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April 25, 2017

How to Keep Employees at the Center of your Benefits Strategy

Artemis Health

Think back to the beginning of your career in human resources. Why did you get into this field? Some of you probably love the  thrill of building a stellar team, or maybe it’s the chance to be a catalyst for change. And we’ll bet there are even a handful of you who enjoy working with complex spreadsheets full of hidden gems about your employee population.

Fundamentally, all of your work comes down to helping the people in your organization do their best work. It’s easy to get frustrated by yet another year-over-year hike in premiums or a wellness program in which only your healthiest members participate. It’s even easier to get sucked into charts and data analysis to find every little opportunity for cost savings. But because this is about the people that make your company unique, we have some suggestions for keeping employees at the center of your benefits strategy.  

Offer Choice

According to a study by the Employee Benefits Research Institute, most employees believe their companies do a good job of choosing a health insurance plan. But they also feel choice is important.

“Eight in 10 say it is extremely (41 percent) or very (39 percent) important for their employer to offer them a choice of health plans.”

So even if you find yourself having to raise premiums and change plans, you can keep employees happy by continuing to offer a selection from which to choose. Many employers are adding High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) to give employees the choice of lower premiums at a higher out-of-pocket costs. Alongside traditional plans, these HDHPs appeal to employees who use their benefits less (like younger and healthier workers) who may be overinsured under a PPO or HMO.

However, this article in Employee Benefits News suggests that employees believe HDHPs are more expensive for them. This isn’t always the case, and it’s up to benefits teams to help employees understand the difference and do the math. Which leads us to our next suggestion...

Great Communication

Targeted, thoughtful communication can ease employees’ minds as you make strategic changes to their benefits. It’s up to you to turn your employees into educated consumers on healthcare and financial wellness. This is especially important as baby boomers reach retirement age and millennials become the largest cohort of members.

As workforce demographics change, be sure you’re arming your members with the information they need to make great decisions about their benefits. It’s past time to move beyond the benefits booklet. Think about communicating with:

  • Lunch & learns
  • Webinars
  • Web calculators and online tools
  • Social media resources
  • Email blasts

Don’t be shy about multiple channels and repeated messaging. Just like you, these folks are used to skipping past internal company-wide emails in their inbox.  

Digital channels can also help you reach remote workers and encourage deeper engagement with their benefits. This is especially key as you roll out plan changes and adjustments - let your employees know your team is looking out for them, controlling their costs, and ensuring they have access to the care they need.

Future Proofing

What are you doing now to ensure your benefits package is competitive and employee-centered in 10 years?

Many companies are testing new strategies now that may become standard offerings in the future. Benefits of the future include:

  • Unlimited paid time off and paid volunteer time
  • Biometrics programs
  • Electric car charging at the workplace
  • Flexible work environments (childcare, flex time, fitness studios, concierge services, etc.)
  • Tuition reimbursement and student loan repayment
  • Robust professional development programs
  • Pet insurance (really)
  • Financial wellness offerings

It’s time to test new benefits, track their progress, and measure their success to see if these programs are right for your members. Some of them may fall flat, and others might pay off in member satisfaction and talent acquisition. Artemis suggests getting member input when rolling out a new program to see if it’s something your population would participate in and value as part of their overall benefits package. Which leads us to our last member-centered suggestion...

Ask for Feedback

This one is the simplest way to keep employees at the heart of your benefits strategy - ask for their feedback. Get a sense for what employees are willing to compromise on vs. what will be a deal-breaker for them. For example, you might find employees are willing to give up reimbursed gym memberships if you create a fitness center in the office. Or you may find your new wellness program isn’t working for the Atlanta office because their team is understaffed and unable to participate.

One study found that 20% of employees would surrender some health benefits for higher wages. This might be something you’d consider, or it might be off the table for you and for your employees. But you don’t know what employees will accept if you don’t ask. A great employee survey not only helps you understand what your member population really wants, but it will also help you craft targeted messaging to get your employees on board with your strategic decisions.

Final Thoughts

When Artemis says, “optimizing your benefit offerings,” we don’t mean simply eliminating wasteful spending. And that’s not what you want, either. We provide employers like you with the insight needed to make great decisions for your unique organizational needs. Spending is a big part of this, but it’s also tracking the success of existing programs, evaluating new benefits programming, and making sure you’re getting a return on your investments.

You’re tasked not only with creating a benefits package, but also with ensuring your organization attracts, supports and retains top talent. Artemis can help you find easy wins in cost savings that won’t sacrifice the quality of care you offer employees.

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