The pandemic and Great Resignation have forced employers to get more serious and creative about attracting and retaining talent.
Voluntary benefits that have long been offered in the shadows of major-medical coverage are suddenly a hot commodity. That is because they are a simple, low-cost way of giving employees what they want. We are seeing more voluntary benefits added than ever before – with an expansion into areas beyond dental, vision, life and disability to round out benefit packages. Wisterm has seen voluntary benefit sponsorship soar to as high as 60% of employers offering such coverage from only about 15% pre-pandemic.
These benefits – usually offered on an employee-pay-all basis and featuring group discounts – represent a low-cost, high-yield strategy to boost employee morale and loyalty. Even though the risk is offloaded onto employees, they still appreciate having access to more benefits and the convenience of payroll deduction makes it easy to afford these products and services.
Pet insurance is an example of an increasingly popular product line. Pandemic lockdowns led to a record number of pet adoptions after millions of people who were stuck working from home sought comfort in cats, dogs, and other animals. Critical-illness insurance is another type of coverage that is becoming a standard offering with so many people managing a wide range of medical conditions.
Other lines that are drawing more attention include accident, hospital indemnity, identity theft, legal services, adoption, and travel assistance. Bonus benefits are also being added. For example, several insurers will include a free employee assistance program for employers that offer their voluntary line of coverages.
Before expanding any current offerings, however, employers should consider several important issues:
- Communication: It’s not enough to simply offer these benefits. Employers need to carefully explain the benefits to employees in a meaningful way to boost engagement and ensure proper coverage levels. These efforts may include a compelling narrative that offers real-life examples of how people benefited from signing up for different benefit options. Communication should involve multiple platforms (i.e., texts, emails, website links and printed materials), a combination of in-person and virtual education as well as group and one-on-one formats that allow participants to schedule their own meetings and ask follow-up questions.
- Improvement: A long-term benefits strategy should be utilized in order for employees to see that benefits will continue to improve. Employers should be proactive and not complacent to ensure that benefits are continually refreshed with the most meaningful offerings. A common strategy is to survey employees to determine the types of benefits that resonate the most. This will show employees that their feedback is valued and designing benefits is a partnership approach.
- Specialization: A benefits broker who is experienced with voluntary benefits understands not only the importance of these benefits, but also how to effectively communicate them to employees. Knowing the nuances of benefit options and features, as well as which communication methods work best with different groups and at what times of the year, invariably will translate into a better understanding of the benefits package, stronger employee engagement and superior overall results.