Benefits booklets are ‘worthless’ — and 9 other takeaways from Workplace Benefits Mania
Innovative and entertaining enrollment tips, employee engagement and hot workplace offerings: Benefits experts, brokers and other professionals talked about it all at Employee Benefit Adviser ’s Workplace Benefits Mania conference, held last week in Phoenix. Couldn’t make it this year or miss the excitement and knowledge exchange already? Here are 10 key takeaways from the annual event.
Time to throw away the benefits booklet?
Employee handbook on a wooden table and glasses.
Is it time to retire the classic (and costly) benefits booklet for open enrollment? Perhaps, suggested Chad Schneider, director of channel sales at software firm Jellyvision. “Nobody reads the booklets. They are a waste of time and energy and money for both [brokers and employers],” he explained. “Brokers and advisers should challenge employers who rely solely on benefits booklets to inform employees about benefit offerings during open enrollment.” Read more here.
Health and financial wellness needs to become a bigger priority.
Some of the biggest and costliest health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, are often preventable, said speaker Karen Waltemath, northwest market leader of benefits solutions at Alight Solutions. Meanwhile, financial concerns are only getting worse. According to the Federal Reserve Board, nearly half of Americans have less than $400 on hand to cover an unplanned expense or emergency. Wellness efforts can help with both of these issues — and should be a priority for both employers and brokers, Waltemath said. “Be an ambassador for wellness and double down in your efforts.”
HCM systems are ‘the new iPhone.’
When the iPhone debuted in 2007, it combined the most-used technology of the day — an iPod, a flip phone, a GPS and a camera — on one device. And it soon became the tech hit that everyone not only wanted, but needed. In today’s business world, “a single HCM system has “become the new iPhone”: a must-have technology that combines functions including payroll, HR tasks, time and attendance and benefits management, among other things. That was the message from speaker Joe Markland, president of consulting firm HR Technology Advisors. Read more here.
‘Referrals are dead.’
Speaker and author Bill Cates told Workplace Benefits Mania attendees that “referrals are dead” and introductions are the key to business leads for brokers. “Referrals are worthless — we have to have introductions,” he said. “Referrals just use a source name, but introductions are an actionable connection. It’s advocacy at the highest level.”
Employers and brokers need to get innovative during open enrollment.
Maryland Health Connection health insurance marketplace pamphlets sit at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Takoma Park, Maryland, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Government-run health insurance exchanges, the cornerstone of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, opened their doors today for sales of subsidized bronze, silver, gold or platinum policies, with correspondingly higher costs. Coverage begins in January and enrollment lasts through March 2014. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Tired of not getting employees engaged during open enrollment? You might want to try spreading the word on the sleeve of a coffee cup or on the door of the office restroom. Those were among the suggestions from Jellyvision’s Schneider, who called on brokers and employers to use entertaining and innovative ways to engage employee during open enrollment. Read more here.
Voluntary market is showing ‘astounding’ growth.
The voluntary market is experiencing incredible growth, said experts Gil Lowerre and Nick Rockwell of Eastbridge Consulting Group. And brokers and employers best get on board. According to their firm’s research, of employers who offer voluntary products, the most common number they offer is three to five. “Employees who buy voluntary will be apt to buy more,” Rockwell said. “It’s growing and it’s still growing.” As for brokers? “This is no longer an ancillary side business, this is at the heart of what brokers do.”
HR professionals need to become technology experts.
Human resources professionals need to become their company’s advocate for more efficient technology that will benefit both the company and its employees.“[HR professionals] need to take it upon themselves to understand it is their job to understand and educate themselves,” Markland said. “It is an obligation to be that expert in their organization. … It will be an expectation for every company.” Read more here.
Student loan benefits are a hit when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees.
When PURE Insurance announced earlier this year it was implementing a student loan repayment benefit for its 600 employees, the reaction from workers was “overwhelmingly positive,” said Joanna Stein Weiner, the company’s director of compensation and benefits. “People would email me, call me and stop me in the hall telling me what an amazing benefit this was. One of our employees was in tears saying what a difference this was making for her and what a tremendous stress [her student loan debt] was [for her]. Even people who didn’t have debts felt proud that we had this sort of program.” The benefit also has had a big impact on the company’s recruitment efforts, Weiner said. Read more here.
One-on-one benefits meetings aren’t dead.
Shot of two businessmen walking and talking together in the lobby of an office building
Panelists at the conference brought up a recurring point: Employees still want, and need, one-on-one meetings to discuss benefit options — despite all the tech options out there to use for communication. “It’s so important to have a connection with employees so they understand the products,” said Anna Hoobler, co-founder of Seattle Benefits Consulting. “Tech is a great tool, but it doesn’t replace the one-on-one meetings and engagement.” Chris Bernardine, chief enrollment officer at benefits consulting firm Meridio, agreed: “I still go out to personally enroll to understand employers and employees. We work a lot online, but we still have to communicate and educate employees on the need for why [benefits are important.] Online doesn’t always do that.”
Benefits professionals: Don’t underestimate how important your job is.
Shot of professional coworkers shaking hands during a meeting in the office
“[Benefits advisers and brokers] provide solutions for employers and employees [with benefits], so you can be relevant and so you can make a difference in the world,” said Michael Hart, national group broker manager at American Fidelity. “When people have the worst day of their life, you can be there for them.”