The secret to success for HR service providers lies in helping their clients thrive. One of the ways that HR service providers accomplish this is by managing benefits packages for the small and medium businesses (SMBs) that make up their client base.
SMBs rely on these benefits to recruit, retain and engage their employees. After all, just as HR service providers depend on thriving SMBs for their success, the success of the SMBs depends on having a safe, healthy, and engaged workforce.
However, maintaining a safe, healthy, and engaged workforce is not as simple as it used to be. The employment landscape has changed dramatically: traditional benefits packages (medical, dental, vision insurance) are no longer sufficient. These days, employees expect much more from their employers. In turn, this means that employers also expect more from their HR service providers.
How Benefits Expectations Have Changed
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a change that was already trending. Employees increasingly expect their employers to assume more responsibility for the employees’ well-being. A U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study by MetLife found that before the pandemic, 68 percent of small business employees believed their employers had responsibility for the employees’ well-being. Soon after the start of the pandemic, that number increased to 76 percent.
In other words, three of four employees expect their employers to address employee needs holistically. In order to attract and retain the most qualified employees in this new environment, SMBs will have to look beyond traditional benefits offerings.
What Kinds of Benefits Are Employees—and SMBs—Looking For?
The MetLife Study found employees are seeking benefits across four broad dimensions of health: financial health, mental health, physical health, and social health. HR service providers that offer benefits across these four dimensions will be in a better position to help SMBs and their employees thrive.
1. Financial Health
SMBs and their employees have been hit hard by the economic repercussions of the pandemic. Employees are dealing with furloughs, disrupted shifts, and decreased hours. A Pew Research Study found that one in four adults has had trouble paying their bills since the pandemic started; one in three have tapped savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet.
The financial health issues that concern employees also concern their employers. One survey found that 58 percent of employees said they are stressed about their finances. Of those, 50 percent said stress about finances caused them to be distracted at work, impacting productivity.
That is why benefits that support employee financial health can make good business sense. An example of a financial wellness program designed for employees is FinFit. FinFit is a self-directed, online program that provides employees with financial wellness education and resources.
2. Mental Health
Mental health is another top concern for employers and employees. Early in the pandemic, one survey found that 69 percent of workers identified the coronavirus pandemic as the most stressful time of their entire career. The same study found that 62 percent of workers reported losing at least one hour a day in productivity due to pandemic-related stress; 32 percent reported losing more than two hours per day.
Employers have an important role to play in helping employees address these issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “the workplace is an optimal setting to create a culture of health” that can help employees manage stress and address mental health concerns.
Workplace solutions that are integrated into the employer’s HR service provider platform offer an efficient way to provide mental health and stress management support. An example is Doctegrity. Doctegrity is a telemedicine benefit that gives employees 24/7/365 access to doctors and mental health therapists.
3. Physical Health
Traditional healthcare benefits (medical, dental, and/or vision insurance) are just the beginning of addressing employee health needs in today’s environment. The impact of traditional benefits can be enhanced by leveraging added benefits that expand employee access to healthcare and wellness.
For example, as out-of-pocket (OOP) healthcare costs rise, studies show that even individuals with employer-sponsored insurance are worried about their ability to manage the cost of deductibles, copays and coinsurance. Employers can address this concern by offering additional insurance products. For example, Aflac® offers both critical illness insurance and hospital indemnity insurance options for employers. These types of options can help offset OOP costs for employees.
Since the advent of the pandemic, another aspect of physical health that is top of mind for both SMBs and their employees is safety in the workplace. A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that employees are very concerned about workplace safety.
The poll also found that employees at smaller companies (fewer than 100 employees) were less likely than those at larger companies to approve of how their employers have handled the pandemic with respect to employee safety. HR service providers can help their SMBs address these concerns by offering access to a program, such as SAFE Return to Work, that provides the tools and information SMBs need to address pandemic-related employee safety issues.
A third example of taking a holistic approach to physical health is by offering fitness alternatives to employees. The pandemic has closed large numbers of fitness centers, recreation centers, and gyms. Employers can help meet employee fitness needs by offering programs such as Trainiac, a phone-based fitness program.
4. Social Health
Social health primarily refers to interpersonal relationships. Employers can impact this dimension of health by focusing on the employee experience. Strategic attention to onboarding, employee benefits, professional development, performance management and related processes can foster a culture that supports employees’ social health.
For example, ThrivePass offers a holistic approach to benefits that includes a customized Well-being Program for employees, a Rewards program (performance and service awards), and Learning Reimbursement options. Likewise, the National Gift Card (NGC) program enables SMBs to order gift cards for employees at discounted rates.
Another solution that emphasizes total well-being is LifeSpeak. LifeSpeak is a digital education solution that gives employees 24/7/365 access to video trainings on topics ranging from physical and mental wellness, to financial planning, to social connection, to career planning.
How to Bring New Benefits to the Table
SMBs understand they need to be offering more robust benefits packages to their employees. A study by Accenture found that “leaders are taking more responsibility for workers’ holistic well-being and are actively seeking to earn their trust.”
SMBs know they need to maintain a competitive edge to appeal to and engage the high-quality employees that can help their businesses grow. The ability to offer a comprehensive menu of benefits can help SMBs differentiate themselves from other employers. Furthermore, the MetLife study found that employees who were satisfied with their employer’s benefits were more likely to demonstrate loyalty and commitment to their employer.
HR service providers are in an ideal position to help their SMB clients achieve the goals of increased employee satisfaction and engagement through expanded benefits. By offering a platform that integrates benefits across many categories, HR service providers can help their clients recruit, retain, and engage high-quality employees. That creates a win/win for both the SMBs and the HR service providers that support them.
Now is a great time to work with your SMB clients (and prospects) to assess the value and effectiveness of their benefits. SMBs want to meet the expectations of their employees. To that end, SMBs will be looking for HR service providers who can help them offer a comprehensive benefits package.
HR service providers who offer an easy-to-implement, affordable and integrated benefits package will increase their value to—and the loyalty of—their SMB clients.