New-Age Technologies for Enhanced Employee Engagement
The pandemic was a watershed moment in the global marketplace as companies quickly shifted to remote work to keep their businesses functioning. As working from home quickly became the norm, one silver lining soon became apparent: the new age technologies and their custom-built products and services employers used to improve employee engagement and satisfaction. In light of their new circumstances, employees developed greater expectations in terms of benefits, rewards, and recognition. Employers responded by partnering with benefits providers to offer enhanced mental and physical wellness and financial education/planning offerings. With proven research on how employee engagement contributes to resilience and productivity, employers continue to leverage the latest technologies to offer superior benefits plans to ensure employees’ long-term loyalty, satisfaction, and retention.
The Need for New Age Technology Benefits
With the rise of new work models, employees have come to expect and demand more flexible benefit plans from their employers. In response, employers continue to partner with benefits providers to tap into the best technology possible to improve the engagement levels of employees, and with good reason: studies have proved that raises alone do not increase employee retention. A 2016 Gallup study drew the connection between consistently low engagement and team performance and suggested that when an employee’s engagement needs are not met, there is a higher likelihood of turnover — which can cost an employer 1.5 times the employee’s original salary.1 The study also found that engaged teams have lower turnover, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, and 10% higher customer ratings than disengaged teams.2 With this in mind, employers are focusing on such key areas as physical and mental wellness, as well as financial education and planning tools when developing and offering tailored and enhanced benefits.
Physical wellness benefits
In the pandemic’s wake, employees feel that their families’ health is more important than ever before. Traditional insurers and insurtechs are emphasizing customized physical wellness initiatives, including solutions to track employee fitness, workout hours, calorie burn, etc., through gamified mobile applications and wearables. Benefits providers are also offering maternity care, telemedicine, and virtual physician services for employees’ greater security and peace of mind. Most of these services use disruptive technologies including IoT, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud capabilities.
Some examples of current technology-based physical wellness benefits include:
- John Hancock’s Vitality solution, which keeps employees engaged with its gamified app and allows them to get Amazon discounts for healthy habits and savings of up to $15 a month on promoted healthy foods. It also offers discounts on fitness devices and digital access to healthy recipes, nutrition experts, and other resources.
- Metlife’s Global Mobile & Expatriate Wellness Solution, a global expatriate program for physical wellness that provides health support to employees and their families when they are abroad. They can consult physicians via telemedicine and take advantage of informational resources over digital platforms to treat colds and flu, more serious ailments such as cancer and cardiac conditions, and overcome tobacco addiction with structured treatment programs.
- YuLife, a UK-based insurtech, has partnerships with leading insurers like AIG to engage and encourage members to lead healthy lifestyles. It promotes physical activity by encouraging and incentivizing healthy habits such as walking, running, and other exercise. Its app, YuLife, is centered around a virtual world focused on gamification called Yuniverse, which can also sync with other common health apps. Incentives come in the form of a YuCoin, a coin that can be redeemed in health- and wellness-related stores, on sports platforms, for wearables purchases, and for donation programs. Among employees, 60% participate in YuLife, with 46% using the app monthly.
Mental wellness benefits
The past two years took a serious toll on employees’ mental health worldwide. The isolation, quarantine measures, and constant threat of new waves and strains of infection severely affected employees and their families. Employers are responding with remote medical counseling and webinars on mental wellness and other modalities such as meditation and yoga to ease mental distress. Recent studies also revealed that employees’ children were especially susceptible to depression during the pandemic. During the crisis, the CDC reported that the proportion of mental health-related ER visits went up by 24% for young children and 31% for tweens and teens in 2020.3 This led to many employees opting into mental health benefits as a part of a flexible benefits plan. Out of the 293 employers surveyed by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), 23% said they added mental therapy sessions as a benefit, while 9% are considering them in the near future.4
Some examples of current technology-based mental health wellness benefits include:
- Benefitfocus, a South Carolina-based insurance platform provider specializing in group benefits, uses an app called Happify. It is a mood training mental health app that teaches resiliency through gamification. It uses various techniques developed by scientists who have expertise in cognitive behavior, psychology, and mindfulness.
- Guardian, a leading life insurance and employee benefits provider, has partnered with a leading mental wellness provider named Spring Health. Through this partnership, Guardian aims to improve employee retention and loyalty for its clients by providing access to mental health professionals.
- Cigna offers access to a network mental health provider for its customers’ employees. It also offers online consultation, referrals to support groups, and other mental health services.
Financial education/planning benefits
Along with the physical and mental health toll of the pandemic, many employees also noted that finances were of greater concern with reports of job cuts and medical bills for those infected with covid. Since 76% of employers believe employees are less productive at work when they have personal finance concerns, they are looking at ways to improve employees’ financial wellbeing, while benefits providers are starting to offer innovative tools to provide financial security.5
Some examples of current technology-based financial education and planning include:
- Benefit Scout, Securian’s AI-based interactive platform, helps employees decide on their benefits plans by answering a few simple questions about their lifestyle, family, savings, investments, and debts. The platform calculates the best options for them based on their responses through data and decision logic. Employees can then customize their plans based on the provided product recommendations and estimates. Employees are also given 24/7 access to a virtual assistant chatbot named Scout and can build claim scenarios to estimate potential payouts.
- myHealth&Wealth, Voya Financial’s digital tool, helps employees make more informed choices when selecting their benefits and enrolling in a workplace retirement plan.
- Prudential’s virtual seminars on financial education and virtual financial checkups.
Employers and benefits providers have made great strides in developing new-age technology-based benefits for employee engagement and satisfaction. While they are at the crossroads in terms of how current and future technologies progress, one thing is certain: employees will still expect customized and enhanced flexible benefits. As a result, employers and benefits providers must continue to tap into the best technology or combination of technologies to provide employees with a personalized and engaging experience. These efforts will help employers improve employee engagement, satisfaction, and sustained loyalty while solidifying their positions in the greater insurance marketplace.
1 “Four Lessons From Companies That Get Employee Engagement Right,” Forbes, June 2018
3 Mental Health–Related Emergency Department Visits Among Children Aged <18 Years During the COVID-19 Pandemic — U.S., January 1–October 17, 2020, RT Leeb, RH Bitsko, L. Radhakrishnan, P. Martinez, R. Njai, KM Holland, CDC, November 2020
4 “Employee Benefits in a COVID-19 World-One-Year Update,” International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, August 2022
5 “Employees’ Financial Issues Affect Their Job Performance,” Stephen Miller, SHRM, April 2016