2019: What to Expect in Employee Health & Benefits


Employee Benefits Consultant
+1 763 746 8287
January 10, 2019

Benefits management will require more strategic planning to attract and retain diverse employee groups.

As you’ve probably been reminded over and over again, employee benefits can no longer be a one-size-fits-all proposition. Your business may now be comprised of a wide range of employee groups — which increases the need to offer the right benefits to bring the right employees on board and retain them. 

Many organizations today have employees that range from Boomers and Generation X to Millennials and Generation Z. Each generational group values benefits differently. And the challenge employers face will be understanding, and then designing, affordable benefits that will resonate with multiple employee generations.

For example, Millennials (who will make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020), along with Gen Z, are much more likely to embrace nontraditional benefits and work/life balance than Baby Boomers. In a 2015-2016 Willis Towers Watson study, nearly one-third of Millennials (32 percent) rank more paid time off, greater opportunities for flexible work arrangements and career advancement, and options to purchase a wider variety of voluntary benefits as top priorities. 

Seeing employees in different lights

For many employees, work is far more than a way to earn money.They want and expect a job that brings meaning to their personal lives. And they want to do that job in a place that makes them feel welcome and appreciated.

Employees today want to be respected as individuals. That means employers need to understand an employee’s “whole self.” Simple demographics won’t reveal what truly motivates different employees.

The more employees feel that their employer is truly seeing them for who they really are, the more engaged they become. And more engaged employees are more productive, more effective, and far less subject to stress.

One excellent, effective way to show employees that they are understood and appreciated is to offer benefits that are truly meaningful to them.

Here are three areas you should consider focusing on for 2019:

  1. Invest in getting to know your current and future employees. Having a deep appreciation for what benefits are valued by which employee group will optimize the ROI in your total rewards program by ensuring that what you offer is truly meaningful. Employee surveys and benchmarking existing programs against similarly situated peers are excellent tools to help you determine what employees need.

  2. Work with your broker to develop a continuous 3- to 5-year benefits strategy. This will help optimize cost containment, which is a primary concern for most employers, and will also ensure that your investment in the benefits program remains current as your workforce and organization evolves.

  3. Create a culture that attracts employees and entices them to stay with you. Part of that task is providing the right benefits for the right individuals, but it also requires a commitment to emphasizing those areas that are important for employees such as employee wellness, meaningful work, clear goals, a positive corporate attitude, the ability to establish social connections, and proof that employees have management’s ear.

Here are four benefit areas you can tailor to a wide range of employees:

  1. Examine alternative and personalized health care options
    This provides convenient access to care for medical conditions from sore throats and flu to drug addiction issues. It can save time and cost, but getting employees to use the benefit can be daunting, there are significant issues with jurisdictional questions regarding medical malpractice claims, and potential cyber risk concerns. Artificial Intelligence will play a large role in making online diagnosis more accurate and therefore more prevalent.

    Consumer Driven Health Plans with Health Savings Accounts
    Legislation has been introduced to expand opportunities for employees to contribute to HSAs. Final rules will create a lot of discussion this year, but the complexity of the rules, administrative challenges and delayed effective dates will push real change back at least several years.

  2. Financial assistance
    Your employees want financial benefits that address their current lives. Providing this can have an enormous impact on both adoption rates and employee engagement. For example, student loan debt is a problem for the most recent college graduates you may be employing. But it can also be an issue for staff who are saddled with children’s student loan debt, or want to help their children or grandchildren save for college.

  3. Personalize benefits communications
    Everyone on your staff more than likely appreciates an in-person visit to discuss specific benefits packages. But that’s not always practical, meaning you need to find ways to communicate that resonate with a particular employee group. Not everyone wants to be contacted via email, just as not everyone appreciates a phone call or a text. Different employee groups respond best to different communications methods. Email is considered too old-school by Millennials and Generation Z, just as many Boomers dislike what they consider brusque, impersonal texts.

  4. Increased popularity of voluntary benefits
    Voluntary benefits are one of many strategies that employers use to control costs and provide more options to employees. Many employers are offering additional coverage options through voluntary benefit products. This obviously has a value to employees, but it offers a significant benefit to employers as well, as it allows them to show flexibility in their offerings, something that’s important for recruitment and retention.

Your Marsh & McLennan Agency representative can help you assess your employee needs using tailored employee surveys and offer benefits benchmarking relative to your employment market. These tools help you make sure you have the right balance of benefits to meet the evolving needs of your employee populations. Contact your local representative for more information.