Three Ways to Make Mobile Work for Your Employee Benefits

There’s so much excitement about mobile phones and mobile apps. And, rightfully so.

Mobile devices are closing the gaps in under-served demographics faster than desktop computers ever could. In fact, smart phone penetration is higher among mobile users who are part of ethnic and racial minorities in the U.S., according to a Nielsen report released in February. They are helping lower income Americans get online and get access to information that can help them make better health and financial decisions.

And, the integration of mobile with social networking and health and wellness tools turns that phone into a mini behavior-change device, a powerful tool for helping make big health and lifestyle changes.

But, where should employers focus their efforts? But, there are three specific ways that employers can harness the power of mobile for their benefits—right now.

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  1. Pick health, wellness and financial vendors who are investing in mobile technology and mobile apps. And, make sure the user experience is a good one. Limeade, for example, brings a whole new approach to wellness. Through the use of the web and mobile applications, Limeade helps people pursue work, life and health goals in ways that make sense. Some apps make wellness fun. Optumize Me lets you challenge friends, family, co-workers and even total strangers to contests designed to help everyone get healthy with challenges such as, “Who can walk the most steps?” or “Who can be first to run to 100 miles?”
  2. Optimize your own resources. If you have a benefits website, optimize it for mobile. Optimizing your site means making sure it is compatible with multiple devices, everything from an iPad to a Blackberry. You can do this multiple ways, including focusing on certain devices used by your employees, or changing your website format for an easier navigation experience. If you have online learning, make sure that works on mobile devices, including tablets like iPad. We also hope that your benefits website has some social media incorporated into it — a benefits blog is a great way keep your website fresh and up to date. Short articles and tips are perfect for viewing on mobile phones.
  3. Educate your employees about what’s available to them free of charge. There are some great products out there, such as BenefitsSync, which gives you access to all of your health information through your smart phone, or text4baby, which gives pregnant women timed messages about their health and tips. Another great free app is iTriage, which allows users to look up their symptoms, self diagnose and find the closest healthcare providers.

A lot of these ideas are covered in Employee Benefit News’ cover article, “There’s an app for that.”

What employers do NOT need to do right now is invest a ton of money in developing their own mobile applications. This area is evolving quickly and that might make sense a little further down the road, but right now, employers can have great success — with an affordable investment — by using the tactics above.

Jennifer Benz is Chief Strategist and Founder of Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based consultancy that focuses on custom, comprehensive benefits and HR communications services. Jen is an active member of the Council for Communication Management, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Northern California Human Resources Association and Women in Consulting. Contact her at