2020 Benefit Trends Report: Stay Prepared for the Unexpected

2020 Benefit Trends Report: Stay Prepared for the Unexpected

This year’s Benefit Trends Report from Empyrean offers key insights into the structure of employee benefit programs moving into the coronavirus pandemic, as well as indications of how benefits may evolve in a post-COVID-19 world.

Today, Human Resource professionals are facing the most challenging moments of their careers, juggling the unique impacts of the pandemic on their employees, businesses, and families. Like nearly every aspect of daily life in 2020, the business of employee benefits has been monumentally impacted by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Health and wealth benefits are critical factors in determining an employees’ overall wellbeing, and especially so during this unprecedented period.

There is no doubt that the emergence of COVID-19 will have a profound and lasting impact on the care and coverage of employees moving forward. One key theme that has resonated throughout all of this change has been the need to prepare for the unexpected.

While the data highlighted in this year’s Benefit Trends Report was collected prior to the global emergence of COVID-19, the insights offered in this new report offer an important look at employers’ benefit programs prior to the pandemic – as well as critical insights into how COVID-19 will impact benefits moving forward.

Below is a preview of just a few of this year’s findings. For more, click here to download your copy of the 2020 Benefit Trends Report from Empyrean. 

  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) and High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) remain the most popular medical plans: 95% of employers surveyed offer at least one of these two types of plans, and 64% of employers offer both an HDHP and PPO. This year’s data has signaled that the popularity of these plans has stabilized among employers.
  • Of the 76% of employers that offer HDHPs, only 8% of employers utilize a full-replacement (HDHP-only) strategy, a figure that has remained the same over the past year. While some employers have made the move to HDHP-only benefits packages, most organizations have appeared hesitant to make a similar strategic leap.
  • The manufacturing industry remains a leading adopter of the full-replacement strategy. This year’s data also highlights the popularity of HDHP-only offerings among companies in the energy/utilities sector.

RELATED: Explore the challenges facing HSA utilization and how technology can help alleviate these burdens and position you for long-term success

 

Analysis: Is Full-Replacement the Benefits Strategy of the Future?

While 76% of employers currently offer an HDHP as part of their health benefits packages, only 8% of those employers utilize a full-replacement strategy – where HDHPs are the only health plan option offered to employees.

Full replacement strategies are especially common among employers in industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic – including the manufacturing/industrial and services industries. Given the financial impacts seen across nearly all industries, however, full-replacement strategies may become even more prevalent as employers try to balance employees’ health insurance needs with managing lost business.

As a result of the unique situation surrounding COVID-19, many employers and plan providers have opened up special enrollment periods to those employees that waived health care coverage during their prior Annual Enrollment.

Some employers have offered limited plan choices during these special enrollment periods, including employers that have only offered HDHP plans to participants. This may be a possible indicator for increased interest in the full-replacement strategy among employers in the future.

Prior to the pandemic, low unemployment and high competition over top talent made enacting a full-replacement strategy a potentially controversial move – especially among employees who were accustomed to more traditional plan choices like preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Now employers may be more focused on keeping their businesses afloat. As a result, cost-sharing plans and full-replacement strategies could see more momentum as the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to surface.

  • Nearly two-fifths of organizations now have decision support tools available to their employees.
  • The recommendation engine has increased in availability by 38% since last year, and is now utilized at 89% of eligible employers surveyed – making this the most popular decision support tool today.

READ MORE: Learn how properly applying the latest advancements in smart technology can boost your benefits strategy, engage employees, and reduce costs for all

  • More than three-fourths of employers offer voluntary benefits, including accident and critical illness coverage, legal insurance, and pet insurance.
  • Wellness programs are increasing in popularity: Half of all employers surveyed now offering a wellness program as part of their benefits packages. Nearly three-fourths of these employers include biometric screenings and other health assessments as part of their wellness program strategy. 81% offer an associated incentive to encourage continued wellness program participation, such as financial rewards or reduced medical premiums.

MORE: Discover the financial challenges facing today’s workforce and discover practical solutions that will help you care for employees’ wallets and wellbeing

This year’s report highlights that commitment, dedication, and flexibility are more important now than ever. Ensuring employees have access to the right benefits, guidance, and services is crucial to keeping families safe throughout the current crisis.

Likewise, employers must be able to rely on their benefit administration partners and technology providers to tackle a growing number of process changes, compliance updates, and other evolving needs.

For more data and insights, download your copy of the 2020 Empyrean Benefit Trends Report today. As you read, we’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and comments. Feel free to contact us anytime at info@goempyrean.com.

COVID-19 Update: Empyrean Response to the Novel Coronavirus

COVID-19 Update: Empyrean Response to the Novel Coronavirus

Empyrean is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our customers, participants, and colleagues as officials and organizations work together to contain the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Here are the latest details you need to know.

COVID-19 has prompted an unprecedented time for companies, employees, and their families nationwide. With many questions surrounding this fast-moving health concern, participants need access to reliable and accurate benefits information now more than ever.

As always, the Empyrean Team is dedicated to connecting employees to their benefits every day – whenever and wherever they need it – especially as the situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve.

 

Empyrean Business Continuity Plans

Empyrean is fully equipped to continue serving our clients and their participants during any major event or natural disaster, including the current coronavirus pandemic. Our technology infrastructure and business continuity plans have been thoroughly tested, proven, and maintained to ensure your service will continue without interruption during this critical time.

Empyrean client service teams are providing regular updates to our clients and working with our employees and partners as this situation develops. Should you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your Client Service Manager for assistance.

Protecting our employees and their families remains a central priority for our entire team. As part of Empyrean’s robust continuity preparedness, we continuously maintain the technological and operational flexibility to enable secure and remote service across our entire workforce.

 

2020 Empyrean Client Conference – Webinar Series

Out of an abundance of caution, the 2020 Empyrean Client Conference will move from a traditional conference format into a weekly webinar series. The webinar series is scheduled to begin in April, with dates to be announced soon. This formatting change was made to protect our attendees and staff and aid in social distancing efforts, while continuing to bring thought-provoking speakers and actionable insights to our community.

We look forward to delivering valuable information during these webinars, and to hosting a safe and successful live conference next year.

 

Empyrean is doing our part to prevent the spread of the virus, and we are committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of our participants, clients and partners, and community during this difficult time. Our team continues to closely monitor the situation and is ready to respond appropriately as new information becomes available.

Engage on the Go: Mastering Benefits Connectivity to Support Your Mobile Workforce

Engage on the Go: Mastering Benefits Connectivity to Support Your Mobile Workforce

As working away from the office becomes the new normal, how can you reach employees that work outside of the office, on their feet, or without email – without adding to your workload?

Modern technology is allowing people to connect across distances, channels, and even workspaces like never before. Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever: Approximately 69% of American employers now offer flexible work policies.1

Remote work and flexible working arrangements are becoming key requirements to attract and retain top talent – but the mobile workforce isn’t simply limited to those employees that telecommute. A wide variety of employees work outside of a typical 8-to-5 office or are frequently on-the-go.

Empyrean’s latest At-A-Glance Guide offers practical steps to engage your mobile employees with their benefits – and keep them engaged – to foster better outcomes for your workers, their families, and your business. Download your free copy of the guide today!

While the concept of mobile remote work has been around for decades, the number of employees enjoying flexible workspaces has skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, there has been a 91% increase in remote work since 2009, and a 44% increase over the past five years alone.2

While the prevalence of mobile work can provide plenty of perks, it also brings with it some major challenges for HR teams to solve.

Remember that mobile workers aren’t limited to those that work from home: These workers also include on-site and traveling employees, shift workers, retail associates, frequent travelers (including salespeople and team managers) and more.

It can be tough enough to get in-office workers to break from their busy schedules and engage with their benefits and resources. With mobile employees, this challenge becomes even more difficult, as these employees often face additional obstacles that can hinder meaningful benefits engagement and optimization.

Unlike your typical office worker, many mobile employees (such as retail, service, and construction workers) are never assigned a personal work email address. Additionally, many workplaces lack a central computer station for employees to check for work-related email in the first place.

And remote employees working from home or elsewhere can miss out on your in-office efforts (such as posters and programs) that their more traditional counterparts enjoy.

This can put a huge dent in employers’ benefits communication strategies – but a mobile-based strategy can boost the benefits of employee engagement for both your mobile and non-mobile participants alike.

Delivering continuous and personalized support to employees, 24/7/365, is a tall order for even the largest benefit teams. This is precisely where modern, mobile-ready benefits administration technology is poised to make a major impact on the success of your benefits strategy. Today’s mobile technology brings robust consumer tools – plus much-needed quality and cost transparency – to everyday benefits utilization.

One example of this technology is Empyrean Pilot+. Pilot+ uses an employee’s claims and benefits data to deliver personalized, holistic, and clear guidance when employees need it most.

By leveraging claims data, artificial intelligence (AI), and behavioral analytics, participants automatically receive the plan-specific and claims-specific guidance they need, right when they need it. Data is aggregated across an employee’s elected health insurance plans and additional benefits, care and prescription needs, and relevant savings accounts to deliver recommendations that encourage smarter plan utilization year-round.

This kind of guidance helps employees navigate and utilize their entire benefits package, plus offers personalized cost estimates and assists filing claims. Employees even receive consistent feedback on their benefits plan efficiency – informed by their own claims data – which leads to better benefits comprehension and smarter plan recommendations during their next open enrollment opportunity.

Best of all, employees receive anytime guidance through the Empyrean Pilot+ mobile app, to reach members of your workforce directly on their mobile devices, wherever they may be.

By offering access to powerful support via one easy app, your participants no longer have to remember multiple benefit sites, logins, or passwords. And with 81% of Americans now owning a smartphone,3 providing benefits resources via a mobile app, push notifications, and other mobile-friendly methods is the convenient way to keep your mobile workforce highly engaged with their benefits while on-the-go.

Self-service benefits enrollment and engagement solutions are an integral part of making your benefits more accessible and consumer-friendly for your participants. While the demand for digital tools increases, however, don’t lose sight of the importance of live one-on-one service – especially as it pertains to your mobile workforce.

For mobile employees that do not have immediate access to a computer, need additional support during enrollment, or have specific questions throughout the plan year, a dedicated service center provides the knowledgeable and personal support necessary to build greater benefits confidence.

And despite common misconceptions, live customer service doesn’t simply cater to older employees: Nearly 90% of Millennials and Gen Z trust live service representatives – while just over 10% trust chatbots.4

Service center support lets your employees call upon expert professionals to assist with benefits-related questions, contact and follow up with carriers regarding concerns, and more. Live customer service can be a valuable boost to your employees’ benefits experience and overall satisfaction.

With so many generations in the workplace today, combining powerful technology and live service will also help prevent accessibility gaps for mobile employees across all age groups and technology skill levels.

As the mobile workforce continues to expand across industries, benefit teams must be ready to optimize their strategies to support participants working outside of the office. HR leaders are at the forefront of a major shift in how employees connect with every aspect of their work – including their workspaces, remote teams, company culture, and (of course) their benefits.

Looking for more ways to engage your mobile workforce? Download Empyrean’s newest At-A-Glance Guide today!

If you’re ready to modernize your approach to benefits engagement, connect with Empyrean for a consultative conversation with our experts to discuss your unique benefits administration needs. Our client-adaptive technology and award-winning service will deliver the comprehensive solutions and continuous support to keep your mobile workforce moving in the right direction.

Have thoughts, questions, or comments about this topic? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us anytime at info@goempyrean.com.

 

References

  1. “The Annual IWG Global Workspace Survey.” International Workplace Group. Zug, Switzerland. March 2019.
  2. Reynolds, Brie Weiler. “159% Increase in Remote Work Since 2005: FlexJobs & Global Workplace Analytics Report.” FlexJobs Corporation. Boulder, CO. July 2019.
  3. “Mobile Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Center. Washington, DC. June 2019.
  4. “The Digital Lives of Millennials and Gen Z.” LivePerson, Inc. New York, NY. October 2017.
Key Ingredients for a Successful Benefits Administration Technology Partner

Key Ingredients for a Successful Benefits Administration Technology Partner

Avoid common compromises – and reduce your risk of poor choice and project failure – by understanding what sets successful benefits administration solutions apart.

Employers offer benefits to stay competitive in a tight talent market and maintain happy employees. However, your employee benefits experience is not dictated solely by the health insurance, retirement benefits, life insurance, disability insurance, or fringe benefits you offer. Your benefits technology platform can make a huge difference in the way employees feel about your offering, as well as how productive your benefits team can be over outdated manual processes.

The benefits of employee engagement and smarter productivity can’t be overstated. As an HR leader, however, you put a lot on the line when selecting the technology provider you’ll entrust with your benefits enrollment, administration, and engagement. The right benefits solution will help you gain higher productivity and increase relevance, improve cost predictability, and mitigate risk through accurate compliance and coverage – but how can you identify the best partner?

Empyrean’s new At-A-Glance Guide covers 10 benefits administration must-haves to help you select a strong benefits administration partner with confidence.  Here we take a quick look at a few of these key “ingredients.” For more,  download the free guide today.

High Client Retention

A lot of time and investment goes into finding the right technology partner – but improperly vetted solutions are bound to fail, even after go-live. Ask for your potential partner’s client retention rate. This indicative figure will show if clients are satisfied and sticking with their solution.

To help find a viable partner to meet your current needs, look for a benefits technology firm that fully delves into and understands your company’s many unique factors, such as industry and culture. Your potential vendor should have proven and positive past experiences with clients of similar size and complexity to your own.

Adaptive and Scalable Solutions

Whether currently insourcing or outsourcing, you likely have existing processes based on your benefits strategy. The technology powering your benefits administration platform should adapt to and enable your strategy – you shouldn’t have to compromise your strategy to fit a vendor’s shortcomings. To increase data accuracy and efficiency, your partner should tailor to your unique formats, culture, employee groups, and strategy, while applying best practices where appropriate.

Your business is ever-changing, and benefits are a large part of that dynamic. Select a proactive benefits administration solution that can keep up with predictable and unpredictable changes in your company, market, and applicable regulations – otherwise you could face unexpected issues down the line. Your partner should have a history of maintaining smooth service throughout clients’ major organizational and strategic changes, to prevent the need for a new vendor search soon after your next big business announcement.

Strong Year-Round Benefits Engagement and Employee Experience

Your benefits technology investment shouldn’t be limited to a single experience during Annual Enrollment, or you could face the risks of disengaged employees. Instead, expect your platform to put artificial intelligence (AI) to work for your employees, saving real dollars and time with better benefits package recommendations, convenient health care providers, cost comparisons and options for prescriptions and treatments, and streamlined processes when filing paperwork and making a claim. Year-round support will make sure employees are engaged and leveraging the benefits you offer to the best of their ability.

Proactive benefits administration technology delivers value that goes beyond basic enrollment and administration – to reach employees at the right point of need. How robust and relevant is your current benefits solution? You need an experience that makes benefits matter to your employees every day – not just once or twice a year.

Data You Can Trust

One of the most common reasons companies seek out a new benefits technology provider is because their current system produces bad data. The problem is then compounded when their vendor fails to properly clean and continually audit their data. When evaluating a solution, look beyond just an attractive and functional user experience, and dive deep into your potential partners’ data handling capabilities. Can the firm manage your data and provide the expertise to understand the whys behind your data and reporting?

Airtight Security Procedures

Managing employee benefits also means handling and protecting your employees’ most sensitive information. Millions of people have already fallen victim to security breaches, as cyber criminals use increasingly sophisticated methods to infiltrate information systems. Security must be more than a “check-the-box” priority for your benefits administration partner.

Your chosen technology provider should employ robust security protocols such as at-rest data encryption, annual security audits, thorough employee background checks, HIPAA training and certification for all employees, and restricted and monitored data access.

Each company’s benefits, workforce, and strategy are different, but selecting your next benefits technology vendor doesn’t have to be risky or nerve-wracking. With support from the right partner you’ll eliminate compromises, lower costs, and enrich lives to increase employee satisfaction and make benefits matter every day.

For the complete checklist of all 10 must-have ingredients – and to see how your benefits technology stacks up – download Empyrean’s newest At-A-Glance Guide.  As you read, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact us with questions or comments at info@goempyrean.com.

5 Tips for Year-Round Employee Benefits Engagement

5 Tips for Year-Round Employee Benefits Engagement

Annual Enrollment (AE) season is here for many employers, but how well prepared are you to engage employees once Open Enrollment season is all wrapped up?

For some employees, AE (or OE) can be the only time of year when they are engaged with their benefits – and disengaged employees can take a serious toll on the success of your benefits strategy.

As a Human resources leader, how can you cut through the noise to ensure your employees are actively engaging with your benefits every day – and making smarter decisions for themselves in the process?

Empyrean’s latest At-A-Glance Guide takes you through five crucial tips to foster year-round employee benefits engagement. These tips will help you gain more from your benefits strategy after enrollment is over – and your employees will get more from their benefits, too.

1 | Aim to Excite, Not Overwhelm

67% of employees are uncomfortable when reading about their benefits, and 75% of employees don’t fully understand how their benefits work to begin with.1 This means employees need regular nudges throughout the year to gain the confidence to fully absorb (and get excited about) the information you provide.

However, employees can feel overwhelmed when presented with too much information all at once. And if participants are tuned out, the effectiveness of your engagement efforts will be diminished.

Try distilling your benefits-related messages down into bite-sized bits of information. Instead of sending out one long email highlighting all of your benefit plans and programs, break messages up benefit-by-benefit.

2 | Plan Out Your Communications Calendar

You’re likely sending out the bulk of your benefits-related communications around Annual Enrollment – but it shouldn’t be concentrated in just that one month. What is your communication strategy during the other eleven months of the year?

Make your engagement goals easier to achieve by creating a dedicated benefits content and communications calendar. Make sure you include all pertinent offerings, programs, and tools and technology platforms, so employees stay aware of everything available to them throughout the year. If you miss out on a benefit, chances are employees will too.

A communications calendar will help you stay consistent, keep your messaging fresh and varied, and strengthen the connection between your benefits and events that are already on employees’ minds throughout the year. Download the full guide now for an example content calendar with ideas you can use year-round.

3 | Think Outside the Inbox

While emails are certainly a valid way to get your benefit communications out to employees, be sure to consider alternate channels as well. To better understand the type of communications certain employees might best respond to, take a moment to consider the various benefits-eligible populations within your overall workforce.

While emails will reach the typical desk-job employee, they might miss others that work elsewhere. Mobile-based communications, like text messages, may be better suited for employees that primarily work away from a computer (such as shift workers, retail workers, and those who are frequently on a job site).

4 | Leverage Your Resources

Take advantage of the resources and tools available to you through your partners, vendors, and carriers to help enrich the employee experience and boost your communication efforts. In addition, explore if your benefits administration technology partner offers solutions to make daily engagement much easier to achieve and maintain.

For example, Empyrean Pilot+ leverages real-time claims data, consumer behavior, and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide employees with personalized and plan-specific guidance. Recommendations span providers, prescriptions, spending accounts, voluntary benefits, and more. Participants also get financial updates and cost predictions that add transparency to health care planning and financial wellness, and can also receive alerts for claims filing and appealing charges.

Taking advantage of the resources available to your workforce, including data-driven digital engagement tools, will supercharge your engagement efforts while enabling employees to make smarter care and cost decisions all year round.

5 | Avoid Surprises

With 92% of employees choosing the same benefits year after year,2 any change to your benefits offering might come as a shock to unsuspecting employees down the road. A strong communication strategy will help your workforce avoid unwelcome surprises, support a better understanding of your benefits program, and increase employee satisfaction.

Getting your employees to engage with their benefits (and stay engaged) is not an impossible task – it is just one that requires a strong framework and the right resources to accomplish.

Download Empyrean’s newest At-A-Glance Guide and learn how to engage your workforce and gain more from your benefits strategy all year long. 

As you read, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact us with questions or comments at info@goempyrean.com.

References

  1. “2017 Alfac WorkForces Report: Employee Overview.” Aflac, Inc. Columbus, GA. February 2017.
  2. “2017 Aflac WorkForces Report Reveals Employees are Uninspired about Researching Benefits.” Aflac, Inc. Columbus, GA. July 2017.