Empyrean Launches New Brand Messaging, Enhanced Corporate Website Focused on the Critical Role Benefits Play in Building Positive Workplace Cultures

Empyrean Launches New Brand Messaging, Enhanced Corporate Website Focused on the Critical Role Benefits Play in Building Positive Workplace Cultures

Houston, TX. [Oct. 11, 2021] Empyrean (www.goempyrean.com), a leading benefits administration technology platform and service provider, announces the launch of its new website and brand messaging aligned with the organization’s mission to help employers create positive workplace cultures by connecting their employees to life-enriching benefits.

Empyrean’s new brand message makes a strong connection between the role benefits play in building a company’s culture and positive organizational outcomes tied to total employee health and wellness. The brand strategy reflects Empyrean’s product roadmap, as the company continues to develop and roll out employee-centric technologies and services along with strategic carrier and service partnerships designed to improve employee experiences and strengthen employer brands.

“Our commitment to building culture through benefits challenges us to continue to think beyond simply managing the complexities around benefits administration,” said Empyrean’s Chief Executive Officer, Richard Wolfe. “How we connect with our clients’ participants, the experience they have using our technology and interacting with our people, are all critical to supporting them as they get the most out of their benefits – both today and in the future.”

Jim Priebe, Empyrean’s Chief Strategy Officer, says that while the organization has always been positioned to support an employee’s ability to better understand, access, and utilize their benefits program, Empyrean is now fully embracing its role in helping employers to improve their employee experience.

“The pandemic has shifted the thinking of many employers, putting a renewed focus on employee experience and employee wellbeing,” Priebe states. “We recognize our ability to improve benefit engagement not only at enrollment, but also on a year-round basis, helping employers connect the dots between building a strong company culture and the important role benefits play in making that a reality. It was important for us to make sure our brand message reflects this.”

“Empyrean’s innovative platform and outstanding service delivery have always set us apart, and we are taking the steps to move the needle even further,” added Priebe. “Now more than ever, we continue see clients and the market coming to us to not only solve their core administration needs, but to also find a partner that can support their benefit strategies and improve employee engagement.”

The launch of Empyrean’s new website and brand positioning comes during a year of significant growth for the organization with the expansion of headcount across all divisions and within the executive leadership team. Much of this growth can be tied to Empyrean’s rapidly expanding client base and roll out of several new technologies and services, including new vaccination tracking features, enhanced ACA reporting capabilities, and the launch of Pilot+, Empyrean’s claims-based decision support and personalized healthcare navigation product.

About Empyrean

Since 2006, Empyrean has provided employers of varying size, industry, and benefit plan complexity with the innovative technology and best in class service necessary to accelerate their benefits strategies and bring their benefit programs to life. Empyrean’s platform and services were designed to create connected employee benefit experiences that enrich lives, strengthen employer brands, and improve workplace cultures.

Today, more than 3.6 million participants across the U.S. & Canada rely on Empyrean’s cutting-edge systems and best in class support teams to inform and guide their benefit enrollment and utilization decisions. Focused on total employee health and wellness, Empyrean is dedicated to delivering a scalable and tailored benefits experience for all employees and their families by combining innovative technology with employee-centric services to empower participants to better understand, access, and engage with their benefit programs not just at enrollment time, but on a year-round basis.

Empyrean’s platforms and services empower employees to not only better understand the value of the benefit programs offered to them, but to then connect with these benefits in a way that drives better outcomes from themselves, their families, and their organization.

Headquartered in Houston, TX, Empyrean has additional office locations in Minneapolis, MN and Nashville, TN, as well as remote teams located throughout the U.S.

Empyrean is a subsidy of Securian Financial (www.securian.com).

MEDIA CONTACT:
Brienne Driscoll
Head of Content & Communications
Empyrean Benefit Solutions, Inc.
bdriscoll@goempyrean.com

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”.

New Empyrean Research: 5 Benefits Trends to Watch in 2021

New Empyrean Research: 5 Benefits Trends to Watch in 2021

The pandemic has changed the workplace forever, creating seismic shifts in the way employees measure and interact with their benefit programs and offerings.

Employers have been forced to view benefits and their resulting employee impact through a new lens, requiring organizations to adopt new strategies and approaches to support their employees’ evolving physical, mental, and financial health needs. Benefits like remote work stipends, expanded mental health and financial wellness resources, and virtual decision support have become essential components of a comprehensive employee benefits program.

Empyrean’s latest research report, “The Top 5 Benefits Trends for 2021,” summarizes the results from our annual client survey and provides fresh insights to help your organization build a forward-thinking employee benefits strategy. We have outlined some of the key highlights below, but to view the full report, you can download your copy here.

1.   COVID-19 has made a clear and lasting impact on employee benefit expectations and offerings

Throughout the pandemic, employee benefits took center stage as one of the most critical and impactful ways to support what quickly became overtaxed and overstressed workforces. Results from our client survey reveal that once COVID-19 hit, employers quickly took action to provide enhanced benefits to support their employee populations. For many, this came in the form of special benefits enrollment periods or additional contributions to employee health savings accounts (HSAs).

As the pandemic continued, many employers have gone a step further, providing employees with additional resources and tools to support total wellness. Telehealth benefits have grown in popularity, and mental health counseling, doctor visits, and physical therapy conducted via video chat technology have become more commonplace, improving accessibility to providers and reducing the time needed to access this type of support.

As our report explains in further detail, virtual benefits are poised to become a more prominent fixture in plans moving forward, and employees are expected to continue to expect (and demand) these types of programs.

2.   Employers are leaning on voluntary benefits to support total employee wellness

While medical and retirement benefits provide a solid foundation for employees and their families, voluntary benefits address a broader range of physical, mental, and financial wellness needs.

Whether employees are looking for a better work-life balance, financial planning support, or new ways to cope with the stress of working from home, voluntary benefits can round out traditional benefit programs and support the whole employee. Some of the available voluntary benefits discussed in our report include:

  • Expanded mental health benefits, including employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • Personalized tools to support financial planning and savings
  • Workplace programs designed to offer greater flexibility

Supplemental benefits can help ensure that the holistic needs of diverse employee populations can be met.

3.    Integrated benefits technology and predictive analytics will be relied upon to efficiently manage rising benefit costs

One of the perennial employee benefit challenges faced by HR, total rewards, and benefit leaders is balancing rising costs with the need to offer comprehensive and competitive benefits to not only support employees, but to attract and retain talent. By taking advantage of new advancements in benefits management technology and predictive analytics, employers can better understand benefit costs and anticipate future expenditures with greater accuracy.

As described in our report, benefits technology delivers dynamic reporting to support the budgeting process, as well as analytics to track key benefit metrics for your organization. As a result, you can take a more proactive approach to benefits spending, selection, and overall decision-making.

4.   Decision support tools will be more frequently used to educate, advise, and engage employees

In a 2021 Voya consumer survey, one-third of respondents reported that they did not fully understand any of the employee benefits they enrolled in during their most recent open enrollment period. Despite materials and support available during open enrollment and throughout the year, many employees lack a full understanding of their benefit coverage and how to make cost-effective selections that are sized appropriately for their unique needs.

In an effort to better educate employees about their benefit options, benefits decision support technology has grown in popularity. As explained in our report, decision support utilizes AI and data analysis to generate recommendations tailored to each unique employee, enabling employees to better select (and then utilize) right-sized coverage for both themselves and their families.

5.   Increased employer focus on continued benefits regulatory compliance developments

The past year has seen no shortage of new regulations affecting employer benefit programs and offerings. And while Empyrean’s experts say that compliance shifts are nothing new, the sheer number and complexity of new compliance changes and regulatory rollouts have employers paying attention.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major driver of new legislation in the employee benefits space, as most recently seen with the American Rescue Plan Act and the 100 percent paid COBRA subsidy provision.

The continued pandemic and the anticipated actions of a new White House administration are expected to result in more legislative change. As highlighted in our report, employers anticipate the need to lean on benefit administration partners to navigate the evolving regulatory compliance landscape of 2021 and beyond.

What else is in store for 2021?

This year’s research report highlights the indelible mark the pandemic has had on employee benefit offerings and go-forward strategies. With a stronger understanding of this year’s benefit trends, your organization can stay informed about the many options available to assist you in meeting your employees’ evolving needs and expectations.

For additional data and insights tied to this year’s benefit trends, download your copy of the 2021 Benefit Trends Report today.

The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 2

The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 2

By Rich Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer and Steve Campbell, Chief Human Resources Officer

In part two of our series, we take a closer look at how perspectives on the typical office environment and employee wellness will shift after COVID-19.

For part one of this post series, please click here.

Reimagining of the Traditional Office

From restaurants to retail environments, COVID-19 has demanded a serious reconsideration of how we structure our everyday lives and spaces, and the office environment is no exception. As companies consider welcoming workers back to their facilities, they must also be prepared to make changes in accordance with the latest health and safety standards.

For example, open-plan offices have gained popularity over the years, and as many as 70% of offices now utilize this layout.1 Without barriers like cubicle walls, however, open workspaces can make infection control more difficult to manage. Converting an existing workspace away from an open design can be a challenge, but adding privacy features like walls or partitions may actually pay off in terms of increased productivity.2

“Hoteling” is another approach to space utilization that we are likely to see more of in the post-COVID-19 workspace. With hoteling, employees are not assigned a permanent desk. Instead, they are free to utilize any available workstation to suit their needs and schedule. The hoteling concept allows facility managers to make the most of their space without the need to increase their office footprint (provided the proper sanitizing measures are in place).

One particularly important task when planning your office reopening is determining which employees actually need to be in the office, and which employees can continue working remotely. As companies leverage staggered office schedules and more employees opt to permanently work from home, the hotel desk concept may be a good fit for businesses looking to manage facility costs alongside financial impacts and opportunities.

RELATED: Learn how to reach employees working outside of the traditional office without adding to your workload.

Renewed Focus on Holistic Employee Wellbeing

Along with health concerns, COVID-19 has also caused significant financial stress for many people and their families. In the past, however, financial wellness initiatives have often been harder to define than other aspects of employee benefit programs – especially as employers navigate the wide range of program options and employee needs regarding their financial health.

Moving forward, we can expect financial wellness to become a key area of focus for proactive benefit teams looking to ease anxieties brought about by the economic effects of the pandemic. Companies may look to offer more comprehensive programs, resources, and decision support tools that offer clear guidance to help employees reach their unique savings and budgeting goals.

READ MORE: Discover practical solutions to help address the financial challenges facing your workforce.

Additionally, although your workforce may enjoy a greater sense of flexibility while working remotely, there is also a heightened opportunity for employee burnout as a result of such changes. Today, employees are having to mentally shift their concept of work-life balance all the while working from home.

Without the defined boundaries of the office environment or their daily commute, employees may find it hard to fully “unplug” after their work day is over. With many employees expected to remain remote after the pandemic passes, addressing the risks of employee burnout is an important task that HR teams must be ready to tackle sooner rather than later.

Employees’ mental health will remain an important priority as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to disrupt everyday life. Building awareness of your mental health resources and benefits – such as wellness programs and employee assistance programs (EAP) – will be a particularly crucial task to help support your employees through this transition.

Your benefits administration provider should be aligned with your benefits strategy throughout this unique period (including accommodating any additional focus on employees’ financial, mental, and overall wellbeing) and be ready to communicate and adjust to any changes as necessary to best support your employees.

HR leaders remain at the forefront of helping guide employees through this uniquely challenging period. For expert tips to help manage the latest demands on your business and communication strategy, check out Empyrean’s COVID-19 Communication Guide here.  And for the latest insights into employee benefits, download your copy of the 2020 Benefit Trends Report from Empyrean.

Looking toward the future, it is clear that reliable partnerships and the right technology will become even more critical for every company’s continued success. As you develop and evolve your own COVID-19 strategy, be sure to evaluate the preparedness level of your partners as well. Doing so now will help ensure that both your business and workforce are ready to tackle whatever comes next – no matter what.

References

  1. Agovino, Theresa. “Fine-Tuning the Open Office.” Society for Human Resource Management. Alexandria, VA. June 2019.
  2. Wertz, Jia. “Open-Plan Work Spaces Lower Productivity and Employee Morale.” Forbes. Jersey City, NJ. June 2019.
The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 1

The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 1

By Rich Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer and Steve Campbell, Chief Human Resources Officer

In this first post of this two-part series, we examine several ways in which COVID-19 has changed how and where work gets done, and explore how these effects may shape the future of work in a post-pandemic world.

In just a short time, COVID-19 has had a profound and long-lasting impact on the way people and organizations everywhere approach their work. While there is much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, there are also valuable opportunities for organizations to evaluate the status quo, optimize their operations, and stay adaptive.

A major factor driving these opportunities has been the switch to remote work – as well as the need for secure and mobile-ready technology to support this move. Here, we look at how these changes will affect the way employers approach the concept of work going forward.

Increased Demand for Remote Work and Job Flexibility

Remote work capabilities are a defining factor among companies that were best prepared to handle the sudden emergence of COVID-19. Today, the ability to work from home is no longer just an employee perk; it is fast becoming an employee expectation, and has also proven to be an essential element of a strong business continuity plan.

Prior to the pandemic, there had been a 91% increase in the number of employees working remotely since 2009.1 Now, an estimated 66% of employees are working from home 2 – and both employers and employees are beginning to recognize the benefits of working outside of the traditional office space.

Working from home saves employees time and money by eliminating the costs associated with a typical work day, including the daily commute. Companies with a large remote employee population can also save on facility expenses, as well as widen access to top talent outside of a company’s immediate vicinity.

While working from home was certainly gaining popularity before the current pandemic, COVID-19 has pushed employers to embrace remote work at a pace that some HR leaders did not expect for at least another decade. Today, both employees and employers are recognizing that working in the usual office setting may not be necessary or even as productive as once thought.

Some organizations have struggled to overcome concerns about productivity and professionalism while allowing employees to work outside of the office. These concerns are understandable, but employees can actually be more productive when working from home under the right conditions.3

For many people, the flexibility afforded by working from home will be difficult to relinquish after this pandemic has passed. Moving forward, business leaders can expect job flexibility and remote work capabilities to remain a significant draw for talent – especially now that employees have experienced the benefits of remote work for themselves.

RELATED: How to reach your mobile workforce with engaging benefits messaging without adding more to your plate

Secure and Mobile Technology for Business Continuity

The organizations that have seen the most success during the COVID-19 pandemic were those that maintained a modern mobility strategy as a key focus of their technology infrastructure. Social distancing measures and lockdowns have made it difficult (and in some cases, unsafe) for employees to travel and work in the office as usual. Now it is crucial that employees have access to the secure technology solutions necessary to ensure productivity, collaboration, and data security across their entire team – regardless of location.

Unfortunately, not all businesses were prepared for such a sudden shift in their daily operations. For instance, a key aspect of a strong mobility strategy is 100% laptop deployment – paired with access to a secure virtual private network (VPN).

One important limitation on mobility is that traditional offices have typically relied on static desktop computers for employee use. While laptop computers often require a larger investment than desktop machines, they also ensure that employees have the hardware and software necessary to work while away from the office. After the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect companies to focus more heavily on optimizing their technology infrastructure to support more robust mobility strategies and business continuity plans, including the switch to mobile hardware.

While organizations adjust to sudden changes in operations, this is also an important time to evaluate the preparedness of your key vendors. It is imperative that your essential business providers – such as your benefits enrollment and administration partner  – were properly prepared prior to the emergence COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure you and your employees continued to experience uninterrupted, high-quality benefits service.

READ MORE: Discover the three essential aspects of a benefits administration platform and find the best partner for your business

As working from home becomes increasingly mainstream, HR teams must focus on building a strong communications strategy, developing a remote-friendly culture, and assembling the right vendors to support employees’ needs across a widely dispersed workforce. How are your partners prepared to help you make the necessary shifts to meet these changes head on?

For more insights into how employee benefits will evolve due to COVID-19, download the 2020 Benefit Trends Report from Empyrean here – and be sure to check back for part two of this post coming soon.

References

  1. Reynolds, Brie Weiler. “159% Increase in Remote Work Since 2005: FlexJobs & Global Workplace Analytics Report.” FlexJobs Corporation. Boulder, CO. July 2019.
  2. “Working from Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic: The State of Remote Work.” Clutch Co, LLC. Washington, D.C. April 2019.
  3. Choudhury, P., Larson, B., and Foroughi, C. “Is it Time to Let Employees Work from Anywhere?” Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA. August 2019.
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.
HR in the C-Suite: How to Gain Influence as an HR Leader

HR in the C-Suite: How to Gain Influence as an HR Leader

HR is a central pillar of every employer’s success, but many organizations struggle to leverage the full impact that Human Resources can have on their businesses. How can you demonstrate value as a strategic leader and increase C-suite support for your initiatives?

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