For Your Benefit

Jennifer Benz leads Segal Benz, a national leader in HR and employee benefits communications.
Be Bold With Your Benefits

By Jennifer Benz | Benefits Beat

I

t is an exciting time for employee benefit professionals.

Just a few years ago, we were consumed with legislative challenges and daunting health and retirement issues. Those issues haven’t gone away, of course, but there’s a newfound optimism around the strategic and creative opportunities benefits bring. Several factors are pushing benefits to the forefront of talent strategies and the employee experience.

First, we have an incredibly diverse workforce that needs benefits to solve real problems. It’s marked by a vast range in age — employees from Gen Z (those in their early 20s) to baby boomers (some working well into their 70s) and everyone in between. It also encompasses every definition of family and lifestyle. And it challenges the very definition of “work,” which is evolving as more and more people build careers around part-time and contract roles or take long breaks from full-time employment.

Second, we’re seeing an exciting shift in how we’re designing and talking about benefits. The focus is moving away from traditional benefits like health insurance and retirement plans and toward a more holistic approach to taking care of employees and their families. This change is driven by the understanding that benefits and HR programs can drive greater business results when they’re considered more broadly, with attention to their impact on the mind, body, finances and even sense of purpose.

There’s a newfound optimism around the strategic and creative opportunities benefits bring.

Third, there’s tremendous innovation in our space as employers and employees demand new programs and new technology (and as venture capitalists have figured out that employee benefits are ripe for disruption). HR technology is starting to keep pace with consumer technology, which means we can now deliver sophisticated benefits to meet those broad needs and create solutions for those very challenging issues we’re still tackling.

On top of all that, people care about their benefits. A lot. For 87 percent of employees surveyed for MetLife’s 15th annual “Employee Benefit Trends” study, having insurance/benefits provides peace of mind for the unexpected. In fact, 83 percent of employees would be willing to take a small pay cut (on average, 3.6 percent) to have a better choice of benefits from their employers.

Finally, consider this: Low unemployment is driving massive competition for talent. Benefits are positioned to be a huge strategic differentiator and a competitive weapon for employers across industries.

The takeaway here is that benefits should be a huge focal point for companies of all sizes. We should be shouting from the rooftops about how amazing benefits are and the tremendous role they play in people’s lives.

And we shouldn’t be shy about the considerable investment employers make in these programs. A significant portion of total compensation goes to benefits, and that percentage is only set to grow.

So, how can you educate employees and position this investment in benefits in a positive light? How do you elevate the significance of benefits in your organization?

One example from this past fall’s annual enrollment stands out. Our client Hitachi Vantara, a tech company recently formed by three industry leaders (Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight Group and Pentaho) and a leader in cloud-based data solutions.

Hitachi Vantara has made a huge commitment to employee benefits, especially around getting employees engaged in programs and managing costs. Its message during annual enrollment this past fall? “Health care costs are rising. Yours aren’t. For the seventh year in a row, you won’t see an increase in what you pay for your medical plan. Which means your paycheck contributions continue to be significantly less than those at most other companies.”

The company teamed that messaging with a campaign that focused on getting employees to use the programs that are often overlooked, like tuition assistance, virtual doctor visits and fitness reimbursements. And it did so with a bold and definitive point of view on why benefits matter and what they mean to employees.

Susan Ramirez, Hitachi Vantara’s senior director of total rewards, Americas, explains: “Since it really was a ‘good news’ message for our benefits in 2019, we wanted to be sure to share that message with employees. Taking a bold approach not only captured our employees’ attention, it also emphasized that Hitachi Vantara truly cares about them.”

As 2019 unfolds I challenge you to be bold with your benefits. What will you do to make your benefits stand out? And how will you let employees know that you value them by taking care of them?


Jennifer Benz leads Segal Benz, a national leader in HR and employee benefits communications. She was honored as one of Workforce’s “Game Changers” in 2013. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.