Post-pandemic, business and benefits are all about hyper-personalization

The pandemic was a tectonic shift that changed the world. Businesses were closed and only the most important workers were allowed to appear Workplace. The skies over Los Angeles, where I live, became crystal clear as the commuter pollution disappeared. The streets were empty. Mainstream workers began demanding hazard pay, PPPs, increased paid sick leave and job retention. What followed was not the “few weeks to flatten the curve” promised by politicians, but 24 months that would change everything.

I was recently honored to be invited to participate in a web chat series sponsored by BCS Financial and hosted by Eric Silvermanfounder of Voluntary Disruption to discuss the massive impact that COVID-19 is having on HR and employee income industry. During this conversation, I mentioned that no single event has done more to shake the societal status quo since 9/11.

There is no going back to the old game of benefit fairs and brown bag lunches and studies that fail to acknowledge the new anxieties, telecommuters and the Great Resignation. But there is a silver lining for those looking for a way to differentiate your consulting practice.

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COVID has caused working Americans to take stock of their benefits, realizing both their volatility and their financial exposure. After years of apathy and disengagement, they’re now ready to get actively involved—and it didn’t take a cancer diagnosis to spark that realization.

HR departments dealing with multiple confusing issues are eager for solutions to all their new problems. Allowing customers to talk about their concerns will provide all the information you need to get your money’s worth. Two areas of concern you’ll hear about most often include unsustainable spending and a weak grasp of strategic imperatives.

With health care costs growing at twice the rate of wages and three times the rate of inflation (before the recent spike), they are expected to double by 2027, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey. In addition, Aflac reports that new plan designs and other cost containment strategies have failed to capture the attention and imagination of employees. After just 32 minutes of looking at their options, 92% defaulted to their previous coverage.

As both core and voluntary benefits become increasingly commercialized, industry professionals and carriers can no longer approach product categories such as core, voluntary, ancillary, etc., in a single silo. This leaves them to tell only part of the story, further exacerbating the challenges of poor employee decision-making, which has resulted in an estimated 80% wrong coverage selection. The result is an average of $1,431 a year in unnecessary costs and many of the aforementioned HR issues. So what are the solutions?

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Those who are starting to make big profits in this new environment have realized that today’s challenges are less about planning and cost comparison and more about employee engagement and education. Their strategies use modern technology and multi-channel communication (voice broadcast, MMS, text, email, video) to build robust campaigns that extend corporate narratives of care.

They also use gratitude and appreciation to build organizational loyalty and as a catalyst for action, trying to move the needle on employees becoming proactive consumers. And they meet employees where they are, providing hyper-personalized decision support from empathetic subject matter experts in a hybrid way. When on-site is not an option, they use web conferencing to maintain the intimacy of one-on-one interactions with the added flexibility that mitigates worry and liability and offers maximum flexibility for employees to get the support they deserve. This is the silver lining!

COVID has forced companies to be nimble to survive. They used text to reach employees about pressing business-related issues, such as closings and outbreaks. They used Zoom meetings to create a connection when social distancing made otherwise impossible. And the best foster a sense of community through a narrative of concern and care.

Employees also adapted. They were forced to take personal responsibility, finding new ways to cope with freedom and balance priorities and distractions. They were required to take in massive amounts of information and decipher what actions to take to create adequate peace of mind around the safety and security of their loved ones. Out of necessity (in most cases), they embraced the technology – accelerating its adoption by approximately 12 years in less than 24 months. This not only paved the way for telecommuting, but also allowed them to send their children to school, attend religious services and participate in happy hours. For many, Zoom has become the new phone call and replaced the two-hour daily commute.

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The fact is that 24 months ago, if you tried to introduce a hybrid approach to solving the ailments that plagued your customers, it would probably have been met with objections of “low complexity” and serious doubt that it would succeed. There will be reluctance to use voice broadcast or text despite the ineffectiveness of traditional web portals, manuals and email campaigns. But HR teams today have proof that these modalities are effective and well accepted. They’ve experienced firsthand the effectiveness of outreach outside of email and seen employees nimbly navigate what once seemed impossible.

Finally, ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and realize that the answers to today’s problems are not found in spreadsheets or blueprints. They are more likely to be solvable by focusing on engagement strategies and providing decision support. Moments in time don’t last forever—I guess that’s why they’re called moments. I encourage you not to miss this.

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