Last week was the 5th annual Human Resources Executive Health and Benefits Leadership Conference from Las Vegas. I’ve attended many events over the years, and there is no better employee benefits-focused event in the nation in my opinion. It brings together engaged professionals for two and a half days of learning, sharing and problem solving. If you haven’t attended it yet, mark your calendars for next April. Until then, here are three trends I noticed from this year’s conference:
Aligning Global Benefits
Companies of all shapes and sizes are trying to simplify the management of benefits for employees overseas. This trend will continue as long as there’s a desire to centralize governance to headquarters, align philosophy, and create a consistent global employee experience. But progress in this arena is tempered by a few current shortcomings which will need to be rectified including a lack of seamless global solutions, an unwillingness by providers to work with small employee numbers abroad, and a shortage of subject matter experts.
Flexibility with Private Exchanges
Despite the specter of being linked to a contentious piece of legislation and the stain of calling something an ‘exchange’, the word from organizations that have gone down the private exchange path is overwhelmingly positive. Giving employees and their families more ownership and choice over how to spend a large chunk of their total rewards dollars is a definite positive. The latest trend? More companies are working with independent advisors to better understand how they can best put to use this new benefits model. I predict that over time the so-called exchanges will morph into what I dub Flexible Benefits 2.0; this will free up even more of those valuable benefits dollars so employees have increased control over how to spend them.
Financial Wellness Matters
Financial Wellness is the new black. Many benefits managers feel the need to do something in this space, not least because financially sound employees are less stressed and more productive in the workplace. Up until now, a lack of solutions and offerings that could move the needle has threatened the viability of the movement. In some cases, former predatory lending schemes and employee purchasing programs masquerade as answers while causing short term damage and a sense of buyer beware. I’m already seeing new solutions coming to market that address this void. Coupled with funds from long term benefits, this new trend may help many employees meet their most acute, near-term financial needs.
If you’re interested in a closer inspection of these thoughts and more, I had the opportunity to sit down with HR Happy Hour for a discussion during the Benefits Leadership Conference. Check it out on the podcast below:
Financial Wellness is one of the hottest topics in benefits circles so far this year. Surveys by Aon Hewitt and predictions by Benz Communications indicate its a top priority for employers, and traditional financial service providers are stumbling over themselves to get in on the action. While Benefits and HR professionals are trying to ascertain how to help employees meet their financial needs, I’ve been doing my own chewing on the subject.
I spent the first decade of my career in Defined Contribution and 401(k) retirement consulting. During that time, I learned the importance of saving and financial management not from the success stories I saw but from the acute failures I witnessed every day. As a twenty-something, I was profoundly impacted by the number of thirty, forty and fifty-somethings who weren’t saving enough… if they were saving at all.
Today, we all know the sad truth: that most Americans will not afford themselves the luxury of retirement because they’ve waited too long to save. They are swimming in debts that detract from their priorities and place hardship on their families and their health. When I was with Safeway I had the pleasure of working alongside Shawn Leavitt (now with Comcast). He was the first person that opened my eyes to the true impact of a family’s finances.
How many families of teenagers are worried that they won’t have the financial means to send them to college? What about if they need a knee replacement but don’t know where they should draw their money to pay for the hefty deductible? How many people are stuck working multiple jobs just to make ends meet? And what do their sleepless nights, poor health and juggling act of responsibilities do to their work productivity and creativity?
Though we continually slap people on the wrist because they aren’t setting aside at least 10% of their income for retirement, we all inherently know that Financial Wellness goes well beyond account balances. Employees need real assistance navigating these seas.
As a bright light shines on Financial Wellness there is an opportunity to think differently and craft resources around the employee experience. Let’s meet employees and their families where they are in this moment. Let’s engage with them and take it from there. Let’s create pathways so they can achieve what is most important to them, at this moment.
That’s why I am so excited to join up with the entrepreneurs at myFinancialAnswers as an advisor. They are bringing new thinking and an incredible team together to create something that is tangible, new and has real value for employees and their families.
As always, if you'd like to discuss please don't hesitate to reach out. I love this stuff.
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