Employee satisfaction with healthcare flatlining

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Offering a good benefits package is becoming even more important to workers. But employees are still not any more satisfied with a key element – their health plan.

Although employers believe their health benefits are getting more competitive, employee satisfaction with them is not increasing, says global insurance brokerage and consulting firm Arthur J. Gallagher in its 2018 Benefits Strategy and Benchmarking survey. The number of employers who think they offer competitive health benefits rose three percentage points, from 71% in 2017 to 74% in 2018. But confidence in employee satisfaction hasn’t budged – remaining flat at around 61%.

If employers want to make this better, they may have to get more creative about communicating health benefits to workers, says Bill Ziebell, CEO of the benefits and human resources consulting division at Arthur J. Gallagher.

“I think the complexity of the benefits is what's driving all that,” Ziebell says. “A lot of folks are still stuck in the paradigm of open enrollment and are not really getting creative about communicating and explaining the benefits.”

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Certified nurse practitioner conducts a check-up on a patient at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Takoma Park, Maryland, U.S. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Employee dissatisfaction with health plans may also have to do with the cost, particularly of family plans, the survey indicates. While three quarters of respondents say managing the cost of health benefits is a top priority, only 44% say they have an effective strategy to do so.

But, employers are making effort to diversify their healthcare offerings. Overall, Gallagher found that 22% of employers now offer three medical insurance plans and 13% offer four or more options.

Ziebell says employers have found more innovative ways to add to their health and well-being benefits, by including telemedicine and wellness offerings that focus on decreasing the cost of healthcare.

“You have to look at the total well-being [of an employee], it’s evolved from just wellness,” he says. “It’s really connected to a better return on investment on health plan expenses.”

But the focus isn’t just on health plans. Companies are also looking to benefits like financial wellness and tuition assistance as a way to attract and retain workers across generations, Ziebell says. In a competitive labor market, he adds, benefits like this are becoming more important than ever.

“The economy is heating up. If [workers] don’t feel a connection back to the employer, they’re going to go take that phone call and have that interview,” Ziebell says.

Making sure that a benefits plan is on par with what employees need is a challenge for all companies, Ziebell says. But data can help. He suggests surveying workers to get a better sense of how they are feeling.

“You can find the spots where you might have some trouble and then you put a plan together to address that,” he says.

Typically, he adds, it is a company’s communications strategy that may need to be improved. Having a good adviser can also help.

“It really comes down to wiping the board clean, looking at your data, looking at your demographics, working with an adviser that can help put a strategic communication plan together and help you be more effective in how you're engaging your employees,” he says.

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