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Employers are prioritizing expanding their benefits offerings to improve their employees’ health-care experience over the next three years.
This is according to the “Choice and Personalization” findings from the “2019 Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey” by Willis Towers Watson, which found this to be the case for 31% of the 535 employers surveyed.
“Every employee’s benefit needs are unique, and each is looking for a benefit package to address their individual priorities,” said Kevin House, national leader of client relationships and sales for health benefits delivery at Willis Towers Watson. “With five distinct generations in today’s workforce, most companies have vastly different populations — from stage-of-life perspective to health situations. The challenge for employers is to offer both the options that address a diverse set of employee needs and the tools that make those choices easy to navigate and understand.”
To thoughtfully select the best benefit choices and tools to help employees navigate these options, employers need a good read on their workforce. However, most employers (54%) said they don’t have an effective listening strategy to understand the needs and wants of their employees. Nonetheless, employers are confident they have not overwhelmed employees and offer the right number of benefit choices (74%).
More Choice Means More Support
Employers are less confident, however, that they are giving employees the tools they need to sort through these benefit offerings. That’s why over the next three years, three-in-four employers (75%) are prioritizing efforts to provide employees with the tools they need to make smart benefit choices and personalize a benefit package that best suits their situation. Today, 55% of employers surveyed provide benefit decision tools.
Up to now, providing employees with tools to make informed decisions about benefits is often confined to open enrollment, rather than year-round support. While more than half (56%) of employers feel they offer effective tools to help employees make informed benefit choices during open enrollment, less than half (44%) are confident they give employees the information they need to make choices when using health-care services regularly. To aid the process, nearly three-in-four employers (74%) plan to enhance health-care navigation tools over the next three years, helping employees access the right health-care providers when needed. Employers are also prioritizing online and in-person training to educate employees (67%).
The Future of Benefits Delivery Is Holistic
Currently, less than one-third of employers (28%) provide a holistic approach to enhance their employee experience, but the tide is turning. Employers are beginning to implement solutions that help employees consider the broader financial context when making their benefit decisions. Today, less than a quarter (24%) of employers promote thinking about what their benefit selection means for financial planning, including 401(k), health savings accounts, loan repayment and emergency savings, but over half (59%) plan to implement this approach in the next three years.
Technology will also play a larger role in decision support over the next three years. Less than one-third of employers (31%) provide easy access to decision support through digital means like a mobile app, but almost twice this amount (61%) plan to enhance this capability in the next three years. Gathering data and using artificial intelligence, machine learning or virtual assistants to create a personalized experience to help employees make informed enrollment decisions will climb significantly, too — few employers (9%) use this approach today, but nearly one-third (32%) are planning to do so in the near-term.
“As technology evolves, employers are increasingly taking an employee perspective that weighs their needs across the entire slate of benefit offerings — from adequate medical coverage to financial security in retirement, to income protection or caring for a pet,” said Catherine O’Neill, senior director of health benefits strategy at Willis Towers Watson. “These decisions are complex and require trade-offs. Smart tools will make it easy for employees to take an integrated view and make their benefit decisions based on personalized recommendations.”