Employee benefits play a key role in helping organizations attract and retain employees. But not all benefits are valued equally by all employees. As the U.S. workforce becomes more diverse in terms of racial and ethnic background, native language, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, health, work location and more, employers need to respond by offering a more diverse slate of benefits that employees can customize to meet their needs.
The first step in designing a more diverse benefits plan is to start a dialogue with employees. Employers can survey their workforce, host all-employee forums or roundtables, or arrange smaller employee/ HR discussion groups to start gathering this information. This should be an ongoing information gathering effort to make sure that as employees’ needs change, their benefit options continue to meet those needs.
Meeting employees where they are
What a 21-year-old employee who rarely goes to the doctor is looking for from a benefits package will be quite different than what an employee with a child on the autism spectrum, a 45-year-old who has been diagnosed with cancer, a gay couple seeking support with fertility, or a 50-year-old trying to balance their own health needs and those of an aging parent is seeking.
While meeting these diverse needs may look exceptionally complex at first glance, there are some options that can help employers meet their employees’ needs without having to create a plan that includes an overwhelming number of different benefits.
- Benefits that support preventive care and chronic condition management: Access to primary care to help employees get the screenings, care, and advice they need to be healthier and lower their risk of developing chronic health problems like diabetes and back pain is essential. But employee access to this care can be affected by where they live and work, their cultural background and native language, their understanding of the role of preventive care in health and well-being, and other factors. To provide broader access to preventive and primary care, employers can provide multiple entrance points to care. That can include on-site screening and immunization clinics, physical and mental health telemedicine options, and case management support for employees living with chronic health conditions. There should also be an educational component, in multiple languages if needed, that helps employees understand why this care is important and how to access it.
- Diverse provider networks: When choosing a health plan, health education program, or other health-related benefit, it’s important to look at the provider networks to make sure there are options for employees who speak other languages, options that are sensitive to cultural and other considerations (modesty tenets for certain faiths or providers who have experience working with trans patients), and options that make it easy for employees who are deskless, are on the road, work remotely, work swing shifts, or live in medically underserved areas to receive the care they need easily.
- Benefits for employees and dependents facing serious illnesses or injuries. Remote and in-person second medical opinions can be especially valuable to employees in this situation. A second opinion can help ensure that the diagnosis is accurate and provide evidence-based information about all appropriate treatment options so employees can make an informed decision. By lowering the risk of misdiagnosis and treatment errors, second opinions not only safeguard employee health, they can also help lower employer healthcare costs and the risk of lost productivity. Case management and support are also helpful for these employees, providing access to a trained support person who can answer questions, check to see if employees are following their treatment plan, and connect them with other resources they may need like mental health providers, dietitians, or rehabilitation specialists.
- Access that works for everyone: Employers can craft a high quality, diverse health benefits plan, but if it’s not easy for all employees to access, it won’t be very valuable. Employees need to be continuously educated about how to access their benefits. That education should be tailored to address the different ways employees prefer to get information — written materials, in-person and remote meetings with HR team members, through an app or web portal, via text or email, or by calling a helpline. As mentioned before, the information and access points also need to be in the languages employees are most comfortable with and in language that’s appropriate for their reading level. Depending on the employee population, employers may also need to consider whether employees have Wi-Fi access and a computer at home, how tech savvy they are, and what their abilities are (sight or hearing impaired, for example).
Source – benefitnews.com