Millennials, men want in-person benefit conversations

Millennials, more than any other generation, want to have in-person conversations about their benefits, according to new research.

Nearly seven in 10 millennials (68%) prefer in-person interactions regarding emotional wellness benefits, 9% more than Generation X and 16% more than baby boomers, according to a new study from Health Advocate, a U.S. assistance and health and patient advocacy company.

Similarly, six in 10 millennials want to speak directly with someone when communicating about physical wellness benefits (61%) and managing chronic conditions (66%), according to the study.

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young worker millnennial
Trevor Lynn, chief marketing officer at Social Tables Inc., works at his desk at the company's headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. Success stories like Trevor Lynn’s are going to get rarer as older businesses overshadow start-ups in U.S. job creation. Millennials, those born after 1980, may find it more difficult to quickly scale career ladders as new businesses, which tend to employ more young workers, become a smaller force in the labor market. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Trevor Lynn

“Everyone wants to feel that the person they’re talking to knows them and is answering the questions based on what they know about them,” says Abbie Leibowitz, Health Advocate’s chief medical officer.

While benefit plans and health backgrounds can be gleamed from third-party benefits support, he says personalization matters when answering employee questions and communicating benefit options.

This preferred interaction extends beyond the youth to another unlikely population: men.

The Pennsylvania-based company surveyed more than 500 full-time U.S. employees and found that 62% of men, regardless of age, prefer in-person conversations, compared to 44% of women.

“Women tend to be more hands-on,” Leibowitz says. “Men would just like to give [the problem] to someone else.”

Although women might be more willing than men to use technological offerings, such as a carrier’s website or company portal, to understand their benefits, both don’t seem to have much choice.

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Benefit program managers greatly favor email (67%), flyers and brochures (40%), and websites and online portals (26%) over in-person or phone conversations (9%), according to the survey.

Emails and brochures tend to distribute general material rather than personalized solutions, a problem that 40% of employees cite as a core flaw to their organizations’ wellness initiatives, according to the survey.

“Different generations are going to respond to different lines of communication,” says Marcy Klipfel, senior vice president of employee engagement at Businessolver, a benefits administration technology firm in West Des Moines, Iowa. “You have to use multiple channels and deliver it in consumable bites.”

Klipfel says her company gives its employees tools throughout the year to educate them on benefits decisions they’ll make during open enrollment.

“I always remind my team, according to [the data] leverage from Businessolver, employees spend less than 20 minutes making benefit elections,” she says, “but more than 50 hours on fantasy football.”

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Those quick benefit decisions can be attributed to lack of information throughout the year.

Almost half of employees (47%) receive health and benefits communication annually, biannually or once during onboarding, according to Health Advocate’s survey.

Meanwhile, 41% of employees report that their top complaint about their employers’ benefits program is that communication is too infrequent, according to the survey.

Health Advocate’s Leibowitz says a personalized interface option might be the best bridge between answering employee questions in real time while also providing applicable answers through technology offerings.

Klipfel says the company’s product, a benefits tool that assesses an employee’s risk tolerance, is offered to its own employees to assist with decision-making come open enrollment.

“I have seen a decrease in the number of handholding and questions I need to answer,” she says.

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