Benefits Insight Report

The data from the Businessolver study consisted of 500,000 men and women from multiple generations, with income ranging from $30,000 to $105,000+. The following will provide an overview of the current landscape within the SMB marketplace and a summary of the key findings.

Current Landscape

  • 64% of employers say finding talent is very or extremely challenging in today’s economy
  • In this environment, benefits are front-and-center in the recruitment, engagement, and retention strategies of savvy employers
  • Employees are at different stages of their lives with vastly different needs and appetites for benefits, and employers feel they are struggling to create just the right approach for their dynamic, multi-generational workforce
  • Employees need to have the knowledge or the support to make appropriate choices that meet their physical, emotional, and financial well-being
  • Employees’ benefits knowledge is still rudimentary
  • People are often confused by their benefits or indicate they know just enough to get by
  • They skimp on decision-making, spending approximately 17 minutes to make their decisions
  • It is critical to provide enhanced decision-making support and guidance during enrollment as well as ongoing education
  • Making ends meet is a challenge for many. Employees are concerned about their monthly budget and only a small percentage spend less than they make. 
  • Over-insuring can exacerbate their ability to make regular deposits into savings or plan for emergencies
  • On average, 86% of employees are confused about benefits
  • Only 4% of Americans can correctly define terms such as deductible, coinsurance, copay and out-of-pocket maximum
  • Based on the study, 80% of employees are not knowledgeable enough to fully appreciate their benefits or maximize their benefit choices
  • Millennials (35%) were the most confused by benefit offerings and GenXers (31%) were not far behind
  • When people are risk-averse, they tend to choose what they perceive as the safest option. Cost may seem to be less important than a safety net.
  • Workers are feeling pain in their wallets
    • 63% of Millennials are more concerned about their monthly budget
    • 53% of Boomers said they were more concerned about a large medical claim
    • Almost 25% of those surveyed said that high healthcare costs are holding them back from achieving their financial goals

Key Findings

As employers and benefits experts, what does this mean for us? If employees are not effectively putting the pieces together, how can we move the needle to help them better understand their options and make more educated decisions regarding their benefits?

  • First, we need to effectively address the benefits literacy crisis
    • As benefits become more complicated, we have not innovated in how we communicate. Many organizations continue to issue large amounts of data around open enrollment and little else throughout the year. I would suggest that a year-round engagement and education approach that includes using technology to give employees small, manageable and meaningful bites of information can go a long way to increasing their knowledge and understanding of benefits.
    • Support effective decision-making 
  • We recognize one size doesn’t fit all, but there is more to it than increasing the number of options
  • People at different life stages and those with various levels of earnings have diverse perspectives and ways of thinking about and using their benefits
  • Understanding how employees in different demographics and at multiple earning are feeling about their individual situations and their benefits can help inform plan designs, communications and delivery, and it can increase the likelihood that people will choose wisely
  • Ensure you are taking care of the whole person by helping employees with meaningful financial wellness offerings
    • Often, financial education focuses on empowering employees to save for retirement; however, programs that address immediate financial challenges such as creating an emergency fund, need to be implemented so people can more effectively balance their current financial reality with their future goals. 
  • Help employees with the basics throughout the year
    • It is time we think differently about how you want to promote your benefits program. Benefit communication is often focused on choosing benefits; what’s missing is content around how to use them. Providing relevant and easy-to-understand information throughout the year will help the employees become better consumers.
  • Leverage the data to personalize your approach
    • Communications and nudges should consider where people are within their life stage and earnings potential. Make sure the information being provided will be of value to the employee.
    • Guide employees to better decisions
      • People are risk-averse, and that comes into play when they make benefits decisions. As a result, how plans are designed, communicated, what things are called, and how they are explained all contribute to what employees choose. 
      • Providing employees with easy to use decision guidance helps them overcome both risk adversity and lack of benefit expertise. 
  • Make enrollment and access easy, intuitive, and ongoing
    • Intuitive platforms that offer tools that guide appropriate decision making offer the richest experience and best outcome. Best practice is simple, self-paced enrollment, either online or on a mobile device. Help should be a chat, or a phone call away 24/7. 
  • Financial Well-Being
    • Many American workers are struggling to make ends meet, and it is affecting their benefits decisions. Financial education and wellness efforts need to expand beyond the traditional focus on retirement to helping people address their near-term needs, such as saving for a home, or paying off student loan or credit card debt. It should also support creating and funding emergency savings to help protect employees from the emotional and financial impact of an unexpected large expense. 
  • As benefits continue to evolve and grow in complexity, we need to close the gap between what is being offered and what employees want, need, and understand. 
  • People are telling us clearly that they are confused and that they need more guidance to make better choices.

HR is in a unique position to address the needs of today’s workforce by focusing on where people are in their knowledge curve, life stage, and financial situation. 

If you would like to discuss how a comprehensive Benefits education strategy can help you attract and retain the highest quality employees and enhance your company culture contact WhiteWater Consulting at
(704) 236-3131 or chuck@whitewaterconsulting.net. It is our mission to help you and your company become better – better employers, better culture, better financial results.

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