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The Four Corners of Increasing Employee Benefits Utilization

Every year, HR professionals spend hours creating and sending employee benefits communications, helping employees access provider portals, creating employee benefits presentations, etc...the list goes on! 

But even with these concerted efforts, increasing employee benefits use remains an uphill battle. So, what do employers need to do to sustainably increase benefits use? 

Increasing benefits utilization requires a holistic, accountable approach to employee benefits design. At Helpr, we’re dedicated to making care benefits easier to access. We want employees to use their benefits just as much as our partners do. That’s why we’re sharing what we call the four corners of increasing employee benefits utilization: 

  1. Promote
  2. Train
  3. Invest
  4. Track

These four corners aren’t new, but they’re often approached individually. In this article, we’re covering what each of these corners means, and how to best implement them.

Think Promotion Plan, not Communication Plan

Promotion involves more than going over an employee’s benefits package, informing them what benefits are offered, and explaining the basics of benefits administration in onboarding. 

Promotion is communication plus encouragement. To promote, tell your employees why you’ve invested in each type of employee benefit. Show them that you want them to choose the best health insurance for their family. Emphasize that their health matters through incentives and rewards. Reframe sick leave as health leave. 

Through promotion, you want to make it clear that you genuinely want your team members to use their employee benefits packages. If you need help getting started, here’s a basic formula for effective promotion: 

  • Communicate. Communicate clearly, communicate often, and communicate. According to a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans (IFEBP), life stage, in-person, and year-round communications had the highest success rates.
  • Incentivize. Many employees don’t use their benefits, especially sick pay, because they’re afraid it will hurt their careers. Debunk this myth with meaningful incentives and rewards.
  • Repeat. The more you promote, the more employees will view benefits use as a company norm.

Fill Knowledge Gaps Between HR and Management Through Practical Training

According to a recent survey by Voya Financial, more than one-third of employees don’t understand their benefits information. Voya also found that more than half of millennials did not understand their benefits.  This isn’t surprising, since employee benefits administration has historically been one of the most technical positions in human resources.

So how are employees coming to understand their benefits? A study carried out by McKinsey on mental health benefits also found that manager-led communication accounts for 35% of communication with employees about mental health benefits. And, again, IFEBP’s recent survey found that in-person communication was one of the best ways to communicate employee benefits.

Managers are most likely to communicate in person with their employees on a regular basis, not HR. If managers can’t help employees with their benefits, this knowledge gap is likely to cause drops in benefits engagement.

Train Managers to Connect, Not Refer

Competency-based benefits training requires managers to apply their knowledge in the training in real-time. This training will provide your managers with the skills they need to connect employees directly to the appropriate employee benefits solution, not simply refer them to HR. 

Once trained, managers should know what types of benefits you offer, how to navigate your employee benefits management services, and how to access each benefit.

Invest in New Tech to Make Benefits Utilization Easy

As with all industries, automation improves efficiency. In HR, automating employee benefits administration with benefits software saves time for HR and employees alike. It also increases compliance. 

Great Benefits Software Simplifies Use

Most importantly, great benefits software tools simplify the process for employees. This is important because surveys consistently show that employees are confused about their benefits, which results in one of the biggest barriers to utilization. 

Benefits software capabilities have improved exponentially in the last decade. Today, capabilities range from all-in-one software programs to software tools that solve specific issues plaguing HR’s benefits office. 

From Benefits Software to Benefits Apps

Now, benefits software has taken the next step in making life easy for HR and employees: they’ve gone mobile. Below are three benefits software applications that increase benefits utilization  employees use their benefits right from their phones:

  • Helpr-App. Yes. That’s us! We’re a global care benefits provider dedicated to helping working families. With us, employees can access backup care benefits for their children and dependent adult family members. 
  • Lyra Health. Lyra provides global mental health care benefits for employees right from their phones. Employees can choose between in-person, virtual, live-messaging, or self-led mental health care.
  • IncentFit. IncentFit is a global health benefits provider that employees can use to reach exercise goals, get exercise-related reimbursements, and obtain rewards and other incentives.

Use Targeted Data to Track Your Progress

Targeted quantitative and qualitative data will help you measure workforce needs, adjust to changes, and track your promotion and training progress.

Quantitative Data

Baseline quantitative data will include take-up rates, which are the rates of employees who enroll in a benefit available to them, use rates, and drop-out rates. 

Qualitative Data

Qualitative data, which is typically gathered during employee reviews, will help you measure factors such as knowledge, satisfaction, confidence in the ability to use a benefit, among others. 

Data can also help you diagnose why your employees aren’t using their benefits. For example, potential reasons for low utilization across an entire workforce will be different from potential reasons why rates are low in a particular department. Of course, what data you can collect will depend on your HRS capabilities, but even basic information will help.