“The hybrid workforce is here to stay, and in order to address this shift, the voluntary benefits ecosystem – and benefits in general – will need to continue to offer telehealth services and benefits that can be accessed virtually,” says Neil Vaswani, CEO, Corestream, in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.
ET Bureau: How can enterprises take care of their employee’s health and financial well-being in an increasingly remote work environment?
Neil Vaswani: Financial issues are some of the biggest life stressors for employees during this time when work is predominantly remote.
According to a Deloitte study, this can lead to a loss in productivity in the workplace, among many other things. To help employees manage their financial concerns, employers are offering a variety of benefits beyond what’s been traditionally offered, like core medical, dental, and vision benefits. More employers have recognized that voluntary benefits are no longer an option—these supplemental benefits have become an essential lifeline for the remote workforce.
Voluntary benefits have been brought to the forefront as more employees seek resources for addressing employee mental health and financial concerns. These benefits are also a great way to create a strategic relationship with employees and a way to bolster company culture and morale.
ET Bureau: What technologies can enterprises leverage to streamline the voluntary benefits administration for their employees?
Neil Vaswani: Companies seeking to streamline voluntary benefits administration and management should consider a technology platform that offers the following:
1) Ease of use: Users should be able to freely choose and learn about the benefits they desire through a platform that is simple to use. Automating the entire process from benefits selection, payroll integration, contract negotiation, remittance of payments, and reconciliation of premiums for individual employees is critical for employee adoption.
The user interface should also be simple to navigate and remove any barriers, streamline administration and optimize the user experience. Benefit plans are constantly being updated with the various types of benefits that are available. Employees need an easy way to get access to the benefits information they need.
2) Seamless Payroll Deduction: Payroll deduction billing is a critical part of voluntary benefits administration and management. 76% of employees view this as their preferred method of billing. It’s also an essential tool for benefit vendors to use because there are more benefits available if payroll is activated. It’s essential to leverage a technology that has an easy-to-use payroll deduction feature to help with payroll administration.
3) Regular communications: A platform that can help to establish regular employee communications on benefits is table stakes for any business’ benefits programs. This gives employees the freedom and flexibility to manage their voluntary benefits packages and learn about what is available to them, further enriching, protecting, and enhancing their lives.
4) Access to pertinent employee data: A platform that allows employers to leverage existing data to disseminate benefits information easily and effectively to better serve their employees rather than getting mired in administrative details.
ET Bureau: Employee retention has become a major concern for enterprises across the globe, especially in the wake of the pandemic. What steps can enterprises take to improve employee retention?
Neil Vaswani: Employee retention, whether or not a result of a pandemic, is a challenge for many companies. Low job satisfaction, lack of available job training or professional development opportunities, ineffective leadership, and employee benefits that don’t meet the needs of the workforce are some contributing factors to employee turnover and lack of engagement. When employees are not satisfied, they are not engaged.
Voluntary benefits programs have become essential for forward-thinking employers looking to hire and keep the best and brightest employees. More employers and HR leaders are starting to recognize that offering a voluntary benefits program is not only a way to meet the needs of the workforce but also a strategy for employee engagement and retention.
A joint analysis of 1.4 million employees nationwide from Corestream and students from Duke University’s FUQUA School of Business found that, on average, employees enrolled in voluntary benefits had an average tenure of 6 years compared to 3 years for employees not enrolled in voluntary benefit programs. A separate independent study conducted by Corestream also found a correlation between voluntary benefits, retention and employee engagement. For over 68% of employees surveyed, voluntary benefits positively influenced their desire to work for and stay with an employer.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the relationship between employers and employees. Offering the right balance of traditional benefits along with holistic and voluntary benefits gives employees the freedom to choose their own benefits packages and personalize them to their individual needs. Employers that support the employee through offering voluntary benefits and other aspects of their life show an investment not only in the overall health of employees but in their future as well.
ET Bureau: How will the voluntary benefits ecosystem transform in an increasingly hybrid workforce?
Neil Vaswani: The hybrid workforce is here to stay, and in order to address this shift, the voluntary benefits ecosystem – and benefits in general – will need to continue to offer telehealth services and benefits that can be accessed virtually.
In the changing workforce, employee benefit plans speak volumes. Without the advantage of hosting in-person employee events, happy hours, and catered lunches, more companies will turn to employee benefit plans as a way to engage the workforce and bolster company culture. Employers will lean more on holistic employee benefits offerings—that protect and enhance an employee’s life, beyond traditional health insurance—to create a strategic relationship with employees.
Wellness benefits that fit both physical and mental needs will become an essential part of the workforce. With a hybrid workforce, employees feel isolated working from home a majority of the time. Offering wellness benefits encourage employees to live a healthier lifestyle, creating an overall happier and more productive workforce. Financial wellness programs will also continue to rise in popularity in the transforming voluntary benefits ecosystem.
A majority of Americans expect the COVID-19 pandemic to impact their long-term financial wellness, and as more employees demand resources that help minimize the financial impact of the pandemic, these programs can be a way to serve the employee base and help with workplace engagement.
Neil Vaswani co-founded leading voluntary benefits innovator Corestream in 2006. He believes that “as the line between personal and professional life blurs, voluntary benefits are a vital demonstration of support for the ‘whole employee,’ resulting in a more satisfied and engaged workforce.” His vision for “disruption without disintermediation” brings value to all participants in the voluntary benefits ecosystem—human resources (HR) professionals, insurance brokers and employees.