Employee data concept Employerswith innovative benefits programs are more likely to have beencreated through the use of data analytics and business intelligencesolutions. (Image: Shutterstock)

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Less than a fifth of companies say their benefits programs are at the leading edge—andeven more say they're afraid their offerings are falling behindindustry standards.

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That's according to a survey from Artemis Health, which finds that whilebenefits leaders say they're driven by employee productivity (47percent), employee satisfaction (43 percent) and the need toimprove employee health and well-being (36 percent), only 18percent of them say their benefits programs are at the front of thepack, while 19 percent say that their organization is probablyfalling behind the rest of the industry.

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Related: 8 ways to make your benefits stand out from thepack

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And even those top three objectives aren't necessarily at thetop for some companies, depending on company size. Those with5,000 to 9,999 employees, for instance, prioritize"increasing employee productivity" at the top of their benefitsprogram goals, while companies with 10,000 to 24,999employees instead choose "improving employee satisfaction." Forcompanies with 25,000 employees or more, "improving employee healthand well-being" is the top goal.

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Innovative programs, it turns out, are more likely to have beencreated through the use of data analytics and business intelligencesolutions, with employee feedback (41 percent), industry bestpractices (37 percent), financial data (34 percent) and recruitingfeedback (33 percent) also factors in crafting benefits design.

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Still, laying their hands on the right data at the right timecan pose a challenge. While 88 percent say data is vital in designand management of an effective program, 53 percent cite timelyaccess to the right data as one of their biggest challenges. Otherpotential impediments include failing to run reports quicklyenough, an inability to connect disjointed data sources and beingunable to trust data accuracy.

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Still, failure really isn't an option, with 79 percent ofbenefits leaders saying their ability to provide data-drivenbenefits insight is essential to demonstrating their value to theC-suite.

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"We talk to benefits leaders who get stopped in the hallway by aCFO and asked about health care costs or enrollment numbers," saysGrant Gordon, CEO and cofounder of Artemis Health. "Benefitsanalytics is the key to feeling confident in these conversationsand building better benefits programs for their organizations andtheir employees."

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.