Online Benefits Maturity Assessment

Online Benefits Maturity Assessment

Get the personalized insights you need to become a more strategic benefits leader with our online, interactive Benefits Maturity Assessment. 

How Decision Support Technology Can Fuel a Better Employee Experience

How Decision Support Technology Can Fuel a Better Employee Experience

Read our Decision Support Guide to learn about the top 5 factors to consider when evaluating recommendation engine platforms. Understand how predictive analytics can help employees understand future risks and costs, and what to look out for when comparing platforms to ensure you get the best fit for your needs.

Do Your Employees Understand Your Benefit Programs and Offerings?

Do Your Employees Understand Your Benefit Programs and Offerings?

Six Ways to Better Educate Employees About Their Benefit Enrollment Options

Each year, HR and benefit teams put Herculean efforts into designing and building benefit plans that best support their employee populations. And it’s no wonder why – robust health and wellness benefit programs are linked to better employee and attraction outcomes and overall company performance.

Despite these efforts and best intentions to deliver a high-performing employee benefits program, many employees are still unaware of the benefit offerings available to them. According to a 2021 Voya consumer survey, 35% of survey participants reported that they did not fully understand any of the employee benefits they enrolled in during their most recent open enrollment period, with 54% of millennial employees falling into that category. Employees are thirsting for better benefits education, as 66% of survey respondents said that they want their employer to help them better understand and navigate their benefit enrollments.

Unfortunately, a lack of benefits education and awareness can have dire consequences to both the employee and employer. Employees may opt for more expensive plans because they do not understand how a less costly option may better suit their coverage needs, and they may avoid some supplemental benefit offerings due to a lack of awareness of how these programs work or that they event exist.

On the employer side, failure to properly educate employees (and their dependents) on benefit offerings and usage can be both financially burdensome and a major miss when it comes to employer branding and employee experience. Employers who neglect to take the steps necessary to inform employees about their benefits demonstrate both a lack of employee support and an uncaring company culture, no matter how generous an employee benefit plan design may be.

So, how can employers educate their employees about their benefits? Empyrean’s recent research report, “Top 5 Benefit Trends for 2021,” highlights the growing shift towards closing these employee education and communication gaps through the use of decision support tools and other methodologies.

Here are six critical steps employers should consider to better help employees understand and identify the benefit options that will most effectively meet their health, wellness, and overall coverage needs while making the most of their enrollments on a year-round basis.

1. Create a Benchmark to Measure and Address Gaps in Employee Benefits Knowledge

In order to fix a broken benefits education system and measure future success, employers must first take stock to understand current knowledge levels and where gaps have traditionally occurred. Conducting periodic benefit satisfaction surveys and employee focus groups can provide critical data and insights surrounding your employees’ benefits knowledge and needs. By asking targeted questions, you can better understand employee knowledge levels, common misconceptions, overall frustrations, and where more education is needed.

Another way to gauge levels of employee benefits knowledge is to carefully monitor and audit benefit enrollments and usage. If the majority of employees select certain benefits options, rejecting those which may be a better fit, it may be due to a lack of understanding rather than a specific preference for one option over another.

Creating these initial benchmarks can not only help fuel an organization’s go-forward benefits education and communications strategy, but will enable the employer to measure and report on the success of new initiatives.

2. Communicate Benefits Information Through Diverse Channels

Employees differ in the ways they prefer to learn about and synthesize information, and benefits are no exception. While some employees prefer digesting benefits materials and updates during in-person interactions, others respond better to a fully digital experience where they can access benefit resources on an on-demand basis.

To support the many different learning and communication styles within your workforce, it is critical to communicate benefits information using a variety of media. Employers should consider utilizing a combination of the following methods:

  • In-person or virtual benefit workshops and enrollment meetings
  • Detailed benefits handbooks and plan summaries
  • Online technologies, including decision support tools
  • Customized online benefits microsites
  • Dedicated space on the company intranet
  • Individualized telephone support provided by an internal team or outsourced third-party

3. Simplify Complex Benefits Concepts and Terminologies

It may be difficult for employees to understand, navigate, and best utilize their benefit offerings if they lack foundational knowledge about core benefits concepts and terms. A UnitedHealthcare consumer survey found that only 9 percent of respondents understood the meaning of four basic insurance terms—health plan premium, deductible, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximum. If employees struggle with common benefits terminology, they may also have a harder time grasping how some insurance and savings plans work.

By educating employees about key benefit concepts and terms, employers can improve overall benefits literacy and make it easier for employees to select right-sized coverage options that work best for them and for their dependents. You can support employees in this area by considering the development and rollout of the following resources:

  • A glossary of benefit terms and concepts using simplified definitions and easy to understand examples
  • Videos and other digital resources that cover benefit terminologies in simplistic terms
  • In-person or virtual benefits workshops and education sessions that occur throughout the year

4. Implement an Active Annual Enrollment

Outside of a qualifying life event, annual enrollment periods are the only time employees can re-evaluate and enroll in employer-sponsored benefit programs. Due to these enrollment timing limitations, many employers utilize a passive open enrollment strategy to ensure there is no loss in coverage for employees who may miss the enrollment window. However, employers may be missing critical opportunities by employing a passive approach.

“We see that our clients who have implemented an active open enrollment see better results as it relates to the selection of cost-effective, right-sized coverage as well as the engagement with and utilization of those plans,” says Desta Millner, Strategic Accounts Advisor at Empyrean.

Millner also points out that employers with an active annual enrollment gain an opportunity to re-demonstrate the competitiveness and value of their benefits offering.

“Empyrean believes that benefits are the most tangible expression of a company’s culture and truly demonstrate the value an organization places on its people. Employers with a passive annual enrollment miss out on the chance to further bolster their employer brand and create that goodwill that drives positive employee experiences and loyalty.”

5. Utilize Decision Support Tools to Provide Employees with Right-Sized Benefits Recommendations

Decision support technology helps employees navigate employer-sponsored health and wellness benefit offerings through an individualized lens, enabling better education, selection, and utilization outcomes.

“Decision support technology takes a holistic approach to open enrollment,” says Jim Priebe, Chief Strategy Officer at Empyrean. “It educates your employees to see the bigger picture of how their benefits work together to meet their needs, and treats them as the whole people they are – not just a sum of parts.”

These recommendation engines, specifically those which integrate real-life claims data, can drive benefits engagement as the employee is now guided through the enrollment process and can see which plans and programs are right for them based on their individual needs, health and wellness outlook, and overall circumstance. Through predictive analytics, employees can better conceptualize which programs will be most impactful for them and their family from a financial and coverage standpoint.

Decision support technology can also help employees better understand the overall worth of their benefit plan by providing a transparent view of their employer’s financial contributions to these programs.

6. Make Employee Benefits a Year-Round Conversation Beyond Just Annual Enrollment Periods

A Unum poll of U.S. workers found that most employees spend 30 minutes or less reviewing their benefits prior to open enrollment. For many, those 30 minutes may be the only time of the year they interact with their benefits choices in a meaningful way.

To drive benefit education and engagement, employee benefits communication should occur year-round and not only be limited to the open enrollment period. By offering employees helpful resources at all times of the year, employers can further optimize benefits decision-making and improve overall benefits outcomes. Producing newsletters, lunch-and-learns, and providing AI-enabled decision-support technology are just a few ways you can help employees learn more about their benefits options before, during, and after open enrollment.

Empower Employees to Choose Benefits Wisely

Oftentimes, employees simply don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to benefits. However, by putting more relevant information into employee hands and offering tools and resources to help them navigate their options, you can help your employees make more informed and cost-effective benefits decisions throughout the year.

To learn more about trends in decision support and other employee benefit areas, download your copy of “The Top Five Benefit Trends for 2021”.

2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19,  Part 2

2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19, Part 2

This upcoming Annual Enrollment may be unique, but the right planning, partners, and proactive solutions will allow you to bring greater peace of mind to your employees – even during these uncertain times.

Read Part 1 of this post here.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a workforce that is more scattered than ever before. This dynamic shift in the workplace has made leveraging the right technology a must for almost everything – from conference calls to online benefits enrollment.

As a benefits leader, it’s up to you to ensure that your employees have the tools and guidance they need to make smart decisions about their health, wealth, and benefits coverage, no matter where or how your employees may be working today.

Empyrean’s latest At-A-Glance Guide will help you navigate the AE planning process, so you can execute an open enrollment season that will reach your workforce – even during these difficult times. Download your free copy of the guide today!

The following tips will help you build a benefits communication strategy that resonates with your employees:

Acknowledge the situation around COVID-19
Between managing work responsibilities and family life, employees’ time and focus are at an all-time premium. Under normal circumstances, 56% of employees spend less than half an hour shopping for their benefits, and 14% do no research at all.1 Now, your employees may be tempted to spend even less time comparing plans – or worse, may simply select the same plans as last year. Be sure to acknowledge the difficulties presented by the pandemic in your OE communications, and encourage employees to leverage this enrollment to re-evaluate their needs, familiarize themselves with their all of their benefit options, and bring greater peace of mind to them and their families as the situation around COVID-19 continues to develop.

Transform in-office events into virtual experiences
With so many employees working from home, HR teams have to re-think the usual AE office mainstays, such as posters and benefit fairs. Regular reminders, educational materials, and events are all key to driving employee engagement – but now these options must be re-tooled to fit today’s remote workforce. Brainstorm ways to bring similar experiences directly to your employees through channels such as email, intranet and other online reminders, interactive webinars, and videos. Even if being held virtually, these events can still drive greater comprehension and value to your benefits package.

READ MORE: Explore ideas to help reach your employees while demonstrating care and compassion during these difficult times.

 Maintain a two-way dialogue with employees
When working remotely, it’s easy to rely on “one-way” modes of communication (such as email). After all, employees can no longer simply pop into your office or stop you in the hallway to ask a quick question. However, relying on just one form of communication can lead to a backlog of questions in your inbox and leave participants feeling isolated and overlooked when they don’t receive a timely enough response. Instead, encourage employees to start a dialogue via phone calls or online chat conversations (such as Skype). This will help keep lines of communication open, allow employees to get their questions answered faster, and re-emphasize the human element of HR – even at a distance. Better yet, leverage an client-dedicated Service Center to provide live, one-on-one assistance to employees without adding additional burden to your workload.

Help your employees help themselves
Selecting the wrong benefits coverage can lead to increased financial risks, more stress, and greater dissatisfaction for employees. The stakes of your benefits strategy may be higher than ever – but making the enrollment process as quick, easy, and effective as possible will lead to happier employees and more positive outcomes for your overall business. Emphasize employees’ self-service solutions from the very start of your AE communications. Your benefits administration technology platform should offer convenient mobile solutions for benefits selection, enrollment, and utilization that provide employees with the exact tools they need, right when they need them. With the right support at their fingertips, employees can make smarter decisions and save time and money in the process.

RELATED: Gain critical insights into the trends shaping employee benefits and discover how COVID-19 will impact employers’ strategies moving forward.

With the right planning and proactive solutions, you can help your employees experience greater peace of mind – even during these uncertain times. For more tips and ideas, download Empyrean’s new At-A-Glance Guide, “2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19.”

While this upcoming open enrollment period may present new challenges, your benefits administration technology partner should more reliable than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much about the way we work, but it does not have to derail your employee benefits strategy or compromise the service quality of your partnerships.

Download your free guide today and discover how the proper steps – supported by the right partner – can make all the difference to your benefits program and overall success.

References

  1. Aflac Workforces Report: 2019-2020 Workplace Benefits Trends.” Aflac, Inc. Columbus, GA. November 2019.
2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19,  Part 1

2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19, Part 1

Annual Enrollment is the central moment that defines the success of your benefits strategy, and this year the stakes are higher than ever. Discover how your HR team can cut through the noise to deliver positive results for your employees and business.

More employees are working from home than ever before, parents are juggling conference calls while their kids attend virtual classes, and companies are navigating the pandemic as the situation evolves every day. Meanwhile, benefit teams are tasked with getting through all of the noise and distractions to keep their employees engaged, satisfied, and productive.

Empyrean’s latest At-A-Glance Guide will help you orient your AE planning, so you can execute an enrollment season that will reach and resonate with your workforce during these unique times. Download your free copy of the guide today!

The coronavirus crisis has underscored the importance of selecting the right coverage choices in protecting participants’ health, financial wellbeing, and overall peace of mind. In addition to the benefits package their employer offers, employees also need proper support to choose and utilize the right plans for their needs.

The way we work has been fundamentally and forever altered by the coronavirus pandemic. Moving forward, it is largely expected that many employees will continue to work remotely – even after the threat of the virus has passed. As you plan for this year’s virtual enrollment, consider improvements and new approaches to implement that will serve you in tomorrow’s remote-work environment – including your technology platforms.

Take time to consider the many ways COVID-19 has impacted your workforce, so you can adjust your enrollment strategy as necessary. Think of this year as an opportunity to optimize your open enrollment period and test new avenues to engage employees.

Here are a few steps to consider:

Plan and prep early
Everyone is working under new conditions – including you and your team. Give yourself extra time to prepare for this year’s AE and adjust to the challenges of fully virtual collaboration and communication. Create clearly defined roles and set a calendar of milestones for your team that includes post-AE follow up. Dedicate an extra week (or more, if possible) to ensure you have everything in order for a smooth enrollment season.

Keep employees focused
Like you, your workforce is adjusting to major shifts brought on by the pandemic. Employees across all populations are facing more distractions to enrollment than ever before. Consider reaching out to employees earlier – and more often – than in previous years. Begin reaching out to employees at least 60 days before your enrollment window opens. Regardless of whether you’re holding an active or passive enrollment, all employees should be encouraged to review their benefits to make sure they have the right coverage – especially as the situation around COVID-19 remains unpredictable. Early and continuous communication will help keep your enrollment metrics on track.

Review your AE goals
The emergence of the coronavirus has forced many businesses to rethink their priorities and goals this year. How has the pandemic impacted the structure of your company or workforce? How might you need to adjust your benefits strategy or enrollment expectations to accommodate these recent changes? Spend time thinking through recent changes and potential adjustments with your team to develop a clear understanding of where your strategy stands today.

RELATED: Explore how COVID-19 will shape the future of work in a post-pandemic world.

As you plan, remember to also review the following topics:

Eligibility rules and gatekeeping processes
How have your employee populations and eligibility rules changed since last year? To avoid data issues from ineligible elections, you’ll want to make sure your employees and dependent eligibility rules are precisely aligned with your organization’s needs and requirements. Take care especially when managing multiple complex populations with unique attributes (such as union employees, furloughed employees, grandfathered populations, and retirees).

Regulatory compliance requirements
Address any compliance concerns early on in your AE planning, to allow your team and vendors time to review and resolve any issues as needed. Also ensure your solution is properly aligned with the latest updates from the IRS, including those related to COVID-19 relief efforts. Your benefits administration partner should offer dedicated in-house expertise to help keep your business in consistent compliance and protected from potential penalties.

Additional benefits and resources
Annual Enrollment is the time of year when your employees are most focused on their benefits. In addition to ensuring they select the right coverage, AE is also a crucial time to remind employees about all of the benefits, tools, and resources available to them. Telehealth services, wellness programs, financial wellness resources, and your employee assistance program (EAP) can be especially helpful options for employees during this particularly stressful time. Take advantage of the spotlight AE brings to your benefits to drive greater value and encourage employees to leverage their entire benefits package.

READ MORE: Discover how employers are adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 without getting overwhelmed.

After reviewing key topics with your team, regroup with your benefits administration technology partner to discuss your objectives for AE. Your service team should be able to provide you with year-over-year insights into your company’s goals, best practices to support your benefits strategy, and ideas to address any specific concerns you have related to COVID-19 or your overall plans.

As you collaborate with your vendors, take time to evaluate the solutions, service, and support they provide to your team and your participants. And for more tips and ideas, download Empyrean’s new At-A-Glance Guide, “2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19.”

While many things have changed, you don’t have to leave the success of your benefits program to chance. Optimizing your Open Enrollment approach today will help prepare you and your employees for tomorrow’s virtual world.

COVID-19 Communication Guide: Connect with Your Employees from Anywhere Part 2

COVID-19 Communication Guide: Connect with Your Employees from Anywhere Part 2

By Steve Campbell, Chief Human Resources Officer

COVID-19 is a dynamic and rapidly-evolving situation that can present quite a few challenges when it comes to your communication strategy. Here are a few more tips to help you craft and distribute messages that will impact and resonate with your employees.

Click here for part 1 of this post.

Lead by Example

The sudden changes brought about by COVID-19 have impacted employees of every industry and at every level. Employees look to your leadership team for direction and reassurance – especially now – so it is crucial that your company leaders are seen and heard from throughout this period. While stressful, this is also an opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s commitment to caring for your workforce.

Consider taking on a more personal or compassionate tone in your internal communications than may have been standard prior to the pandemic. Additionally, encourage every member of your leadership team to openly participate in any company-wide initiatives or activities your HR team drives during this time. Visible and frequent participation from department and team leaders will encourage employees to follow suit.

Acknowledging the shared human element of this experience is another key part of ensuring your messages feel sincere. Leaders can demonstrate strength and compassion by recognizing what we are all grappling with right now  – including more vulnerable topics such as stress, non-ideal workspaces, and the humor (and sometimes frustration) of kids and pets interrupting conference calls.

And with everything happening so fast, text updates on a screen may not be enough to connect with your employees. Don’t overlook the impact that videos can have on your workforce. Keep in mind, the videos you share do not have to have a high production value or take long to create.

Creating an impactful video can be as easy as having you, your CEO, or another member of your leadership team share an update while in “selfie mode” on a smartphone. These informal videos are an informative and engaging way for employees to better connect with your leadership, and can resonate in a way that goes far beyond an email or website update.

Explore Your Options

It’s important to maintain usual channels of communication with your employees as much as possible during this time. If your company normally held in-person “town hall” updates on a regular basis, consider continuing to hold these sessions virtually over an online meeting platform like Skype or Zoom.

If this is your first time holding a virtual town hall, perform a test run with your team to check your audio, video, and technical settings ahead of time. And if possible, encourage your employees to participate and ask questions via chat or audio functions – just as they would during an in-person meeting. If you choose to hold a question and answer session at any point, take some time to anticipate employees’ questions so you can mindfully address them as they arise.

Consider holding multiple live sessions throughout the day to allow for different schedules, or record the session for those who are unable to attend live. Your employees will appreciate these efforts to adjust to the new normal and maintain an open dialogue with you and your team, even while at home.

Many businesses are also grappling with the immense difficulty of implementing compensation and workforce reductions during this time, including furloughs and layoffs. Take a clear and compassionate approach to these announcements, and be ready to provide your employees with the information they need to take next steps regarding their benefits and unemployment assistance options.

While there is nothing that can make these announcements easier, there are solutions to make things a little less stressful for you and your participants. Make sure you are supported by a reliable COBRA and direct billing partner that is capable of managing the unusually high number of cases you may be dealing with during this time. The right partner will help your employees and their families feel more secure and less frustrated as they transition from your workforce, and will help relieve much of the stress and risk facing your HR team.

The uncertainty of a global pandemic is a challenge unlike any we in the HR community have seen before – but it is also an opportunity to let your compassion, culture, and talent shine through.

Right now, your team can make a world of difference to your employees and their families – even through something as simple as a quick email or video. This is a difficult time, but also one where the strength and dedication of those in HR is most needed and valued. From one HR professional to another, thank you for all you are doing to care for those around you. We will get through this, together – and emerge stronger than ever.

COVID-19 Communication Guide: Connect with Your Employees from Anywhere Part 1

COVID-19 Communication Guide: Connect with Your Employees from Anywhere Part 1

By Steve Campbell, Chief Human Resources Officer

Employers are navigating uncharted territory when communicating to their workforce regarding COVID-19. From managing your newly remote workforce to announcing policy updates and next steps for workplace re-openings, these quick tips will help you reach your employees while demonstrating care and compassion.

Keep an Open Dialogue

Your employees have likely been working from home for weeks now, but many are still adjusting to the challenges of this sudden move. Some are getting used to the routine of virtual work, while others may find it difficult to balance their family and work responsibilities while at home. Meanwhile, the isolation, anxiety, and general stress caused by COVID-19 can take a toll on your employees’ mental health.

Company leaders can help ease some of this stress by keeping a consistent and open dialogue with their employees. With so many employees working from home, it’s more important than ever for your HR team to flex your communication muscle. This experience is also good practice for the future (post-COVID-19) where we can expect more employers and employees to embrace remote work than ever before.

Right now, your employees are seeking reassurance and transparency. Although there’s no crystal ball to predict when this will all be over, providing regular updates about the state of your business can be enough to help keep employees from feeling like they are in the dark. Be as transparent as possible about your company’s future plans and expectations, while also acknowledging the uncertainty surrounding this situation.

If you haven’t done so already, make sure to establish a single source where employees can access all of your COVID-19-related information. Leverage technology: This can be as elaborate as a dedicated mini-website hosted on your intranet, employee benefits portal, or workplace forum, or as simple as a shared folder on your company network drive.

In addition to publishing regular updates from your leadership team, encourage your employees to join in on the conversation. Offer ways for employees to share how they and their families are getting through this time together. And as you develop your return-to-work plans, make sure your employees feel heard and included in your planning. Surveys can be a quick and easy way to gather feedback regarding preferences and concerns for those returning to the office, as well as those considering a transition to a full-time remote status.

Communicate without Overwhelming

Right now, it’s imperative that you strike the right balance on timing when reaching out to your employees. Too few messages and your communications can fall flat. Conversely, sending too many communications out at one time can leave employees feeling overwhelmed or your messages overlooked.

You hear about COVID-19 everywhere you turn: on the news, at work, and even during commercial breaks of your favorite show. And with so many families at home, employees are facing more distractions and barriers to engagement than ever before. Avoid having your communication efforts lost among the noise by keeping your messages impactful, consistent, and concise.

First, determine the right schedule to provide updates to your workforce. Your needs may vary depending on multiple factors, such as sudden policy or workforce changes, impacts to your benefits, and the needs of your various employee populations. However, as a general rule, consider providing operational updates to your employees at least every two weeks.

Of course, you’ll also want to connect with your employees beyond just business updates. Whether sending out a message of encouragement, reaching out to gather feedback, or sharing WFH success stories, you will want to craft these “softer” messages with compassion. The communications you send during this crisis should be a natural extension of your workplace culture and values, even while employees are working away from the office.

Create a content calendar to organize and get a big-picture view of your publication schedule. This calendar will help your team coordinate your efforts and keep you from under- or overwhelming your audience with too few or too many messages.

Make sure you’re sending emails and other messages at the right time of day to garner the most effective levels of engagement. You’ll want to reach your employees when they have the time and bandwidth to give your messages their full attention. For employees working typical office hours, start by scheduling your communications to be received first thing in the morning or in the early afternoon. This will help avoid having your messages lost among the mid-morning rush.

Of course, with so many people sharing a space with family and kids, the “typical” work day at home is anything but typical. You may find that you need to adjust your schedule to better align with the unusual circumstances due to COVID-19. Stay open to making adjustments to your approach as you work to stay in regular contact with your employees.

Also remember the role of your vendors in communicating to your employees. As an extension of your HR team, your benefits administration partner should also be aligned with your COVID-19 communication strategy. Connect with your service team to ensure you are aligned on every facet of your approach, including the latest updates to your benefits programs and policies, employee resources to leverage, and even culture-focused aspects like wording and tone.

Make sure your benefits portal is updated with the latest relevant information regarding your benefits during this period as appropriate. If utilizing a benefits service center to support your employees, you’ll want to also be sure that your partner is prepared to manage the potentially higher call volume and specific employee questions that may arise as a result of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has brought about tremendous change in the way that companies engage with their employees – and the impacts of this experience will no doubt shift the way we work moving forward. For now, Human Resource teams must sharpen their communication skills across a variety of channels as this situation unfolds, and prepare for future of work post-COVID-19.

Check back soon for part two of this post – and for more tips on reaching your remote workforce, take a look at Empyrean’s At-A-Glance Guide, “Engage on the Go: Mastering Benefits Connectivity to Support Your Mobile Workforce.”

Three Ways Employers Are Staying Adaptive in the Age of COVID-19

Three Ways Employers Are Staying Adaptive in the Age of COVID-19

By Colleen Waymel, Chief Operating Officer

The right support will help you keep pace with the fast-moving demands of the novel coronavirus pandemic (and future-proof your benefits approach) without getting overwhelmed.

Right now, HR professionals are facing some of the most challenging moments of their careers. Across nearly every industry, Human Resources teams are balancing caring for their employees while keeping their businesses afloat.

As Chief Operating Officer at Empyrean, I am in constant contact with our clients to help them manage the impacts of COVID-19 on their organizations. Our leadership team is also carefully monitoring the situation to keep our employees safe and our clients’ services running smoothly.

Empyrean has extended our work-from-home policy through at least May 31. All of Empyrean’s implementation and ongoing service teams are virtually enabled and successfully providing 100% of services to all of our clients while working remotely – providing certainty for our clients in an environment where uncertainty abounds.

Empyrean will continue to follow official guidelines and act in the best interest of our employees and their families. Out of an abundance of caution, we will be conducting a phased re-entry into each of our offices once it is deemed safe for employees to return.

For now, the rapid changes surrounding COVID-19 have left many people wondering what’s next. In the meantime, employee benefit professionals must remain flexible and ready to make major shifts in the way they manage their workforces.

It’s a lot to take on, but a solid benefits administration partnership can make these challenging tasks and unprecedented times less stressful. At Empyrean, our teams are actively working with each of our clients to ensure they have the resources and support they need to protect their people and businesses.

In discussions with our clients, we’ve identified three key ways that employers are leveraging technology and service solutions to adapt to growing demands from COVID-19. Here’s a quick breakdown of these approaches, as well as ideas on how to utilize them within your organization.

Offering Special Health Care Benefit Enrollment Windows

While many employers’ annual enrollment windows have already passed, some providers are offering special enrollment periods to employees who waived health plan coverage during their most recent open enrollment. Others are rolling out new voluntary benefit plans and programs such as hospital indemnity, critical illness, or telemedicine that may not have been available to all populations before. Providing employees with the opportunity to enroll in health benefits now will help minimize risks to their financial and overall wellbeing during these uncertain times.

However, these special enrollment periods can bring about big challenges for benefit teams. Like most HR-related tasks right now, there is a need for not only timely, but also creative solutions. Some coverage providers may only allow a short window of time for employees to enroll in their benefits, and these enrollment periods may need to open with very little notice (and are sometimes opened retroactively).

When offering a special enrollment period, you’ll need to quickly communicate this change to your employees and have enrollment processes in place as soon as possible – and your benefits administration partner will also need to ensure that your setup follows all applicable ERISA rules for a mid-year benefits enrollment.

In the current climate, flexibility and responsiveness are crucial traits to help you keep ahead of the challenges you’re facing – especially the ones you least expect. The technology powering your benefits administration solution must be flexible enough to make quick work of the setup, testing, and execution required to complete this type of special enrollment window, so eligible employees have as much time as possible to enroll.

Increased Communication Efforts

Now more than ever, there’s no time for one-size-fits-all service: The information and service your employees receive must be specific to your offering and your policies, and must be updated to reflect any changes that you make.

Instead of generic, overseas call centers, your benefits partner should provide a dedicated, 100% US-based service team that understands your unique offering, policies, and employee populations. With a pre-established knowledge of your specific benefits program, your service team can adapt to any updates you make to your policies or processes. For Empyrean clients, many of these updates have included changes to dependent and event verification documentation requirements, coverage waiting periods, process deadlines, surcharges, appeals, and more.

A reliable benefits service center will also help alleviate the burden of fielding employee questions – a responsibility that can easily become overwhelming without the proper support.

Your vendor should keep an up-to-date understanding of your COVID-19 management approach and the potential for additional call volume that may result during this time. COVID-19 management options that your call center may promote can include telehealth services, employee assistance program (EAP) services, and any additional programs or information that further supports your participants.

Managing Compensation Reductions, Workforce Reductions, and Benefits Compliance

Unfortunately, workforce and wage reductions are a reality for many employers and their employees. While nothing can make these tough tasks less painful, the right partner can make the process less frustrating for you and your employees.

Your benefits enrollment and administration partner should be ready to help support eligibility and coverage changes that may occur as the result of workforce or wage reductions, as well as track leave or eligibility statuses as needed.

And if your business is experiencing furloughs, layoffs, or both, you and your employees need a trusted direct billing and COBRA solution that you can confidently rely on. Your vendor must be capable of managing the significant increase in direct bill and/or COBRA cases you may be dealing with. Ensuring employees have access to health coverage as they transition from your company is paramount, and will help protect you from big risks and potential fines moving forward.

Your benefits administration partner must also be capable of addressing the recent joint notice released by the Department of Labor, the Treasury Department, and the IRS. This notice provides new guidance on extending COBRA payment and election deadlines, as well as qualified life event processing deadlines. You will need to rely on your benefits partner to quickly and appropriately address the required changes as soon as details are known.

It’s critical that your vendor has the in-house compliance expertise to ensure your solution remains in compliance with COBRA, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and all other benefits-related regulations during this time.

Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, regulatory compliance remains a major concern for businesses and their HR teams. While it’s possible some restrictions may be relaxed in the future, it is imperative that your benefits partner follows all official and current guidelines to help you stay compliant and keep your risk low as you navigate the unique situation surrounding COVID-19.

This remains a challenging time for employers and employees alike. However, organizations that have prioritized flexibility and adaptability are experiencing greater success with less stress, and are able to better care for their employees in the process. Your benefits administration provider should offer the technology and service solutions you need to help relieve anxiety and eliminate uncertainty – even throughout this uncertain time.

From all of us at Empyrean, we hope you and your family are doing well and staying safe during this difficult period. Thank you for helping protect your employees and our communities as we work to get through this together, and as we look forward to brighter days ahead.

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.
3 Essentials for Best-in-Class Benefits Administration

3 Essentials for Best-in-Class Benefits Administration

Few employers can afford the financial and compliance risks of a subpar benefits administration technology provider, but many may not realize when their vendor causes them to compromise. These three essentials will help you avoid unnecessary compromises and find the best partner for your business.

Bringing true value to your organization requires relevant experience, insightful thinking, and the right tools and technology to keep pace with evolving demands.  Empyrean’s new At-A-Glance Guide takes a close look at the three essential aspects of a best-in-class benefits administration partner,  to help you identify the solution that will elevate HR’s impact and make your employee benefits matter every day. Read on for a quick primer on these three essentials.

Essential #1 | Trusted Data Management

Data management processes are the foundation of your technology, and are critical in determining your benefits administration success. Without correct and accurate data, your benefits solution will become unreliable and prone to failure—regardless of how well-designed the front-end experience may seem.

Your technology platform should “just work,” properly handling your intricate data and continually checking for accuracy and logic conflicts to keep errors at bay. However, since data management takes place entirely on the back-end of your system, it can be tough to identify and initially understand good management processes from bad.

Deficient data management processes can cause eligibility rules and gatekeeping measures to fail, which can lead to long-term enrollment and coverage headaches that take an enormous effort to unravel and properly resolve. Plus, benefit errors can erode employees’ confidence, and damage your credibility with executives and other stakeholders that rely on accurate reporting.

Given how prominent benefits are to your organization’s success, your benefits administration outsourcing partner must be able to properly manage your data at all times. Each platform manages data differently, but these differences may not be immediately apparent. How a potential system will manage and maintain your data will be a (if not the) key component of your entire solution’s success.

A worthwhile technology partner will dedicate investments and resources to tackle your toughest benefit challenges, solve your current needs, and flex to fit your future strategies.

Essential #2 | Solution Scalability

To remain viable over time, your benefits administration technology must scale with your business as it shifts and evolves. Your business is not static, and your solution must keep up with both small and large changes to your company’s size, population complexity, organizational structure, and industry changes.

Technology solutions must be purpose-built for scalability, or programming limitations can cause your platform to crash or cause errors. Developing a scalable solution relies on a complete understanding of benefits complexity, the rapid pace of potential changes, and the back-end workings of the system itself.

For example, large legacy providers often offer a wide variety of technology services in addition to benefits administration — such as payroll or human resources information systems (HRIS). At first glance, it can seem like a smart move to place multiple HR needs under one vendor, especially if “bundling” these services offers an initially lower price point.

However, many large providers’ product portfolios often grow due to acquisitions, instead of in-house development. The result is a variety of solutions and data storage processes stitched across highly compartmentalized systems that happen to be listed under the same company name.

From a programming perspective, these systems are highly inflexible, unstable, and often comprised of less-than-optimally secure technology. Even small changes (such as data configurations, tax rules amendments, or state and federal compliance updates) can demand time-consuming and expensive manual labor to resolve, or significantly impact the operational capacity of these systems, causing the entire solution to fail.

Scalability (or the lack thereof) is ingrained in your solution’s architecture—and without the right attention to this trait, your team could suffer down the line.

Essential #3 | Insight-Driven User Experience

Your solution’s user interface should be intuitively designed – however, it’s important to keep in mind that a high-gloss interface design does not necessarily denote the most reliable back-end processes or supportive capabilities.

For example, no matter how inviting a retail store may be, your overall experience will be soured if the product you purchase does not work when you get home. Similarly, no matter how well-designed your platform’s user interface may seem, it will prove worthless if its data is inaccurate, your solution proves unstable, and your employee is not covered adequately (or at all) by their benefits selection.

When evaluating a potential partner’s user experience, look for the following:

  • An easily tailored portal experience that can be designed around each of your unique employee populations.
  • The ability to add targeted communications, educational content, provider links, and coverage documents within the employee experience.
  • Fully integrated decision-support that guides employees during their open enrollment period as well as throughout the plan year, with no need to switch between multiple sites or portals.
  • Convenient access from nearly any internet-connected device, including a mobile application experience that offers push notifications and alerts.

Your technology solution should be intuitive for both employees and administrators to use, and smartly designed to allow employees across all generations to take greater control of their benefit choices.

A best-in-class benefits platform will bring solutions that go beyond benefits enrollment and administration, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze your benefits data and deliver employee-specific recommendations.

A best-in-class benefits administration partner will give your team the efficiency they need to gain back valuable time throughout their day, as well as heighten employees’ benefit experiences to improve outcomes. Download Empyrean’s newest At-A-Glance Guide to learn more on how to identify and evaluate these three essentials within your current vendor or potential partner. 

With the right solution, you’ll have more opportunities to focus on what really matters to you, your employees, and the bottom line of your business.

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

Benefits Administration Outsourcing: How to Find the Right Path for Your Business

Benefits Administration Outsourcing: How to Find the Right Path for Your Business

Is benefits administration outsourcing right for you? Whether you are considering outsourcing for the first time, or are a seasoned outsourcer searching for a better-fitting solution, make sure you know what points to consider before making your next move.

As health care and employee benefit programs become increasingly more complex, time consuming, and subject to regulatory compliance requirements, employers must accurately assess their team’s capacity when managing this important aspect of their success.  Empyrean’s new At-A-Glance Guide takes you through common considerations and best practices to find the right path for your business and help you make benefits matter every day.   Download the guide now and discover what outsourcing can mean for HR, your strategy, and your workforce.

Here’s a quick primer of the three approaches companies apply to their benefits administration , and a just a few reasons why more organizations are choosing to partner with a best-in-class outsourcing provider to meet their needs.

Insourcing

Often, Human Resource teams insource their benefits administration because they do not feel comfortable relying on a third-party to manage and automate such crucial functions. This discomfort is understandable: Employee benefits – especially health benefits – remain high-visibility stakes all year round, and any errors in your benefits data and execution can spell disaster for employees and quickly diminish confidence in your HR team.

Given this perspective, it’s no surprise that currently insourced organizations include those that have never-before outsourced their benefits administration, as well as those that suffered with a previous outsourcing experience due to a subpar solution or ill-fitting technology platform and vendor.

However, insourcing presents its own costs, risks, and inefficiencies that may not be immediately apparent – while the right outsourcing partner will minimize risks, eliminate inefficiencies, enhance the employee experience, and provide solutions that drive high returns on your investment.

In fact, one report found that HR teams spend 25% less and utilize 30% less labor than their peers when aided by the right processes and technology.1

Co-Sourcing

Co-sourcing is a collaborative approach to benefits administration, where select processes remain in-house (most commonly, call center services), while the remaining responsibilities are outsourced to a trusted provider.

This approach enables organizations to minimize the impact of burdensome administrative tasks – such as enrollment and regulatory compliance  – while maintaining control over more employee-facing services. Co-sourced clients may have reservations about how outsourcing might affect employees’ perceptions of their company culture and their HR department’s effectiveness.

While protecting your company culture is a valid concern, you should know that outsourcing does not have to mean relinquishing control of your culture or lowering your service standards. In fact, a proven outsourcing partner will actually enrich the way employees view their benefits and your company’s commitment to their wellbeing.

While you may have the resources to manage certain aspects of your benefits administration in-house, ask yourself if those resources would be put to more meaningful use if directed towards other priorities? Don’t let common misconceptions about outsourcing limit the impact you can have on your workforce and business.

Outsourcing

As health care and employee benefits continue to become more complex, and employee expectations of benefits value and diversity continues to rise; as such, more businesses are choosing to fully outsource their benefits administration. In fact, 80% of today’s employers utilize outsourcing to manage at least one benefits-related task, and 38% consider outsourcing to be a critical part of their benefits strategy (a 41% increase since 2014).2

Full-service outsourcing lets HR leaders tackle the minutiae of benefits administration and enrollment, and take control of their strategy, without worrying that something has been left behind.

Today the movement towards benefits administration outsourcing remains prevalent, with 40% of employers now utilizing HR technology to manage their benefits administration. 78% of employers use third-party benefits administration technology, and over half of those employers choose to fully outsource their administration.2

The right partner will provide more than a benefits administration system: You’ll also gain the expertise of a knowledgeable and dedicated team, which can provide invaluable insights and best practice recommendations that measurably improve outcomes and drive greater ROI. In some cases, an outsourcing service team will gain the most complete understanding of their client’s benefit offering (even when compared to the client’s own HR team).

HR and benefits executives across every company size and industry are realizing the advantages that outsourcing brings to their businesses. Leveraging a modern benefits administration vendor can provide the technology and expertise to help you eliminate compromises, mitigate risks, and stay prepared for future changes.

So, how can you decide if outsourcing your benefits administration is right for your organization?

A good place to start is by asking your internal staff and business partners the following questions:

  • Do we have the appropriate resources and infrastructure to handle all aspects of our benefits administration in-house?
  • Do we have the financial support to develop and maintain the skill sets and technology needed to most effectively manage our benefits administration?
  • Do we have the in-house expertise to understand and keep up with complex regulatory compliance requirements?
  • Can we continue to support the strategic initiatives necessary for our company’s growth while also internally managing all of our daily administrative functions?
  • Are we providing the personalized support employees need to make smarter benefit choices, efficiently utilize their benefits, and live healthier, happier lives?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, now may be a smart time to discuss how a best-in-class benefits administration outsourcing partner can positively impact your company.

Whether outsourcing your benefits administration for the first time or making the move to a new vendor, the ultimate goal is to make the most of your investment and ensure long-term success. When you consider the benefits, outsourcing can be a cost-effective solution that greatly increase your team’s productivity, increase employee engagement and retention, and lower costly errors and risks. However, the benefits administration partner you choose must be capable of tailoring to your unique strategy and goals, and adapt and scale to changes within your organization and industry over time.

Download Empyrean’s latest guide to learn more, and discover if outsourcing is the right solution to tackle your company’s complex challenges.

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. “Raising the World-Class Bar in HR Through Digital Transformation.” The Hackett Group, Inc. Miami, Florida. June 2017.
  2. “Game Changer: The Digitalization of Employee Benefits Delivery.” The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. New York, New York. May 2018.
3 Strategies to Prepare for Annual Enrollment

3 Strategies to Prepare for Annual Enrollment

Annual enrollment (AE) might be your busiest time of the year, but it doesn’t have to mean long nights and looming headaches. With the right planning and support, this AE can be your easiest and most effective yet.

Financial Wellness Success: How You Can Help Employees Take Control of their Health and Wealth

Financial Wellness Success: How You Can Help Employees Take Control of their Health and Wealth

Finances are a major source of employee stress, and can negatively impact your employees’ productivity, health, and happiness. With so much riding on financial wellbeing, financial wellness is gaining popularity in the realm of employee benefits. How can you help employees address their health and wealth, while ensuring a valuable return on your investment?

Empyrean’s new At-A-Glance Guide takes a look at the latest trends and factors impacting employees’ financial wellness and success.  Download your copy for an in-depth look at the financial challenges facing today’s diverse workforce, and discover practical solutions that help you care for employees’ wallets and wellbeing – and optimize your benefits strategy in the process.

You may be wondering why employees need a financial wellness program in the first place. The reality is that money concerns don’t just affect employees’ bank accounts: financial stress can a have huge impact on employees’ productivity, job satisfaction, and even their healthcare claim costs.

59% of employees say that finances are their main source of stress: money issues are cited as more stressful than work-, relationship-, or health-related stressors combined.1 Employees across all generations rank personal finances as their main reason for stress, demonstrating a need for financial wellness support across all your workforce’s demographics and generational profiles.

While it may be true that money can’t buy happiness or love (according to The Beatles), finances play a huge role in ensuring employees and their families have the baseline resources and care they need. Given the importance of finances on everyday life, money concerns can cause significant issues for both employees and employers alike.

How do you define financial wellness? The majority of employees say financial wellness means being stress-free and stable when it comes to their finances.1 Unfortunately, there is a large disconnect between employees’ financial goals and their reality.

A whopping 38% of employees feel less than financially well,2 and 49% are struggling just to make ends meet each month. Meanwhile, only 37% of employees believe their pay has kept up with the rising cost of living.1

35% of employees report that finances have been a distraction at work, and nearly half of those employees admit to spending three hours or more each week thinking about their finances or managing issues related to their finances.1

More than one-fifth of employees say financial concerns have affected their productivity at work. In addition, nearly a third of employees say financial worries have impacted their at-home relationships and their health, which can cause additional problems (and may even lead to rising claim costs) down the line.1

The right financial wellness program can deliver big benefits for your company, including higher employee satisfaction and lower stress rates, better performance, lower healthcare costs, and greater employee retention.2 A financial wellness program may help you attract and retain talent: Of employees that experience financial stress, 78% say they would be attracted to another company that cares more about their financial well-being.1 However, as little as 2% of employers have officially implemented a financial wellness program as part of their benefits package.2

Although nearly all employees can benefit from the right financial wellness program, your approach should provide personalized guidance to each employee to help them reach their specific goals. However, benefit teams can become easily overwhelmed when trying to design and implement a program that addresses all the variables involved in reaching financial security, especially among each generation.

The complex variety of finance-related planning, decisions, and maintenance – along with differing levels of financial education and comprehension – can leave employees confused and benefit teams struggling to find a frustration-free solution. The right financial wellness support will address a host of cost concerns and savings goals (including healthcare, education, retirement, and more) instead of focusing on piecemeal issues alone.

For example, human resources professionals might find it nearly impossible to consider employee benefits and finances without immediately thinking about health coverage. For employees outside of your HR department, however, this connection may not be apparent. Despite being the most costly benefit for both companies and participants, just 7% of employees consider healthcare an important element of their financial success.2 This figure is highly troubling, and has major consequences for both employees and employers – especially as consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) remain a prevalent coverage option.

A smart and integrated recommendation engine within your benefits enrollment experience can help employees discover the most relevant and cost-effective care for their needs. When combined with other financial wellness tools, this decision support technology can empower employees to make more confident coverage choices, without spending hours translating insurance jargon or sifting through tedious plan documents. This technology should also apply to year-round plan utilization, providing valuable information to help employees better utilize their coverage, provider choices, voluntary benefits, and savings account options.

Benefits selection and utilization are just one aspect of financial wellbeing, however. When it comes to truly mastering their finances, employees need a financial wellness action plan. Employees require relevant and achievable step-by-step guidance that helps them meet their individual priorities – whether it’s building an emergency fund, paying down debt, saving for a car or house, or growing their child’s college fund. This kind of insight must take into account the entire scope of an employee’s financial picture, including accounts, debts, budget concerns, benefit policies, investments, and more.

The easiest and most effective way to provide this level of financial guidance is through your benefits administration platformAn integrated financial wellness and benefits experience provides easy access to these resources, encourages sustained benefits engagement, and provides invaluable data and insights into the needs of your workforce – which you can then leverage to enrich and optimize your benefits strategy.

Incorporating financial wellness within your larger benefits experience encourages employees to connect these key concepts together. By combining powerful technology, alongside smarter coverage and financial decision-support, you can provide the tools employees need to feel confident in their finances and more focused at work and beyond. Plus, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of the matters that are affecting and motivating your workforce – and your strategy, team, and business will reap tangible rewards in the process.

Employees want and need financial wellness support: 86% of employees say they are likely to participate in such a program if offered by their employer.2 Incorporating financial support into your benefit experience and strategy will help destigmatize money-related stress, fuel positive business outcomes, and make financial wellness a more achievable goal for your workforce.

For a comprehensive look at what financial wellness and enterprise benefits administration software can do for your business, download Empyrean’s latest At-A-Glance Guide. You’ll learn valuable solutions to gain a more productive organization, a stronger strategy, and happy employees.

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

 

References

  1. “PwC’s 8th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey.” PwC US. New York, NY. June 2019.
  2. “2018 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report.” Bank of America Corporation. Charlotte, NC. August 2018.
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