Financial Wellness

HBLC 2022 recap: Meet your employees where they are

HBLC 2022 emphasized the importance of offering benefits that meet employees at all stages of life, from better mental health to stronger financial well-being.
Forward motion

“Meet your employees where they are” was the overarching theme of this year’s Health and Benefits Leadership Conference (HBLC) hosted at ARIA Las Vegas. Three topics surfaced throughout the event that highlighted and reinforced the urgency of HBLC's theme:

  • Mental health — Exhibitors like Koa Health pushed the importance of employers offering mental health benefits, citing stats like 63% of employees today are ready to quit due to stress.
  • Employee savings — A lack of short-term savings remains a major barrier for employees to achieve better financial health. Many Americans still struggle to cover a $400 emergency.
  • Generation gaps — Personalized benefits keep gaining traction, and the generation gaps across most organizations is a big reason why. Gen Zers and baby boomers have widely different needs.

HBLC's theme showed that benefits are no longer about meeting employees at the doctor's office. Benefits today need to be comprehensive and responsive. They need to support employees through the unexpected as well as the routine, whether that's a financial emergency, mental health crisis, or needing last-minute help with child care.

What are HR and benefits leaders doing to meet employees where they are?

As HR and benefits leaders, we've spent years (some of us decades) providing basic benefits like medical, vision, and dental, plus retirement plans and flex savings plans. Along the way, some new fun ones like wellness stipends, pet insurance, and employee assistance plans entered the mix. But is that enough? No!

Let's take a closer look at the generation gap. As HR and benefits leaders, we need to acknowledge we have generation gaps, and how extremely difficult that makes creating a one-size-fits-all benefits package. Only then we can truly start to understand what benefits our employees need. The world we live in today has sandwiched four generations into our workforce: baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, and now Generation Z is coming in strong.

How generation gaps show the importance (and challenge) of offering benefits that meet employees where they are

Someone who is 33 today (millennial) likely won't have the same priorities or face the same challenges as someone who was 33 just 10 years ago (Gen Xer). Consider these examples:

  • A woman who is 33 today may not be thinking about having a baby and is instead faced with caring for an elderly parent. By contrast, a 33-year-old who had a baby 10 years ago is now more likely to be struggling to find childcare that is affordable for a single-parent income.
  • A single parent, going from two incomes to one and falling further behind on paying her bills on time, now finds herself in debt and without the resources or disposable income to establish an emergency savings fund.
  • An individual, going from an office work environment to an isolated at-home work environment, finds themselves alone, sad, tired, anxious, and overall feeling depressed. Now they're on anti-anxiety medication, but don’t have the means to afford therapy or a gym membership for their overall wellness.
  • An employee that is so close to retirement age sees that dream of retiring move further and further away due to the rising inflation and increasing cost of healthcare outside their employer.

All these employees are in much different places based on their generation. And yet, all need their benefits to help them meet their needs.

The opportunity for HR and benefits leaders to usher in a new era

What does this all mean? It means we have an opportunity as HR and Benefits leaders to help our employees find the resources and professional services they need to thrive and be well. We have the privilege of creating cost-effective, progressive benefits packages that can be one-size-fits-all because they deliver that much value. We've never been better resourced to do it.

The explosion of HR technology has given us the tools and research we need to “meet our employees where they are.” We're now capable of doing more than helping employees achieve greater financial, mental, and social health. We're also capable of equipping ourselves with the knowledge needed to confidently lead our organizations through a rapidly evolving benefits landscape.

How to start building benefits packages for the 21st century

If we offer cheaper costs for prescriptions that cover anti-depression or anti-anxiety medications, we need to also offer guidance, counseling, and coaching that match our employees with the right professional services. Mental health can be managed, but it doesn’t just stop at a pill. We need to challenge ourselves to educate employees so we reach those who may be struggling in silence. We should strive to make the path toward wellness as smooth as possible for our employees.

We also need to move away from thinking that more financial literacy and reading is going to solve the paycheck to paycheck epidemic. We need to implement a financial call-to-action tool that teaches employees how to plan, spend, borrow, and save their money all in the palm of their hand. We need to incentivize our employees to save for an emergency, and maybe even match their short-term savings.

What I ask of you is to look at your workforce, survey and talk to them, and identify where the biggest pain points are. Where are they struggling the most? Don’t just slap a bandage on it. Provide the “need to have” and “want to have” benefits. Trust that going the extra mile for your employees will result in them going the extra mile in return.

Wondering how to have the conversation with your workforce? Start by diving into "The State of Employee Financial Health Benefits." You'll learn how 1,000 hourly employees at large employers feel about their financial benefits, why 87% feel financially stressed, and what benefits would have the most impact on improving their financial wellness.

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