Health Insurance 2019

As the new year approaches, here are five trends in employeebenefits to watch in 2019, based on the findings from our 16th Annual Employee Benefit TrendsStudy (EBTS) and other industry indicators:

1. Simplicity wins

With an increased emphasis on the employee experience,simplifying the processes and systems related to benefits is top ofmind for employers. To aid this, the seamless integration oftechnology and benefits into an employer's ecosystem continues tobe a strong trend. In fact, third-party administration firms arerising in their importance among key decision makers. As anexample, employers are seeking information from their benefits administration providers to understandwhich partners work best in their systems to ensure theiremployees' experience is the easiest possible. End-to-end – fromenrollment to claims decisions – reducing complexity is criticalfor success.

2. Wellness in the workplace

Employers have taken notice of the increased importance ofattending to employees' total wellness, including mental andfinancial well-being, and are eager to findways to provide support, as well as reduce associated stigmas. Todo this, we are seeing that some employers are training peoplemanagers in mental health first-aid, providing flexible workschedules or environments and offering financial planning tools,all of which aim to reduce stress levels and improve overallwellness.

3. Tailored benefit plans on the rise

Low unemployment means it is a competitive time for employerswho are trying to retain and attract top talent, so organizationsneed to be creative with their benefits package offerings sincefirms can only offer so much salary. Through the rise of voluntarybenefits, financial wellness solutions and programs to aid withcaregiving responsibilities, there has been an increase of morecustomized benefits plans that meet more individualized needs.According to EBTS, more than 70 percent of workers report that theability to customize benefits to fit their needs increases loyaltyto their employer. Additionally, employers are looking to offertheir employees services such as concierges and/or decision, adviceand guidance tools, which aid in ensuring ease in the benefitsenrollment and claims processes.

4. Omni-channel decision support

Customer experience is as important as ever, which meansomni-channel decision support – the ability for an employee to tapinto online and digital support, as well as human or one-on-oneassistance – is critical. Offering different channels to learnabout and interact with benefits allows employees to be moreengaged and equips them with more information to make decisionsthat are right for them. Employers who offer their employees toolsto do independent research with videos or downloadable materials,followed by one-on-one consultations to help validate decisions,will see better engagement and satisfaction around benefits. Andthere is room for improvement here, as more than one-quarter ofemployees don't feel they made the right decisions duringenrollment the prior year, according to EBTS.

5. Gig economy here to stay

The gig economy continues to grow. The ability ofemployers to provide their workers with the flexibility and freedomthat gigs provide will be even more important. According to EBTS,more than half of workers, 57 percent, are interested in gigs asopposed to full-time jobs. And it's not just interest, it's intent.Twenty-four percent of employees say they plan to leave theirfull-time jobs for freelance work in the next five years, accordingto the study. Employers who offer flexibility, such as portablebenefits, flexible working hours, or remote work opportunities,will be in the best position to not only retain workers who areinterested in gigs, but also support the growing population of gigworkers, who can bring valuable experience to companies.

Benefit to watch: financial wellnesssolutions

Financial insecurity is reaching a tipping point. The EBTS found48 percent of individuals say they are distracted at work due totheir financial stress; it's no wonder when 52percent reported living paycheck to paycheck. As employers striveto retain and attract top talent, they should take into seriousconsideration a financial wellness program, with benefits at thecore, to help their workforce not only manage their finances in theshort-term, but also help to better plan and prepare for long-termfinancial goals, such as retirement or buying a home. According toEBTS, 84 percent percent of employees want financial wellness tools(e.g., planning, education, workshops), yet just 18 percent ofemployers offer them. So, employers who leverage the benefits theyalready offer – such as a retirement package and voluntary benefits– in a holistic financial wellness solution can improve engagementwith and utilization of existing programs, as well as stand out asemployers of choice.

Financial wellness programs that are “high tech and high touch,”meaning they utilize technology, as well as human interaction, aremost poised to succeed. According to EBTS, about half of employeesare optimistic about automation technologies, but 46 percent worryabout loss of human connection in the workplace. To solve for this,having a variety of touchpoints for employees to seek financialguidance is vital.

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