and major milestones that eachÂ employee is facing. These types of events include:
- saving money to buy a first home;
- getting married;
- having a child; and
- preparing for retirement.
These milestones will significantly impact employeesâÂ needs and desires and can serve as a useful startingÂ point. But in order to truly ensure that the entireÂ workforce is considered, a data-based approach isÂ essential.
A basic needs assessment canÂ offer some insights intoÂ employeesâ stress pointsÂ and expectations.Â âWhen looking at howÂ to identify needsÂ or wants, askingÂ is a very effectiveÂ method,â GilsonÂ says. âWhetherÂ you conduct aÂ survey, use focusÂ groups, or relyÂ on internal orÂ external partners,Â getting real andÂ appropriate data isÂ vital. Using vendorsÂ who have analyzedÂ other organizations is alsoÂ appropriate.â
Carla Pollard Stewart, head of HR forÂ bswift, an Aetna and CVS Health company, suggestsÂ that HR leaders get creative in these surveys, includingÂ questions that force employees to think critically aboutÂ potential trade-offs so they can better identify what isÂ truly most important to them.
âThen, when you communicate your programs to yourÂ employees, be sure to point back to the feedback youÂ received as a measure of inclusivity and so that they canÂ see firsthand their feedback in action,â she adds.
According to Rotermund, predictive models andÂ analytics can allow organizations to track how healthÂ priorities change over time and target relevant groupsÂ with the programs that appeal to them most.
âYou need the right data, including social determinantsÂ of health and clinical data, to predict what employeesÂ need and will be most receptive to at an individualÂ levelâ¦ Combining employeesâ clinical and claimsÂ data with a database of consumer data points canÂ get employers the insights they need to target theirÂ employee population,â he explains.
For example, Rotermund says that one large nationalÂ employer identified back pain as a high-cost area for itsÂ employees. Using both internal and external data,Â the organization was able to adopt a provenÂ program and target the individualsÂ at highest risk to drive higherÂ participation.
The Value of Variety: DeliveringÂ Relevant Programming
Welltokâs survey indicatesÂ that the majority ofÂ employees (84 percent)Â say their company offersÂ one-size-fits-all programsÂ and 56 percent say theseÂ health and well-beingÂ programs are irrelevant,Â wasting time and money.Â Delivering more personalizedÂ programming would motivateÂ over 80 percent of employeesÂ to participate more, revealingÂ significant opportunity to drive higherÂ engagement.
âOften, a lack of personalized benefits options meansÂ that all generations are going to be frustrated for aÂ variety of reasons,â says Matt Jackson, vice presidentÂ of client solutions for Thomsons Online Benefits.Â âFor example, an older person may be stressed aboutÂ whether or not they are contributing enough to aÂ pension, whereas a younger person might be strugglingÂ to afford their first home.â
While Welltok reports that financial stability is theÂ number one health goal for employees across theÂ board, other health priorities can differ significantly.Â For example, Pollard Stewart says that employeesÂ just starting their careers are more concerned withÂ building wealth rather than paying for extensive healthÂ insurance and are more likely to prioritize 401k plansÂ and reimbursement benefits over health insuranceÂ options with expensive premiums.
âWhen it comes to medical offerings, we find thatÂ many workers who are newly entering the workforceÂ do not enroll, as many are still eligible under theirÂ parentsâ benefits. For those that do, they are moreÂ cost-focused buyers and will choose plans with lowerÂ premiums. While they want to have the safety net thatÂ a medical benefit provides, they are not interested inÂ paying higher premiums,â she explains.
In contrast, she says that workers who are more seniorÂ want more robust health plans and are much moreÂ concerned with the coverage details of the plan, suchÂ as out-of-pocket expenses and in-network doctors.Â They are also more likely to utilize ancillary healthcareÂ benefits like long-term care and critical care plans andÂ other voluntary benefits that help them plan for theirÂ familyâs future needs.
Pollard Stewart suggests that beyond offeringÂ traditional health, financial planning, and wellnessÂ benefits, organizations can appease all employeesÂ by introducing low-cost benefits that offer choiceÂ while remaining affordable to the organization. âBeÂ creative in considering all benefit areas, includingÂ things like ongoing education opportunities and tuitionÂ reimbursement, to present a full and holistic pictureÂ of employee benefits. This helps with awareness andÂ perceived value.â
Another alternative is offering a stipend or allowanceÂ that employees can spend on any activity that improvesÂ their overall wellness, Jackson says. This is a greatÂ option to provide employees with the freedom,Â flexibility, and personalization they crave.
Greater flexibility can take the pressure off employees,Â particularly those in the so-called âsandwichÂ generationâ that are required to simultaneouslyÂ take care of their young children and aging parents.Â âBenefits like family medical leave or remote workÂ abilities can provide significant relief to allow themÂ to maintain their career path while juggling increasedÂ responsibilities at home,â says Pollard Stewart.
But according to Bailey, organizations have toÂ make sure that these new benefits offerings areÂ supplementingânot replacingâtraditional benefitsÂ if they want to see positive results. âYou want a goodÂ blend of all these things and not necessarily leaveÂ behind the traditional products or benefits like 401kÂ and disability insurance,â she says.
Whatever they choose, HR leaders should make sureÂ that their benefits offerings are aligned with the goalsÂ of the business. Organizations should ask themselvesÂ what their values are, what they really care about,Â and what they are willing to invest money into, GilsonÂ says. The answer could be wellness, financial health,Â professional development, or any other number ofÂ initiativesâbut all programs must be aligned withÂ those values in order to organically grow and positivelyÂ impact the organization. Otherwise, they will fall flatÂ and fizzle out.
âYour benefits offerings should encourage the behaviorÂ you want your workforce to engage in,â agrees PollardÂ Stewart. âThink about things like wellness programsÂ that provide discounts on certain activities and rewardsÂ incentive programs to recognize employees forÂ engagement and performance milestones.â
Employee Awareness: The Power of User Experience
The right benefits technology can promote and enableÂ greater personalization with minimum effort, makingÂ all the difference in benefits access and adoption.
âDespite increased investments in well-being programs,Â only 16 percent of employees strongly agree thatÂ they know where to find all the health and wellbeingÂ resources available to them,â Rotermund says.Â Employers must address these challenges by making itÂ easy for employees to find and use programs with anÂ integration platform.â
According to Jackson, adopting tools that integrateÂ into a single platform and deliver an end-to-end,Â seamless experience can help employers optimizeÂ each part of the benefits process, from reviewingÂ the data and improving their initiatives to reducingÂ the administrative burden on HR teams and creatingÂ a positive user experience for employees. However,Â organizations have to choose a technology thatÂ integrates with their existing tech suite and gives themÂ flexibility, cost evaluations, and risk control from oneÂ single platform.
Such a platform can also improve the user experience,Â making benefits more accessible to employees. âAsÂ an employer, you need to be smart about makingÂ investments in platforms and tools that allow youÂ to offer a breadth of choice while simplifying the administration and actual execution of it,â says Bailey.Â âIn order to compete in todayâs economic climate,Â itâs important not only to offer benefits choices butÂ to communicate those benefits in a way that peopleÂ see the value and perceive value in those offerings.Â Otherwise, youâll have an issue with retention, andÂ employees will leave and go somewhere where theyÂ perceive the value of the benefits to be better.â
In order to get the best return on investment, PollardÂ Stewart emphasizes that organizations clearly andÂ consistently provide tailored communication to eachÂ employee to drive deeper engagement in the programs.Â Offering a variety of communication channels throughÂ in-person meetings, videos, phone calls, texts, andÂ mobile apps can allow all employees to engage in a wayÂ that is comfortable for them.
Editorâs note: The views expressed by Carla Pollard Stewart are hersÂ alone and not endorsed by nor necessarily reflect the views of bswift,Â its affiliates, or their employees.