As we embark on a new decade, employers are placing a greater emphasis on employee well-being by offering broader benefits packages that appeal to a more diverse workplace population. They are doing this through the increasing use of technology and data to support decision-making and facilitate effective use of allowable limits.
In the highly competitive employment market we find ourselves in, decision-making and simplicity have become the linchpin, as employees leverage work to gain more fulfillment, pursue their goals, and align their values and experiences more authentically. They also are looking to employers to help manage their newly redefined work-life balance and help them decide which benefit offerings can best accomplish this. Employers, on the other hand, are looking for ways to meet employees’ new and evolving benefit needs and obtain the most value for their benefits spending.
This “re-direction” in benefit choice and selection is forcing employers to realize that employee benefits can no longer be defined within a one-size-fits-all framework. For example, more employers are offering family-building benefits like fertility services and maternity leave. They are expanding these types of benefits to help employees address work-life conflicts while keeping them productive and engaged at work, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
As we examine the evolving relationship between employee and employer within the benefits arena, we’re noticing the emergence of three distinct approaches to employment benefit offerings:
1. Broader employee groups will be addressed by re-directing more personalized benefits into larger benefit buckets to provide more inclusivity
Siloed benefits, especially in the family-building category, aren’t always useful to a broad population. For example, infertility treatments and medication might be offered to employees with a lower combined benefit maximum of $30k. To appeal to a broader population, companies are starting to migrate these siloed benefits into broader categories, such as family-building. A family-building benefit with a larger benefit maximum of $75k to $100k can include a wider range of benefits that include everything from fertility treatments and medication to adoption and surrogacy, as well as egg or sperm freezing.
Benefit offerings that encompass multiple services help each employee build their family in a way that’s more personalized to their needs. If a gay couple wants to have a child, a benefit that includes surrogacy would be a better alternative than a $20k fertility benefit. Likewise, a single woman who may want to have a child in the future would benefit from egg freezing.
With broader offerings comes an increased focus on quality and guidance. According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), employers are focusing on healthcare quality and value with the use of Centers of Excellence (COE). However, COE models can take on many misleading forms. Having a clinical advocate and unbiased provider navigation to those best matched to service the patient is significantly improving results over those of COE-only models.
2. Greater use of technology will drive consumerism, simplify decision-making, and personalize the employee experience
Technology will play an increasingly vital role in benefits education, treatment course, management, and use. Technology-enabled healthcare support tools will expand benefits selection and management and provide a more precise, personalized, and simpler employee experience.
Virtual care options such as telehealth, video consults, and mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular because they save time and money and enhance the relationship with a virtual care provider/advocate. In fact, some believe virtual care will make a significant impact that will revolutionize how care is delivered in the future. Digital solutions for prenatal care, for example, are among those areas with the greatest potential for growth over the next several years.
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According to a survey by the National Business Group on Health, 73% of employers plan to offer virtual solutions to help with claims assistance, and 60% will offer full-service, high-tech concierge programs that help employees navigate the healthcare system to simplify the consumer experience.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is providing new ways to support employees’ benefit enrollment decisions by helping them target plans that are most relevant to their needs. And, benefits management technology is expected to drive efficiency for both employee and employer by simplifying claims processing and providing the ability to drive a seamless employee connection across all benefit vendors, such as insurance carriers and wellness providers. A study by Willis Towers Watson found that 60 percent of organizations are focused on integrating benefits administration with other HR systems.
3. Leveraging data-driven analytics insights and reporting will enable employees and employers to make informed decisions
Increasingly, employers and employees will turn to data-driven insights to help inform their decision-making. There is a vast pool of data that exists to support the development of compelling benefits packages tailored to the needs and expectations of a broad, diverse workforce. Through data-driven support tools, data analytics can help define more effective benefits packages, making enrollment easier for employees and ensuring they take advantage of coverage options in a holistic way.
Data also can help personalize care by simplifying the process of finding physicians and facilities, providing individual advice about benefits, and making sense of the costs associated with care delivery. For example, if an employee can find a new physician with a good reputation who can treat their specific mix of health challenges – without having to dig into stacks of research and reviews – the result is more powerful and effective care.
Looking ahead, it is likely that employees will continue to demand, and employers will continue to offer work-life balance benefits based on personalization, choice, and simplicity.