What are the biggest challenges of benefits engagement?

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert | BenefitsPRO

“The more the merrier” does not always apply when it comes to benefits, especially if it results in confusion and low employee engagement, according to Health Advocate’s report, “Driving Benefits Engagement: Strategies to Optimize Employee Health and Well-Being Programs.”

Heath Advocate surveyed more than 300 HR and benefits managers, and one of the key questions posed was, “If you currently work with multiple partners/vendors, what are your biggest challenges?”

Nearly half (44 percent) say offering a myriad of programs feels “disjointed, confusing for employees,” and 43 percent say a significant challenge is dealing with the fragmentation of tools, including those internally developed, particularly having several numbers to call for questions or help with a program. Another problem, according to 40 percent of the respondents, is the lack of utilization, and 35 percent feel technology issues with integrating systems was a challenge.

“Clearly, there are a number of contributing factors, making it complicated for benefits managers to manage the mounting confusion,” the authors write. “Some organizations mitigate this by having one expert or one number to call to help navigate the various benefits from a multitude of vendors. This expert would have to be educated on all of an employee’s options in order to effectively help them get the right help when they need it.”

In addition to offering a mix of programs, employers are adding new technologies to support benefits, including new wearable devices, interactive software programs, mobile apps and online trackers. However, implementing additional technologies also increases the complexity of the benefits program for employees. More than half (54 percent) of survey respondents say they are using a series or mix of separate benefit tools, with separate user interfaces requiring separate login.

Streamlining programs through a single platform or vendor can mitigate these problems and promote engagement, according to the report. But while the right platform can help, “human touch” is still critical to many employees.

Eight out of ten respondents say that having some level of high-touch support increases employee engagement with their benefits. A majority (78 percent) offer employees access to live support to help with health goals and benefits navigation.

“Having an expert available to help remains critical to assisting employees as they navigate the often confusing healthcare system,” the authors write. “By incorporating these services into existing benefits offerings, organizations can achieve ‘the healthcare trifecta’ — increased productivity, managed costs and improved health outcomes.”