Why employee experience shouldn’t stop short of health benefits

23 June, 2020

By Jennifer Jones MSM RD

Employee experience matters. It creates more engaged and productive employees, better customer experiences, and more innovative and profitable organizations. Research from KennedyFitch’s EX Leaders Network reports that 90% of companies said employee experience (EX) will increase in importance within their organizations in the next one to two years, and 50% said they set aside budget to execute their EX strategy this year.

In the past, many organizations have overlooked a key part of the employee experience: health benefits. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the U.S. healthcare environment back into the spotlight — and with it, the vast differences between organizations that effectively support employee health and those that don’t.

What does employee experience really mean?

Let’s back up for a minute to understand why this matters. EX is very different from engagement. More than just monitoring employee commitment and satisfaction, EX looks at the entire sum of an employee’s interactions, environments, and relationships.

Just like customer experience (CX) is about so much more than the point of sale, employee experience is about culture, managers, leadership, communication, recognition, workplace facilities, compensation, benefits, health and well-being — and probably many other things we haven’t even discovered yet.

Organizations that effectively prioritize EX identify how each of these touch points affects their people and redesign each of them to better support employees, advancing engagement, productivity, innovation, and customer satisfaction.

Why your health benefits strategy plays such an important role

An organization’s health benefits offering combines two critical pieces of the employee experience — total compensation and employee health. Health benefits impact not only the way employees feel about their compensation and value to your organization, but also how easily they’re able to manage their health, well-being, and personal finances.

On top of that, the actual experience of health benefits matters at several moments during the employee journey:

At onboarding, when employees sign up for their benefits plan

Every year during open enrollment

Every time employees get sick, go to the doctor, pick up a medication, pay a healthcare bill, or check their deductible

Yet even with the overwhelming majority of employers who are focused on employee experience, many of them are still providing one-size-fits-all health benefits packages to their people. Or at best, they provide a few limited options based on generalized data that aren’t relevant to their unique populations, let alone individual members.

If business leaders want to create a better employee experience, this must change.

How to rethink health benefits with EX in mind

Organizations must put their employees at the center of their health benefits strategies — and that means understanding their population’s unique needs according to age, gender, chronic conditions, risk factors, comorbidities, and personal preferences and expectations. With that level of insight, they can then design customized benefits plans for each segment.

Of course, as we’ve seen so clearly during the COVID-19 crisis, this information is always changing. Health trends, plan members, costs, and new insights on risk factors can shift quickly. Even before the pandemic, PwC projected healthcare costs would rise 6% this year — with cost continuing to be the primary driver for healthcare spend, growing at a faster rate than utilization. Organizations must be able to adapt with flexibility and accuracy, modeling how these changes will impact your plan and people, and making the best decisions based on your population’s and organization’s needs not only today, but months from now.

By providing data-driven personalization to better fit employee needs, you can drive:

Lower costs for your organization and employees

Higher employee satisfaction and engagement

Better benefits utilization and health outcomes

Decreased absenteeism and low productivity due to illness

More competitive benefits offerings to attract and retain top talent

Beyond these direct benefits, including health benefits in your employee experience efforts will further support and strengthen all other EX initiatives — showing employees that your entire people strategy is built around supporting, delighting, and equipping them to thrive. Right now, that’s what your people need to know more than anything.

Jennifer Jones MSM RD Sr. Director of Health Strategy, Springbuk