New Thinking and Sobering Facts from #BenefitsConf

health benefits conferenceSeveral hundred HR leaders and practitioners gathered in Las Vegas on April 8 to start the three-day Health and Benefits Leadership Conference (HBLC). The event, produced by HR Executive magazine, is oriented around five tracks, including healthcare, wellness, financial security, work/life, and strategic planning and execution.

The conference kicked off with a lively panel of three leaders – Deborah Borton, senior director of benefits for Keurig Green Mountain Inc., Lindsay Horning, benefits analyst for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., and Kelly McKeever, executive director of people services for Nelnet Inc. They discussed how best to maximize the value of health and financial wellness for employees, regardless of organizational cultural norms, industry, or company sizes.

Employee wellness is a front-running deliberation in forward-thinking employers, and accordingly this topic ensued throughout the conference’s opening day. Here are the best “did you know?” facts to consider:

  • Utilization of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) is at an average of just 5%.
  • At all income levels, without continuing income, 50% of all households could survive only 131 days solely because of liquidating assets, including 401K.
  • On average, 30% of GenX retirees will run short of income.
  • Average 401K account balance is just $72,000.
  • For everyone under the age of 49 today, 18 years from now, your social security benefits will be reduced by 20%.
  • We have a $4.1 trillion deficit in personal savings for retirement and long-term care.
  • Personal savings rate was 12% in 1975 and was 5% in 2013.

Those numbers and data grabbed the attention of the crowd and we sat poised listening to some notable and actionable themes:

Wellness Is Yesterday’s Thinking; Well-Being Defines Today. Keeping employees healthy is about the whole person – their financial, emotional, mental, and physical states of being and improving all four components collectively and in a coordinated fashion. End traditional wellness programs (e.g. weight loss, tobacco cessation, etc.) and re-direct the investment in holistic well-being solutions.

Community Influences Well-Being. Corporate social responsibility is embedded in well-being solutions. Volunteer programs engage the minds and bodies of employees. These “give-back” opportunities serve to stimulate feelings of goodness and responsibility – both of which contribute to healthy employees.

Prioritize Financial Literacy and Planning. Increase employees’ financial acumen and financial planning skills via education, particularly for GenY’s who have little understanding of the importance of saving today for tomorrow’s financial preparedness. Improve the ability of all employees, particularly low-wage earners, to save adequate retirements funds by lowering the age to 45 for starting catch-up 401K contributions and removing the 10% cap on 401K auto escalation.

Employers to Offer Private Exchanges for Employee Healthcare.  Private healthcare exchanges will play a significant role in the coming years. A private exchange facilitates the “retailization” of healthcare. The retail customer will be the actual employee (not an employer) buying health insurance directly from the insurer via an exchange made available by the employer. The experience will simulate a ‘retail’ experience, shop and compare; the employee seeks value as he or she defines it. Several technology providers will provide user-friendly and easy-to-use “shop and compare” tools to facilitate the employee’s best healthcare purchases.

Progressive organizations are ditching disparate wellness programs in favor of holistic well-being solutions. Providers are stepping up to enable the new well-being design with portal solutions that offer private exchanges and analytics to inform well-being decisions.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding next learnings and how you plan on applying these insights in your workplaces.

Until next time….

Laci Loew, VP and Principal Analyst,
Talent Management, Brandon Hall Group

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