Recognition Benefits Reduce Turnover, Boost Engagement, Recruitment  

Everyone enjoys a little employee appreciation, and it is no surprise that when employees are rewarded for their good work they are more likely to stick around at a job. A recent study by Globoforce and SHRM, “Employee experience as a business driver,” confirmed this notion.

The employee recognition survey found the top three workplace management challenges faced by organizations are retention, engagement and recruitment. If businesses can dedicate 1% or more of payroll to values-based rewards and recognition, they are more likely to perceive greater positive impacts on retention and financial outcomes.

“In order to be successful, organizations need to win the hearts and minds of employees,” says Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce. “A more human-centric approach, where employees are treated not as human capital, but as people fosters greater humanity and creates more positive employee experiences. It’s also crucial for HR leaders to take a fresh look at compensation structures and evaluate the value they bring to employees and their respective companies. As our study shows, social recognition can directly impact employee experience and financial outcomes.”

For the second year in a row, retention topped the list of HR challenges at 46%. Keeping talent from leaving companies has nearly doubled as a concern over the years, with only 25% of businesses listing it as a top challenge in 2012.

The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.4 in September 2016 — nearly the lowest since January of 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This ratio peaked at 6.6 in 2009 and has been steadily declining ever since.

Because of this shrinking number, workers are less likely to tolerate a less-than-satisfactory experience at work for the sake of job security. This means that workers have more confidence — and more options — to look at better opportunities outside of their current employer.

The financial implications of voluntary turnover cannot be overlooked. The true cost of voluntary turnover not only involves direct costs, such as cost per hire and first-year orientation and training, but also includes the interim reduction in labor costs and lost productivity costs, according to a report by research firm Bersin by Deloitte.

In total, it is estimated that organizations lose more than $100,000 for every employee who leaves, and this does not include other indirect costs such as lost client relationships, institutional knowledge and pervious training for the employee leaving.

As for engagement, At least 36% of businesses surveyed see engagement as a top challenge. Highly engaged organizations have lower absenteeism and turnover, according to a separate meta-analysis by Gallup of more than a million employees.

In 2016, recruitment topped succession planning as the third-most cited organizational challenge at 34%. This means advisers and HR professionals are finding it difficult to fill open positions. The number of job openings in the United States peaked at 5.9 million in July 2016 and saw little change in September 2016 at 5.5 million, according to the study.

Recognition and organizational values

Since Globoforce and SHRM jointly initiated the survey in 2011, there has been a steady increase in the number of businesses with value-based recognition programs — where employees are given recognition for specific actions that demonstrate a company’s core values.

In 2016, 60% of organizations had a values-based recognition program, up from 50% in 2012. Conversely, there has been a steady decrease in the number of organizations with recognition programs not tied to values, down 21% from 27% in 2012.

Recognition programs outperform other programs on every metric, according to the study. Results showed that clients are more likely to report impacts such as:

· 32% more likely to deliver a strong return on investment

· 31% more likely to instill and reinforce corporate values

· 31% points more likely to maintain a strong employer brand

The results also showed greater perceived impacts on learning and development, sustainability, culture management and financial results.

Companies that spend 1% or more of payroll on recognition are nearly three times as likely to rate their program as excellent, compared to companies that spend less than 1%. In contrast, companies that spend no budget on recognition are five times more likely to rate their program as poor.

Clients with value-based programs at 1% or more of payroll are 3.5 times more likely to say their program helps attract new job candidates. They are also nearly two times as likely to report it delivers a strong return on investment and two times more likely to help retain employees.



Why HSAs Are an Underutilized Retirement Vehicle

Lorna Sabbia is managing director and head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She recently shared her perspectives on how employers can help employees prepare for retirement, including her take on the high medical costs retirees face even when covered by Medicare. Highlights of that conversation follow.

Employee Benefit News: In talking to plan sponsors, do you perceive that they generally understand the financial educational needs of their employees?

Lorna Sabbia: I have a lot of great friends who are incredibly talented who work in other industries. Despite their talent, I’m often surprised by how little they know about some very basic financial topics, like managing debt, budgeting, the impact of inflation, compound interest and similar subjects. My point is those of us who are focused on benefits and retirement planning sometimes just want to jump right into that topic without laying the foundation of a more basic education in the fundamentals of personal finance.

EBN: When are employees most receptive to financial education?

Sabbia: That depends on what’s happening in their lives at any given time. While you need a strong communications framework around financial education and financial wellness, it’s equally important to have an on-demand education delivery mechanism. Individuals become interested when they have a need at that nanosecond. Some certainly enjoy the opportunity to become educated on a broad variety of topics over time, but when it becomes important, it’s because something has happened in their life, and therefore they’re reaching out for a specific topic.

EBN: How do you do that?

Sabbia: It has to be a combination of online tools — interactive sites that are pretty intuitive for folks to become better educated. For example, we built apps, which we want to be fun to use, around topics like inflation. More broadly, we think it’s important to help employees overcome emotional barriers both to learn and to make decisions. Automation can help with that.

EBN: I know you’ve focused quite a bit on health expenses in retirement and HSAs. Are HSAs underutilized as a form of retirement savings vehicle?

Sabbia: Yes. When you talk to employees and employers, you can see that health and health savings are key areas of concern. When you think about living expenses in retirement, healthcare is a wildcard, and people are concerned about it. What we try to do, in partnerships with outside subject matter experts, is to bring ideas like longevity and its health-expense implications to the table. Employers often say, “Yep, that’s something we think our employee base would benefit from.”

EBN: Are employers and employees thinking about HSAs as a retirement vehicle?

Sabbia: I think we’re on the front end of having employees really understand what the vehicle can do over time. It’s similar to back in the ‘90s when 529 college savings accounts were beginning to be introduced and eventually really took off. Today, with HSAs, folks are still trying to understand what they are and what they’re not. This is a topic that needs to be incorporated into the overall employee education about finances and retirement.

EBN: When an employer puts an HSA in place, should the message to employees be to contribute as much as they can, regardless of what they’re doing with their 401(k)?

Sabbia: I think we would always suggest that you max out on their 401(k)s, and to the extent that you can contribute to your HSA as well. But the “triple tax free” tax benefits of HSAs help to motivate employees to take advantage of them. We have a “health care discovery app” that deals with what Medicare covers, with dental, vision and long-term care, and cost estimates under different scenarios. It’s the most popular app that we have, even more than Social Security and lifetime income, in employee interest.

EBN: Most people with access to an HSA spend most if not all of the balance every year. Do you expect that to change, and for more employees to see it as a longer-term savings and investment vehicle?

Sabbia: The more education that happens, I do believe the balances over time are going to increase. One estimate I’ve seen [is that] of out-of-pocket health costs for a retirement that lasts 25 years is $220,600, or $318,800 for a 30-year retirement. That gets people’s attention.

Other research I’ve looked at, based on the top 100 HSA providers, indicates that about $4 billion of the $30 billion in HSAs is in longer-term investments. I do expect that proportion will grow.

I do believe that many employees will make the maximum contributions each year when they fully appreciate the benefits — pre-tax dollars that come out tax free, both principal and earnings, even better than a Roth IRA. I believe we’ll see the same evolution that we’ve seen in the 401(k) space, as far as the growth of investment choices. For example, in our program, once an employee has $1,000 in their account in a liquid vehicle, they can make subsequent contributions into 26 different mutual funds.

EBN: The maximum employer plus employee contribution for an individual who has an HSA in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan in 2016 is $3,350, and $6,750. Those aren’t big numbers.

Sabbia: Well, the limits are inflation-adjusted, but we also support the idea that they should be raised more over time. Even so, it’s a great way to save, particularly with all three tax benefits. We do make a major effort with education so that employees know the purposes and time horizons for different asset classes. You can pool diversified portfolios for long-term savings in those types of platforms.



A Way for Workers to Trade In Unused Vacation

(Bloomberg) — Many Americans are notoriously bad at taking all of their vacation time. Rob Whalen used to be one of them.

In less than five years working at Cisco Systems Inc., he piled up 240 hours of paid time off. That’s a month and a half Whalen could have used to rest at home or relax on a beach. Instead he chose the office, where there was just too much to do.

Shortly after leaving that job, he was talking to a friend with an equally backed-up vacation account: “Wouldn’t it be really cool,” his friend said, “if you could use some of it to buy a hotel and airfare, and then go on a big two-week vacation?”

That gave Whalen an idea. Three years later, he is pitching PTO Exchange, a company he co-founded with Todd Lucas as a way to let workers tap the cash value of their days, weeks, and months of unused time off. The Seattle-based startup, which recently signed its first employer client, lets workers trade unused, paid time off for travel or contributions to 401(k) plans and health savings accounts.

“With so much time going unused, we realized that this is a benefit that needs to be redefined,” Whalen said.

Work hard, don’t play

When it comes to time off, Americans are in a perverse situation. The U.S. is the only advanced nation that doesn’t mandate paid leave. Workers in most European countries are legally entitled to about 20 days of vacation or more each year, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Swedes are entitled to five weeks, while French workers get as many as 30 days.

In the U.S., by contrast, almost a third of workers get no paid sick leave, and more than a quarter don’t get any vacation time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. That’s prompted states such as California and cities including New York to require that employers provide paid sick time.

Meanwhile, those lucky enough to get time off frequently don’t use it. Less than half of U.S. workers said they took all or most of their vacation days in the past year, and only 22% used the bulk of their paid sick time, according to a survey of 1,600 employed adults by Harvard University, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and National Public Radio. And it’s not just the worker bees—reluctance to be away from the office often stretches into the executive suite, too.

Instead, Americans come to work sick, spreading infection and making themselves and everyone around them miserable. Or they burn themselves out mentally by not taking vacation. As a result, millions of days intended to give people much-needed time off either get forfeited or end up on company balance sheets to be cashed out by workers sometime in the future.

“There is workplace peer pressure to minimize using” time off, said Lonnie Golden, a Penn State University economics professor who studies vacation. A company might officially offer a generous vacation package, but workers know that their bosses and colleagues depend on them to be present and productive. The tendency among companies to keep staffing lean means there isn’t always enough people to cover when someone goes on vacation.

“You get these mixed signals,” Golden said. If you leave your work for a week or two, “you feel like [work] will just pile up.”

Most employees are allowed to carry over at least some time off from year-to-year. According to the BLS, 57% of civilian workers can carry over sick time, and about one in five can carry over an unlimited amount of it. About 55% of American workers can roll over at least some vacation time, but employees still end up forfeiting about 222 million vacation days a year, according to a 2016 analysis by Project Time Off, an advocacy group. Another 436 million days are carried over to future years, which means they become a financial obligation for employers.

About nine out of 10 companies pay out cash for unused vacation time when workers quit or are fired, according a 2014 survey of benefit specialists by WorldatWork, a nonprofit association of human resources professionals.

Expensive for employers

Employees accumulating huge amounts of paid leave can create problems for both themselves and their employers. Untapped vacation can become a large financial obligation that businesses must carry on their balance sheets. If workers have banked hundreds of hours of leave time, they often have just two options to unlock its value immediately: Go on months-long vacations—something likely to displease their bosses if it’s even allowed—or quit.

Whalen said a problem with vacations is the one-size-fits-all model: PTO Exchange lets employees view online the dollar value of their untapped vacation time. That can be used to book flights and lodging through a partnership with Priceline Group Inc., deposited into a 401(k) or HSA, or donated to charitable organizations. Employees can also give their paid leave to colleagues suffering from medical issues. “The benefits someone wants in their twenties might be different than those someone wants if they’re 30 or 40,” Whalen said.

His company is currently working to implement the system at its first client—a health insurer with more than 2,000 employees—and is in talks with a large retailer and several big human resource firms.

But rather than providing an advantage for employees, Penn State’s Golden warns that services such as PTO Exchange may exacerbate the underlying problem. It will provide further incentive for overworked employees to cancel vacations or go to work sick, he said: “I don’t think that’s a real positive development for our performance and productivity.”

Bottom of Form

If PTO Exchange’s clients are worried about this, Whalen said, they can tweak the plan so that only part of paid leave can be converted to benefits, forcing workers to use the rest with their toes in the sand. Toward this end, converting some time off to pay for travel could be a way for cash-strapped people to “have a good experience” instead of doing a low cost staycation, according to Whalen, who stressed that taking time off is “hugely important.”

Lucas agreed, saying PTO Exchange is “a vacation-first company.”



Cancer ‘Complex and Intimidating’ for Benefit Professionals

The fact that cancer costs are higher than ever is reason enough for employers to be concerned, but new research is giving them another reason to worry: They may not be doing enough for employees suffering from the disease.

Employers are concerned about the high cost of cancer care, but they’re equally concerned about making sure employees and family members diagnosed with cancer are receiving top-quality care, says a new report from Northeast Business Group on Health.

The group recently released a report identifying key things benefits professionals can be doing to address both these concerns. The information follows workshops, interviews with plan managers, and a survey of about 20 self-insured employers.

“Cancer is complex and intimidating for benefits professionals, combining the need to contract for effective and high-quality care with the need to assist employees and beneficiaries in coping with the varied psychological and social needs surrounding a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Jeremy Nobel, executive director of NEBGH’s Solutions Center, which conducted the work.

Cancer costs are of increasing concern to employers. They consistently rank at the top in terms of employers’ healthcare costs, despite the fact that cancer has a significantly lower prevalence among employees than conditions like diabetes, hypertension and musculoskeletal disorders.

Though cancer only impacts only 1-2% of employees, Nobel explains, cancer costs are currently 12-13% of premiums. They are growing at 15% annually — roughly twice the pace of general healthcare. Much of that growth is driven by roughly 25% cost increases in specialty pharma meds used in cancer treatment.

”This has driven employer concern to heightened levels as they struggle to make sense of this cost acceleration and search for ways it can best be addressed without impairing the quality of care available for beneficiaries,” Nobel says.

“On par with employers’ concern about cost — and in many cases even topping it — is employers’ worry and uncertainty about the quality of cancer care that employees and dependents receive,” the report says.

But despite the concerns over cancer, the report indicates, not enough is being done to address the issues.

Less than half of survey respondents said they have a network of high-performing oncology providers in place, and results also show there are variations and gaps in the non-clinical support services offered, such as treatment navigation, emotional counseling and financial planning services.

And while 74% of employers offer access to support for treatment questions and related illnesses, just 37% offer financial support services specific to cancer, such as financial planning. And nearly half do not offer second opinion services outside of their health plan.

Another gap, Nobel says, is the “lack of accessible, organized and systematic communications efforts” directed at employees.

Survey results reveal that 68% of employers don’t have accessible, organized, and systematic communications efforts for cancer-related benefits. Less than one-third provide cancer-related trainings and resources for supervisors, managers and co-workers.

“It’s not that employers are falling short by being inattentive or uncaring; it’s more that the intrinsic complexity and challenges associated with managing cancer and its related concerns are accelerating, requiring new and more comprehensive strategies and approaches,” Nobel says.

Among the actionable steps NEBGH recommends is that employers should compare current benefits, programs and policies with those offered by other employers and try to benefit from group purchasing of cancer-related services.

“The big takeaway is that there are things employers can be doing in managing cancer-related care, costs and consequences, and that in doing so they improve the health and well-being of beneficiaries as well as the bottom line,” Nobel says.



When Employee Recognition Goes Wrong

Anyone who has ever felt ignored by their company’s “high performers” track or frustrated that only salespeople get bonuses is familiar with the curse of the failed recognition program.

According to a 2015 report from employee recognition provider Globoforce, 81 percent of companies offer some form of formal recognition program. But just having a recognition program doesn’t mean it’s working, according to Jim Hemmer, CEO of WorkStride, an employee recognition platform.

“Randomly handing out gift cards from your bottom drawer isn’t going to make a difference,” Hemmer said. Recognition initiatives are intended to make employees feel more engaged with the company and to drive specific behaviors that improve the business.

Many companies make serious errors when implementing recognition programs that cause them to have no effect — or worse, make people feel left out, undervalued or stressed from constant competition.

High-Potential Rewards

George Marc-Aurele learned this lesson the hard way when he joined digital media company CPX Interactive, or CPXi, in 2012 as its chief people officer. At the time, the New York-based firm was growing rapidly, and Marc-Aurele was brought on to help develop a more mature human resources culture and improve the overall employee experience.

At the time, the company had no formal recognition program, so one of the first steps Marc-Aurele took was to implement an end-of-the-year reward for high achievers. The idea was to reinforce the desired “performance culture” of the organization, Marc-Aurele said, but it wasn’t entirely well received.

“People were upset because some people got recognized while others didn’t,” Marc-Aurele said. However, this wasn’t all bad. “It spurred a lot of conversations about what was important to the company.”

Marc-Aurele dropped the program after the first year. Instead, he decided to work with employees to figure out what they wanted from a recognition program. He surveyed employees about the words they felt represented the CPXi culture, then formed committees to hone those words into six core values: accountability, uncommon ability to achieve, rapid adaptability, caring community, balance, and curiosity that pushes boundaries.

“It was critically important that we put the words into the language of the culture,” he said. “Otherwise it would have just been words on a wall.”

Once the values were defined Marc-Aurele returned to the idea of a recognition program, this time rolling out a game-based, peer-driven program where employees get points for demonstrating the company’s core values on a day-to-day basis and for nominating other employees for recognition. They can also get points for completing recognition challenges, like writing a blog about their achievements at the company or posting a selfie in their company T-shirt outside the office.

Moreover, employees can trade the points in for prizes, and there is an end-of-the-year raffle for a $1,000 plane ticket voucher. “It took hold really quickly,” Marc-Aurele said, adding that the prizes are less important than the opportunity to give teammates a shout-out.

Within a few months of rolling the program out, employees had given out hundreds of nominations. Marc-Aurele highlights nominees in the “Monday Missive” email the company sends out and in weekly meetings to spur ongoing participation. “People have a psychological need for recognition,” he said. “Having this program in place has made CPXi a better place to work.”

What Should Be Recognized?

Many recognition experts agree that peer-based programs can be the most successful because they address many common challenges recognition efforts face.

For instance, when employees are empowered to recognize their peers, they are more engaged with the initiative and feel value both in giving and receiving acknowledgment. It also lifts the burden from managers to be constantly looking for the right behaviors to recognize.

That all helps to make a program stick, said Kate Ondrasik, director of internal communications for Orlando Health, one of the largest health care service providers in Orlando, Florida. And that’s exactly what Ondrasik was looking for two years ago when her team was asked to come up with a replacement for the company’s outdated, management-driven recognition program. The old system was paper-based and relied on managers to recognize “champions” in the workplace. “It had a lot of problems,” Ondrasik said.

The old program, which had been in place for years, was also time consuming, requiring managers to fill out and submit paperwork for every formal recognition. Additionally, the values they were supposed to recognize were vague, making it difficult to identify specific behaviors that define a champion.

“It eventually evolved into awards being given to people for being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful,’ ” she said, and only a very small number of people were recognized every year.

This is a common problem with recognition programs, according to WorkStride’s Hemmer. When recognition programs become confusing, vague, cumbersome or not well marketed, they become a burden rather than a benefit. Ultimately, only a few managers take part and nobody really knows who’s getting rewarded or why.

“If you are going to build a reward program, it should be easy, flexible and build affinity back to the company,” Hemmer said.

Ondrasik eventually ditched Orlando Health’s old program and turned to employees to figure out how to replace it. She reached out to the company’s “team council,” which is a group of employees who apply for annual positions to help shape the company’s culture. The council in turn surveyed employees about what they wanted in a recognition program, reviewed other programs, and talked to recognition vendors to come up with a plan. It came up with a new recognition system named Applause Central.

The new program is designed to reward seven behaviors focused on things like respect, ownership and inclusion. Using the WorkStride platform, all 15,000 employees can publicly recognize each other for demonstrating any of these behaviors. Rewards vary from “kudos,” which anyone can give, to gift cards of up to $20, which managers are allotted on a monthly basis.

Because the program is run both online and through a mobile app, people are more likely to use it. “Having a mobile feature was key because most of our employees don’t sit at a computer,” Ondrasik said.

To promote the program, all nominations are posted on a digital leader board and on a scrolling news bar on the company’s intranet. Ondrasik’s team is also always looking for opportunities to promote the program through the company newsletter and in team meetings. The employee council also chooses a champion from that week’s nominees to showcase in a video interview on the company portal.

“They always have a lot of options to choose from,” Ondrasik said. For example, one week they featured several neonatal intensive-care unit staffers who used their own wedding dresses to make christening gowns for babies who wouldn’t survive. Another week they interviewed a trauma center employee who gave his shoes to a homeless patient when he got discharged.

One of the great benefits of the peer-based system is that employees are more likely to see their colleagues going the extra mile for patients. The platform gives them an easy way to acknowledge that. Ondrasik said one of the most popular features of Applause Central has been the simple thanks that anyone can hand out.

In the first 10 months, employees and managers gave out 82,815 recognitions, 88 percent of which were nonmonetary, Ondrasik said. “The data tells us that including nonmonetary awards is key to success of recognition.”

Bribes Don’t Work

Many HR leaders find that money isn’t the most valued part of employee recognition and might often just be a throwaway expense. “Gift cards and prizes feel like bribes, and you should only use bribes as a last resort,” said Kris Duggan, CEO of BetterWorks, a cloud-based goal-setting software program. “Bribes don’t change behavior, which is the whole point of recognition.”

Duggan discovered this two years ago, when BetterWorks was trying to fill a few key executive roles but couldn’t give the base salary that competing companies were offering. So he created a base-plus-bonus compensation package just for those new hires, with incentives for meeting key goals.

The rest of the company just received public recognition on the company’s social network via “cheering” and other acknowledgments given by peers and managers. The result: “The people receiving the ‘bribes’ didn’t perform any better than the people receiving cheers,” he said.

As a result, the company is phasing out all base-plus-bonus salary packages and focusing more on encouraging peer-to-peer recognition and teaching managers how to celebrate their people and provide real-time feedback that reinforces the right behaviors. “You have to pause and reflect on what you’ve accomplished before you can move onto the next thing,” Duggan said. “A lot of companies skip this step, but I think it is the lifeblood of any recognition effort.”

George Hu, founder of the social recognition platform Peer and former chief operating officer at, has a similar sentiment about tying financial gains to recognition. “Giving people gift cards has no impact,” he said. “And it can be demotivating when the same people get recognized over and over.”

Instead, Hu prefers to reward people with access. As the COO at Salesforce, when he saw that an employee was going above and beyond, he invited them to sit on a management meeting or gave them opportunities for one-on-one mentoring. He also encouraged managers to do the same. “It’s more valuable because it gives them entry into a new relationship and makes other executives aware of them,” Hu said.

Managers in these situations used Chatter, the company’s peer-to-peer social engagement platform, to find employees who are frequent recipients of praise for additional mentoring. Every quarter, the leadership team invites the top 30 recipients of praise to the worldwide management meeting where they get a chance to build relationships with top executives who they might otherwise never meet.

Because these employees are chosen based on the number of acknowledgments they receive, it takes bias out of the process, Hu said. In one case, the data drew Hu’s attention to an engineer who was extremely shy and introverted but had been recognized more than 100 times in one quarter for mentoring new hires. “The recognition program helped us identify him, and now he’s being developed as a leader,” Hu said.

Hu noted that retention rates among those employees who were rewarded with access and mentoring was “through the roof,” reinforcing his belief that development and encouragement hold a lot more value than a gift card. Hu is now applying that model at Peer, which links feedback with performance and recognition.

“Recognition and feedback go hand-in-hand,” Hu said. “You have to approach them both together if you want recognition to have an impact.” While most recognition programs have some redeeming value, Hu added, putting extra time and thought into what, how and who leaders recognize can go a long way toward making these programs worth the effort.

How to Make Recognition Stick

There are a few steps talent leaders can take to be sure their recognition programs have the effect they desire.

  1. Ask employees what they want. When employees help shape the recognition program, it’s going to reflect their voice and values, said George Marc-Aurele, chief people officer at CPX Interactive.
  2. Make it social and peer-to-peer. “When people see others getting recognized, they want to get in on it, which makes it grow organically,” Marc-Aurele said.
  3. Make it easy. You want a system that allows employees to give recognition at the click of a button, said Kate Ondrasik, director of internal communications for Orlando Health.
  4. Broadcast leadership commitment. Put a video on the intranet of the CEO talking up the program as a way to promote it,said Jim Hemmer, CEO at WorkStride.
  5. Use recognition as an opportunity to mentor. “All recognition is good, but access to new development opportunities is a lot more valuable than a gift card,” Marc-Aurele said.
  6. Don’t “set it and forget it.” Promote the program via company communications and social media, highlighting winners at meetings and on the website, and sending reminders to keep people engaged, said Cord Himelstein, vice president of marketing for Michael C. Fina.
  7. Let future employees know you care. If you have a great program, talk it up on your website, on social media and in recruiting and onboarding efforts.


Reprinted from TALENT MANAGEMENT magazine






Marketing Benefits to Millennials

By Joel Kranc

Insurance and benefit providers attempting to appeal to millennials have to use a new play book in terms of appealing to a generation reared on smart phones, screens and easy to digest information. A survey from San Mateo, Calif.-based Collective Health shows that 72% of 18-34 year olds are often confused about all the benefit options available to them. Also, 71% of 18-34 year olds say they are not prepared to handle out-of-pocket medical expenses of $5,000.

“What you see is that when people are interacting with the [benefits] system they have the least amount of understanding,” notes Kristin Baker-Spohn, chief commercial officer with Collective Health. “It’s at that point of need when we, as an industry, are really falling short of helping them navigate and helping them understand.”

Many in the industry believe the delivery of information is the key strategy in getting through to this area of the workforce. Jessica Hinkle is chief operating officer with Benefits Done Right. She says that not only is there a young workforce to contend with, but also there are many young business owners who need education on implementation of benefits as well. “Not just millennials, but people [of all ages] are demanding technology and online enrollment systems. We need to ensure that if people are doing more enrollment on a self-service basis that they’re still getting the educational component and really still understand our benefits,” she stresses.

What that means in practice is providing enrollment “packets” that are similar or identical to the traditional paper packets provided at open enrollment meetings. “The online tools have become an important part of the process to not only streamline the process but also provide a wealth of information,” she says.

Beyond technology, however, is there a secret sauce to getting people, of any age or demographic, to be involved with their benefits programs? Says Baker-Spohn: “I don’t think there is a program that can get people engaged with their healthcare benefits. We as leaders in the industry need to be ready to help people when they are ready to be engaged.”

Do demographics matter?

Travis Riker, Senior Benefits Consultant with Arista Consulting Group, says, “benefits are benefits” and are for everyone. “Often the industry will segregate things but from our perspective we think of retirement plans, health insurance, income protection and life insurance as the core four,” he adds. “If we can do a good job making sure people are spending their money wisely on those four things everything else falls into place when money is there.”

While those points are universal, Riker admits that millennials are technology-driven and so the right tools and information based on age, how much they use them and risks, can help them best choose the right health provider or program. That ends up being a do-it-for-yourself approach based on how they answer questions. “What we’ve found,” adds Riker, “is that millennials are more likely to use the technology and go through those types of models and customize their situations. Older populations are not prone to use those types of tools.”

Despite all the online customization abilities being offered, in general, providers are not necessarily thinking of demographic-specific products for the millennials. Hinkle says that add-on products like pet insurance or identity theft prevention may be part of newer offerings as a matter of convenience.

Riker says that no one group can be painted with the same brush. Not all millennials are the same and so it makes more sense to address people’s needs based on where they are in life rather than their age.

In many respects it is the engagement at the time of employment that will determine how and if employers can successfully get millennials to think about benefits. The right tools (and some convenience products) will be the best kick-start for that journey. Listening and adapting must come first.

Joel Kranc is Director of KRANC COMMUNICATIONS in Toronto, focusing on business communications, content delivery and marketing strategies.


Aon Hewitt Adds Major Employers to Health Care Exchange

In one of the biggest steps for private health care exchanges so far, Aon Hewitt has announced that it will be offering health benefits for more than 330,000 American employees of some well-known companies, including Walgreens, Sears Holdings and Darden Restaurants – parent company of Red Lobster and the Olive Garden.

A total of 18 major employers have joined the Aon Hewitt Corporate Health Exchange, making it the country’s largest multi-carrier private health exchange. Health care providers including Anthem, MetLife and VSP Vision Care will be among the carriers represented in the exchange – with a wide variety of plans and different pricing options.

Aon Hewitt says it expects the enrollment to exceed 600,000 U.S. employees by 2014, approximately five times the number that participated in 2013.

In its 2013 Health Care survey, Aon Hewitt noted that more than a quarter of 800 large and mid-size national employers indicated that they plan to participate in a private health exchange within the next five years, with some 7 million employees represented.

The Aon Hewitt Corporate Health Exchange’s health insurance services remain private, unlike state or federal marketplaces, subject to the same rules as traditional employer-sponsored health care benefits.

Ken Sperling, Aon Hewitt’s national health exchange strategy leader, says the company’s exchange seeks to cut costs by encouraging competition at a consumer level, as well as providing more choices and better service for employee participants.

There’s still much anticipation to see how other major employers will adapt to the notion of health care exchanges. John Kelly, principal business advisor for Edifecs, an exchange technology provider, says that health care benefits still remain a major incentive for new workers, and employers need to figure out ways to offer better and less expensive options.

“[Employers] should be very interested in seeing how the [public] exchanges play out,” he says. “If they can pull it off, if they can have what anyone could call a successful first round in this open enrollment, there will be a lot of consideration I think among employer groups to get out of this business altogether.”

Richard Moore, director of professional services with Array Health, an exchange technology provider, says many large employers will need to start making their own decisions soon.

“They’re going to start working with their brokers or carrier directly and say, ‘I’m now done, I’m done with traditional group model. I’m going to either bail to the public exchange, or I’m done with the group model, I want to do a private exchange. I want defined contribution,’” Moore says. “I think we’re going to see a lot of activity come July of next year.”

Reprinted from Employee Benefit News

Pin It on Pinterest