What’s New in Family Benefits?

The word “holistic” abounded in the opening general session at Health & Benefits Leadership Conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

The panel discussion centered on reimagining family-benefits strategies, with a number of HR and benefits leaders citing the importance of well-rounded benefits offerings.

“Whole living for us extends far beyond diet and exercise and includes the many ways in which we holistically integrate our lives,” said Andi Campell, senior vice president and head of HR at LAZ Parking. That includes the technology the company offers employees, its flex-time program, work-from-home opportunities and benefits like unlimited bereavement.

Alexander Voltovich, Marsh McLennan’s executive director of global benefits, said his organization’s approach to holistic care includes programs like a $10,000 adoption-assistance offering and backup childcare.

Holistic offerings go hand in hand with a commitment to caring for members of an employee’s family, added Jennifer Gentry, compensation and benefits partner at financial-services company Intuit Inc.

“We have a saying of bringing your whole self to work, and the programs we’ve developed are focused on how we can support that,” she said. Beyond the company’s four weeks of fully paid family-support leave, she said, it offers inclusive benefits like a second-opinion network that helps employees, family members and in-laws connect to medical treatment.

Voltovich said Marsh McLennan introduced a program last year after it noticed an uptick in the need for cancer care among employees and dependents. The initiative enables employees and family members who are impacted by a cancer diagnosis—either within their immediate family or even in an extended circle—to connect with top doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

At LAZ, the company’s largest healthcare spend is for employees’ spouses—who account for 1.5 times the total spend on employees. While that figure suggests the business need for treating all members of an employee’s circle, Campell said, costs are just one piece of the puzzle.

“From a business perspective, there’s no reason not to be doing this work … but you don’t need a case to care about people; it’s just being kind,” she said. “We’re focused on how to create better consumers of health—and that extends far beyond the person in the employee seat.”

Ensuring employees and their families are well informed of their benefits offerings, the panelists all agreed, is largely contingent upon effective benefits-communications strategies.

LAZ sends out weekly benefits emails targeted at specific populations—information about Medicare for older workers, resources about alcohol abuse for those deemed at risk and information about health screenings for the diabetic population, for instance. All communications are branded under the “Be Healthy, Be Whole” campaign, with consistency at their core so employees don’t feel they’re being targeted, Campell added.

Wellness coaches work with the HR and benefits team to sort through data to determine which populations need targeted communication, she said.

To inform its communication strategy, Gentry said, Intuit analyzes open and click-through rates, tracks health screenings and does A/B testing on communications to figure out which types of messaging best resonate. In the last year, it also started doing Facebook and Instagram ads, “targeting employees where they are.” Its most recent ad campaign reminded employees to complete a health screening, with a direct link to set up an appointment, she said.

While benefits professionals need to focus on effective communications to employees, they also should solicit feedback from them, she added. Intuit’s employee feedback has helped inform some of its more unique benefits offerings: egg freezing, equine therapy and the removal of the pre-authorization requirement after the first time someone seeks treatment for a chronic condition.

“And as things evolve, what is important to employees?” Gendry said. Answers to that question from employees, she said, helped the company revamp its wellness reimbursement program from a physical wellness focus to its current three-pillared strategy, focused on physical, financial and emotional wellness.

“We built out our eligible items based upon feedback from employees and we will continue to add things we may not have had thought of but that are prevalent in our communities and may be important to our employees,” she said.

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