Businessolver MyChoice Recommendation Engine Report Reveals Why Employees Struggle With Benefits Decisions

Latest data uncovers employees’ state of mind when making benefits choices, giving organizations the opportunity to drive better engagement

A new report released from Businessolver, a leader in SaaS-based benefits administration technology and services, reveals that a lack of benefits literacy, poor financial health, and emotional considerations such as risk aversion are impacting employees’ benefits decisions. Drawing on nearly a half-million responses completed in the MyChoice Recommendation Engine, Businessolver’s decision guidance tool integrated into the Benefitsolver platform, the MyChoice Recommendation Engine Benefits Insights Report captures employees’ challenges, priorities, and emotional state during benefits selection.

The data is drawn from specially designed questions that employees answered to get a personalized benefits recommendation during the 2019 annual enrollment period. Because it represents real-time employee responses, not a separate survey, these findings provide a glimpse into the context in which employees choose their benefits. It also demonstrates how benefits are a vital safety net protecting employees’ physical, emotional, and financial well-being, but they’re still challenging for employees to understand.

“Employers are spending about a third of all compensation dollars on employee benefits, and these benefits are increasingly important as an asset for recruitment and retention in today’s labor market,” says Rae Shanahan, Businessolver’s Chief Strategy Officer. “As these benefits packages become more complex to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse, multi-generational workforce, employers need to understand how their employees are making choices and take steps to help them navigate decision-making to maximize their benefits investments.”

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Benefits literacy in crisis

The MyChoice Recommendation Engine Benefits Insights Report shows that over 80% of employees are not knowledgeable about their benefits packages. Only 19% described themselves as “a pro” when it comes to benefits, and a full 30% reported they are outright confused by benefits. This level of confusion was relatively evenly distributed across age groups, with a quarter of Baby Boomers, a third of Gen Xers, and 35% of Millennials responding they’re confused. The data also reveals that most employees are risk averse, with 65% describing themselves as low-risk takers.

Low levels of benefits literacy combined with low risk tolerance means that employees are not fully understanding their benefits options and risk choosing what seems safest or most familiar, not necessarily what benefits package is most appropriate for their particular situation–which could lead to either over- or under-insuring. If employees pay for unnecessary coverage, or conversely, don’t have enough benefits and coverage, it can lead to significant financial pressures for the employee and potentially higher employer costs if, for example, emergency care is over-used.

As a result, HR professionals must re-evaluate how they’re communicating benefits information to employees, what they are communicating and how often, to help address the ongoing crisis in benefits literacy. By offering personalized guidance around are very complex decisions, HR can empower their employees to make benefits choices based on knowledge, not emotion. This in turn leads to better awareness of and engagement with their entire compensation package.

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Financial well-being is a key component of benefits

The MyChoice Recommendation Engine Benefits Insights Report also highlights how employers must take steps to support employees’ overall financial well-being along with their physical and mental health. According to the data, 50% of respondents would “feel panicked” by a typical emergency room bill. Notably, even those higher on the earnings scale agree with this sentiment — 26% of employees earning $100,000 or more a year said they would panic.

Financial issues are common to all demographics, but employees at different ages face different challenges. For example, 63% of Millennials are most concerned about their monthly budget, and 56% of Gen Xers agree. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are more worried about a large, unexpected cost (53%). This data suggest that employers should offer varied financial well-being benefits so that employees at different life stages have access to the help they need.

It’s vital that employers provide decision guidance strategies and leverage recommendation tools to help employees make informed, financially sound decisions about their benefits. This can help overcome the stress and loss of productivity that come with financial issues, leading to engaged employees who are more likely to stay with their employer and be more productive while at work.

The right technology provides the right information

As the MyChoice Recommendation Engine Benefits Insights Report clarifies, employers must implement HR technology that is easy to use and provides employees with a holistic view of their benefits. Recommendation tools that leverage non-technical questions in the moment that employees are making important benefits decisions can provide personalized recommendations for employees based on their health, finances, and emotional state. And, they reveal potential employee pain points so that HR professionals can adequately evaluate their benefits offerings and communications.

“When employers have the latest data about their workforce, they’re equipped to design strategies that address varied needs and can make a meaningful difference in their employees’ lives,” says Sherri Bockhorst, Businessolver’s Strategy Practice Leader. “HR must view benefits as a full continuum of employee support — physical, mental, and financial well-being are interconnected, and they all play a role in employees’ engagement and productivity.”

For organizations seeking to stand out in today’s challenging and dynamic labor market, the MyChoice Recommendation Engine Benefits Insights Report provides valuable findings on how employers can improve overall employee well-being. From benefits literacy to generational needs, this data points the way towards improving employees’ overall health and organizations’ business outcomes.

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