By Heather Garbers and Dan Openshaw

Employers seeking to manage risk in this pandemic environment should be mindful of the need to strengthen their social contract with their workforce. That’s going to make it critical to step up their game with voluntary benefits: the more effectively they harness the power of their employee benefits data to get there, the better it’ll serve everyone’s interests.

Smarter use of analytics can help you design and offer health plans tailored to which employee groups they best suit – from low-wage earners to executives. Given the abundance of new benefits products and vendors, using employee benefits analytics is also a great way to clear the mud so you can focus on products that are the best fit for employees with unique needs.

Here are four steps to applying a data-driven lens to your voluntary benefits:

  1. Dive into HUB’s workforce persona analysis to inform strategies. Your first task is to understand who your people are and where they are at in their life and work journeys. It’s not enough to learn that you have three of five generations represented in your workplace, heavily weighted toward Millennials and Generation Xers and college debt is a shared burden. Analysis of workforce personas adds layers to your insights about employees, such as how long they’ve been in the workforce generally and working for you, specifically; their level of engagement with benefits and which, in particular; and what they expect of their benefits.
  2. Utilize benchmarking to discover benefits opportunities and gaps. Most people think of benchmarking, when it comes to employee benefits, as a competitive thing: how well do yours stand up against the competition or similarly sized employers? That’s only part of the puzzle. You can benchmark based on U.S. population trends, on geography, on industries and on benefits offered, too. Benchmarking is a great way to identify opportunities and gaps in your offerings. Looking at your employee population against U.S. Census data for, say, New York City, you may find that a worrisome percentage of your workers there (though less than national medians) are spending a disproportionate percentage of their pay on rent and live in food deserts. The implications – financial stress and physical health issues – can give you a direction for voluntary benefit offers.
  3. Apply analytics to benefits usage (or other data sets) to add to your perspective on options. The opportunities are pretty open-ended. Looking at claims trends can help you identify areas of financial waste (by employees and you), flag areas where education is needed, such as in healthcare services, and, yes, point to gaps in major medical coverage that voluntary benefits like hospital indemnity and accident insurance could address.
  4. Analytics should also guide your benefits communications. We all know the generalities about different generations and how they prefer to engage, but doing the groundwork should shed more light on your emphasis in your communications. Beyond keeping your messaging short, sweet and visual and using the right channels, workforce personas will enable you to focus on matters that really count. Take, for example, the new-to-the-workforce 20-something, who has next to no experience with benefits but is primed to learn. By emphasizing the value of benefits and pain points they address, like aid in managing college debt, you are forming the start of strong ties early in the individual’s career.

We have come a long way in the last few years in the ability of middle-market employers to more securely put their benefits data to work for them. The insights that result – into employee groups, benefits usage patterns, and, ultimately, future needs and wants – have a lot of power in shaping the benefits and an employer/employee relationship that matters.

HUB International’s employee benefit specialists consult with employers of all sizes and in all industries on every aspect of employee benefits program planning and management.