If nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought employer – and employee – priorities into sharp focus.
The talent shortage is persistent and growing. That said, one in four workers plan to look for opportunities with a new employer once the threat of the pandemic subsides, according to Prudential Financials’ Pulse of the American Worker survey – which means the shortage may grow for some employers and shrink for others.
To combat attrition – and take advantage of new talent on the market – human resource professionals must create competitive employee packages in 2021, especially when it comes to benefits.
As employers determine how to set themselves apart in the market, they can check three simple boxes to show employees their needs are being heard, understood and addressed.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Employers can offer the most competitive, comprehensive benefits package out there, but if workers don’t know what’s available or how to use it, no one wins. Benefits are confusing, and given 96% of Americans don’t understand basic health care terms—and 35% of employees don’t understand the benefits available to them—there’s a clear need for some benefits education.
Workers are looking for that education to come from their employers. According to a recent survey from Voya Financial, two-thirds of employees indicated they want their employer to help them better understand their employee benefits throughout the year – not just at open enrollment.
A formal communications strategy can help ensure each audience receives information on a timely basis about selecting and using benefits plans and programs – and knows what plans and programs are available. By hiring benefits educators to provide one-on-one support, leveraging technology (such as virtual benefits fairs and dedicated benefits sites) and employing tried-and-true communications tactics like home mailings, employers can ensure the workforce receives critical information and has opportunities to find out more as needed.
- Demonstrate how health care decisions can affect financial well-being.
Over the last year, many workers realized there were gaps in their health care coverage, leaving both their health and their finances exposed. Now, workers will look to understand how their employer (or prospective employer) is supporting their overall financial well-being.
Health benefits are intrinsically related to financial wellness. Understanding how to shop for coverage –and for care – can have a huge and immediate impact on an individual’s wallet. The lowest premium plan, as we know, is not always the most cost-effective. And a test done at the hospital down the street could cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more than the same test done at a stand-alone testing center 15 minutes away.
Yet a whopping 68% of respondents only “sometimes,” “rarely” or “never” compare treatment or service costs from different providers or pharmacies, according to DirectPath’s 2020 Consumer Report. In other words, more than two-thirds of consumers are likely paying more than they need to for care.
Employers can offer transparency services and enlist the help of health care advocates to demonstrate the importance and impact of shopping for care. Transparency services can provide cost comparison reports, outlining the different options, providers and prices available to them. With this data in their hands, employees can start making more cost-effective decisions and see their savings start to add up.
- Remind employees about the programs that support them.
In addition to transparency and advocacy services, benefits educators and online tools, make sure employees are aware of and know how to access and use health care (and dependent care) spending accounts, health care savings accounts or health reimbursement arrangements, and any targeted programs that might meet their needs.
Too often, employees forget over the course of the year that there may be programs and plans that can provide counseling, referrals or financial support as they grapple with family, health and financial challenges. If employees don’t know what’s available, they can’t make use of it!
With the pandemic bringing new (and overdue) focus on mental wellness, don’t forget to promote offerings such as Employee Assistance Programs and other counseling services, telehealth counseling, access to meditation and well-being apps, or other online resources to ensure employees and their families get the help they need. Even reminders of paid time off and leave policies will help make it clear that companies support a healthy work-life balance.
For many employers, retaining top talent and attracting the best new hires will be HR’s No. 1 goal for 2021 – and into 2022. Salary is no longer enough to keep employees. During the pandemic, 30% of workers changed jobs for better benefits. As the world becomes more complex, so do people’s needs – and after a year where a global health crisis upended people’s health, support systems and finances, health benefits are increasingly important differentiators in the job search.
Providing continuous education and focusing on financial and mental health will not only help employees make the most of their benefits, but it will also maximize employers’ benefits investments.
Kim Buckey is vice president of client services at DirectPath. She may be contacted at [email protected].
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