With the beginning of each New Year, many individuals contemplate a set of New Year’s resolutions. Webster’s Dictionary defines a resolution as a firm commitment to do or not to do something. In what ways can employers develop resolutions for employees and their benefits package? To identify what I believe is a priority in this regard, it is important for experience to instruct the future.
Lean on the Past, and Kick into the Future:
A few decades ago my church was going through a significant leadership transition. The outgoing pastor had invited a speaker to talk about the upcoming change. The speaker placed and used a full-sized swing set inside the church during the service. It was a large, steel swing set like the one I had as a kid in Monroe – the kind on which you could swing so high that the frame would lift from the ground.
The speaker proceeded to explore how, as children, we learned to make the swing “go” by leaning back and then kicking forward – again and again – until gradually we’d be swinging. He used this example to tell the congregation to embrace the change by “Leaning into the Past” while “Kicking into the Future.” Or, said another way, he advised we use the past as a foundation on which to build the future.
Leaning on the Past – What Experience Teaches us about Employees and their Benefits:
The purpose of employee benefits is to attract and retain employees, promote well-being amongst employees and their families, and generate a productive and engaged team who will best serve clients. Many employers just completed benefits open enrollment. Have those purposes for benefits been achieved in your company?
Many employees view open enrollment less than favorably, perhaps even with borderline contempt. Think about that! Benefits equate to 25% to 35% of an employee’s total compensation, and getting employees happily engaged in an open enrollment process remains a chore.
One thing the past has surely taught us is that any strategy to promote culture or improve employee benefit utilization is effective only to the degree to which employees engage.
At worst, cynics believe benefits are something employers do TO employees. More often, the benefits industry and employers enable teams to believe benefits are something done FOR employees. However, effective outcomes are achieved when all “people stakeholders” (employees, managers, and leaders) collaborate to build a strategy WITH employees.
Kick into the Future – Educating Employees and Aligning Interests:
Employees who understand they are WITH employers in navigating a broken healthcare “system” will be far better able to control their mutual costs and provide better outcomes.
“Tell me, I’ll forget; Show me, I’ll remember; Involve me, and I’ll understand.” Confucius
A “system” likes the status quo…and inertia. Misaligned healthcare system stakeholders bet on employees being change averse – an aversion which prevents employers from saying no to inefficient healthcare.
As employers “Kick Into the Future,” healthcare system education and awareness amongst employees is a great place to focus. Employees who are involved in understanding and sharing examples of healthcare inefficiency, as well as building educational sessions for employees, can become great champions for change.
Here are a few steps to consider for your New Year’s Resolution for Benefits:
Step 1: Develop a Healthcare Committee (or leverage an existing wellness committee);
Step 2: Charge the Committee with a mission to educate fellow employees on the broken healthcare system and to drive awareness of consumerism opportunities;
Step 3: Offer Quarterly Lunch ‘n Learns or “Coffee with HR” where external speakers can facilitate education around these topics; and,
Step 4: Engage the committee in considering opportunities at renewal that help employees and the employer buy what they want versus what the “system” wants to sell them. In doing so, with understanding, the change is better viewed as positive.
Kicking into the Future with your benefits can start in January with these four steps. Don’t wait until open enrollment preparation. Process and educational seeds planted today can be harvested during future Benefit Strategy decisions. I hope you will consider this early employee engagement work as part of your New Year’s Resolution for Benefits!
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