Today, it's not uncommon for an employer to offer more than 10 independent employee benefit packages. The problem is that engagement in ancillary benefits tends to be low. Employees may not know how to access them or even that they exist, due to the complexity and inconvenience of having to access each benefit separately.

However, employers slowly are beginning to realize the great return on investment that can be achieved when all of their employee benefits are working together. Benefit integration is the coordination of any combination of employee benefits that were previously separate from one another, in a way that they are monitored, managed and processed. Once benefits are integrated, they can be promoted as one comprehensive program, with one easy to use process to access them. As such, with integrated programs, employee engagement rates tend to double and even triple. When employee engagement is high, employers start to see their desired return on investment in the form of lower health care costs, increased administrative efficiency, improved morale and increased productivity.


The proof is in the pudding

Recently a large company with more than 12,000 employees and more than 100 locations integrated its existing medical benefits and employee assistance program/work-life service with a new wellness initiative. After the wellness program was integrated with the EAP/work-life service and incentivized with health care, employee engagement levels for the EAP/work-life and wellness program skyrocketed.

Prior to integration, the company had a separate wellness program, EAP and medical benefits, and employee engagement in all three was average to low. Upon deciding to integrate all of these services, the employer launched a promotional campaign to portray all three services as pieces of a complete employee benefit program designed to address all aspects of employees' physical, behavioral, financial and environmental health. By providing a comprehensive benefits package, the employer proved that they cared about more than just saving money.

After the benefits programs were integrated, employees reported feeling appreciated and that the integrated benefit offering was valuable in helping them make positive life changes. Engagement also rose dramatically. The wellness program experienced unprecedented levels of utilization, as 87% of employees reported engagement, compared to the national average 41% for highly incentivized programs. EAP/work-life utilization increased from 7.68% to 38%.

This was accomplished by cross referrals between services and the exceptional continuity of care that was supplied by various departments within the vendor company. For example, a wellness coach may pick up on an underlying psychological barrier preventing a person from achieving their fitness goals. The coach is able to continue working with the client on fitness goals, while also warm transferring them to a clinical staff member within the EAP who can conduct an intake and provide a referral to the needed counseling.

With such high engagement, the company achieved a significant return on investment, seen in measurable decreases in employee stress, obesity and cholesterol levels, as well as increases in healthy diet and exercise. Anecdotally, the company also saw a shift in corporate culture, with a more engaged and productive workforce with happier, healthier employees.

Offering a strong total compensation package attracts top talent while maintaining high employee morale and productivity. However, when employees do not understand, know how to access or even realize that certain benefits are available to them, your compensation package could end up being a waste of money. By integrating your benefits and marketing them as one robust offering, employees become aware of the great compensation package that is available to them and are therefore more likely to utilize all of their benefits. Engaged employees are happier, healthier, more productive employees who yield better results and promote an enjoyable and dynamic corporate culture. -E.B.N.

Gene Raymondi is the founder and CEO of eni, creating dynamic EAP, wellness and work-life solutions that maximize employee engagement, well-being and productivity within large organizations.

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