Just as our last post discussed a major influence of health care changes ahead – HR and benefits technology – we will be focusing on the millennial generation and the impact this group has on the nature of employer sponsored benefit plans. This particular topic has been given a lot of attention, especially in the media, but employers are still moving slowly when it comes to adopting new policies that meet the specific needs of this growing age population. In this post we will address why this may be and what employers can and should be doing to change this static mindset.
Today, there are more than 53 million millennials in the US workforce. By 2020, they’ll make up almost half of the workforce. That means that for many employers, this group of individuals will make up the majority of their population and their views on health, access to care, voluntary benefits and everything in-between will drive productivity, retention and engagement. Employer necessity to drive down healthcare costs will continue to be a major factor in benefit plan decisions, but to be truly successful in this endeavor, companies will need to align their goals with the mindsets of their staff. As your company makes important budget decisions in regards to pharmacy and healthcare costs, it’ll be absolutely essential to keep in mind the needs of this population – especially when it comes to benefit plan and financial education offerings.
While there is no “one size fits all” solution for redesigning a benefit package to meet millennial needs, there is a general formula employers of all sizes should follow in the years ahead to poise themselves for growth and profitability.
For one, maintaining and developing a digital workforce should be a top priority. We’ve discussed the need for this shift as it pertains to the HR function, but digitization will also benefit employees in a major way. This doesn’t just mean utilizing email…the word digital means so much more to millennials. They rely heavily on social media, online resources, videos, interactive tools, text messaging, mobile friendly platforms and device services to obtain information, communication and connect with the world around them. Employers should embrace a multi-channel communication strategy that brings all of the above digital trends into play. This way, a company can ensure that it’s effectively touching all areas of the workforce. Messaging can be promoted through various communication networks, beginning with a post on your company’s intranet that perhaps pushes that message to employees via text messages, emails, social media posts and more.
So you’ve communicated a message effectively, or so you think, but you’re still missing the participation and/or engagement levels you need to maintain a healthy, stable workforce. This could be a direct result of not only your communication strategy, but your education and awareness strategy that helps employees (of all ages) determine their individual health and benefit needs. Millennials grew up in this age of digitization and are used to having everything available to them immediately and at the tip of their fingers. Unfortunately, this mindset extends to their interaction with and utilization of healthcare. Millennials aren’t as focused on the practice of preventative care, something that is essential to driving down overall healthcare costs, because they aren’t equipped with the proper tools they’re used to using that could be applied to scheduling doctor visits, determining network availability and calculating future medical costs they need to save for.
Millennials in particular are saddled with personal long term debt and they are just as concerned with the bottom line as the rest of your workforce. Providing digital tools that can help forecast financial solutions and better educate the population on how to effectively plan and save for retirement and healthcare is something almost every employer should be either considering at this point in time or already implementing. Especially as employers continue shifting much of the cost of healthcare to their employees, it’s absolutely critical that those employees feel equipped to handle this added burden. Employees don’t mind bearing some of the cost if their benefits not only meet their individual needs, but they need to know how and when those benefits should be utilized effectively to drive down their own personal financial burden. This requires training and development, but you don’t need to hire a new department to pursue this. There are some incredible online tools available to employers and their employees today, some at no additional cost to the employer, that can support and educate your staff as they navigate these waters. This can help to drive positive engagement and employee satisfaction.
As employers continue to rely on their workforce to bear more of their overall healthcare costs, it’s important to maintain a level of coverage that employees are comfortable with. This is why companies should be considering their voluntary benefit plan offerings. Voluntary benefits can come at no cost to the employer, but they can be available as a choice to employees if they are interested in more comprehensive coverage than what’s available to them at an employer sponsored level. Most of these benefit offerings will come with educational support so employees can calculate what they need and/or want on an individual or family basis. Again, having resources on demand for employees to use in determining their needs in regards to voluntary benefits is critical. Employees don’t mind educating themselves as long as they have user friendly tools on hand to help them.
Stay tuned for our next post where we will continue discussing the impact of a growing millennial population on employer benefit offerings. We will address the general benefit needs of this group, including their interest in flexible benefit options and high deductible health plans. We will also provide some insight into the specific digital tools and solutions available for employers to implement/offer to their workforce.