2019 Global Employee Benefit Trends

The workplace is changing and there’s no denying it. Whether it’s because of the technology and data available, the changing demographics and expectations of the workforce, greater degrees of automation or the advancing “gig” economy, business is evolving to stay relevant and employees are demanding more of their employer.

As the challenge to attract and retain critical talent has never been greater, employers must consider fine-tuning their benefit packages to ensure they are poised to impact their workforce in the way they desire and remain competitive in a global economy.

The four global employee benefit trends we see for 2019 are affordability, wellness transitions to well-being, preparing for Generation Z and employee engagement.

 

Click on each trend below for more information and potential strategies.

AFFORDABILITY:

While this may seem obvious to many, the issue of affording health and welfare insurance is on the rise again. Despite a strong economy in many parts of the world, many employees are having a harder time affording their benefits than they were five years ago. This stems from the additional cost-shifting that has occurred, whether it be from social programs to private insurance or from employers shifting additional financial responsibility onto the employees. Deductible and out-of-pocket levels continue to rise, which exposes employees to additional first-dollar risk. This can have unintended consequences such as delayed medical treatments, increased stress levels, negative cost impacts to other group benefit plans and reduced workforce productivity.

Potential Strategies:
  • Reassess/benchmark your plan design. Ensure any individual cost-sharing levels haven’t crept too far out of reach.
  • Provide access to telehealth/virtual care services. Primary care is usually more affordable in this setting and virtual care can help many employees get their treatment process started, regardless of location. Reducing any financial barrier will also drive utilization.
  • Analyze claims data to determine if care can be redirected to lower cost sites or to higher performing medical providers.
  • Explore adding voluntary benefit plans (e.g. critical illness, accident insurance, supplemental health or legal services) to provide additional coverage and security. Voluntary benefits also foster a culture shift from wellness to well-being by helping improve one’s financial and emotional health.

WELLNESS TRANSITIONS TO WELL-BEING:

Employers around the globe have been focused for many years, on wellness initiatives for their workforce. Those initiatives have historically been centered on the physical aspects of an individual with programs dedicated to weight management, physical activity, healthy eating, smoking cessation and more. Employers are now recognizing that they need to take a holistic view and address the entire person. Mental health and substance abuse issues, financial management concerns and stress and anxiety are all on the rise. Employees are short on time and resources while demands on them are increasing. This means incorporating more programs and resources for mental, financial and social wellness. Investing in well-being positively impacts business performance.

Potential Strategies:
  • Build financial wellness offerings into the overall program. Financial stress is the most common form of stress and high levels of stress impact physical and mental health and negatively influence productivity. Financial issues do not discriminate.
  • Implement an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) to act as a holistic resource. For those that offer one, revisit the current services offered and explore new opportunities.
  • Explore non-traditional offerings such as elder care, flexible work schedules, volunteer opportunities and paid parental leave to further address the needs of the entire individual.

PREPARING FOR GENERATION Z:

The millennial generation has been fervently discussed for a few years and they now make up the largest generation of the workforce globally. While employers can’t ignore the millennial generation, it’s Generation Z (those born after 1996) that is beginning to enter the workforce and they are viewing things much differently than their predecessors. Companies do not want to miss the opportunity to speak to this generation when the time comes to hire and employ them. This group will expect benefits to be mobile and flexible, they’ll expect to have reviews on the benefits package from their peers before selecting any options, they’ll be less apt to have large amounts of student debt, and they’ll look for guidance and advice and provided by the employer. Employers will have to build loyalty with this age group and the benefits offering will go a long way toward achieving this.

Potential Strategies:
  • Ensure that all offerings have a mobile feature. Gen Z is the total smartphone generation.
  • Constant communication and education will be critical. This group will want input before they buy any benefit products, and personal counseling will be very welcome.
  • Any benefits campaign will need a presence on social media to reach this group and create an impact.
  • Benefits will need to be flexible and portable. This generation will likely work more than one job concurrently.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT:

Engagement for many in the industry translates to having employees engaged in their individual health: taking ownership of their personal situation and utilizing the programs and tools available to them to improve. While that is an important piece, employers will be looking to broaden the term engagement. Employers want their staff to have a positive experience working for the company and are beginning to make that a priority as it directly impacts productivity. Creating a culture of health and offering strong health and wellness initiatives will better unite employees and employers. The benefit package and the work/life balance offered by the employer will help shape employee engagement in the workplace.

Potential Strategies:
  • Invest in worker development programs and embrace digital tools to deliver the programs.
  • Offer financial incentives and introduce gamification to drive healthy behaviors and the use of health care tools.
  • Use data (clinical and other) to create a more personal experience for each employee. This will better connect them with their employer and improve satisfaction.
  • Be prepared to finance. Improving engagement – which will improve health, which will improve productivity, which will improve retention – will take a financial commitment.