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401K

11 | 2016

The Magazine of WorldatWork ©

®

By Ray Baumruk, Aon Hewitt

Get to know your
employees’ needs
to improve your
organization’s
benefit offerings.

For employers, understanding their
employees’ needs helps to develop
competitive benefits to attract talent.
“Why are the benefits so complicated? Can’t it be simpler and just fit
into my life better? Why can’t I get
benefits the way that works best for
me — what I need, when I need it,
and how I want it?”
These are some typical sentiments
from employees in focus groups
across the country — Millennials and

© 2016 WorldatWork. All Rights Reserved. For information about reprints/re-use, email copyright@worldatwork.org

Baby Boomers; men and women; and
in nearly every imaginable demographic and psychographic segment.
As an HR and rewards professional,
you are probably familiar with
such comments. In my 23 years
of conducting research, I have
heard them often.
With the many changes in benefits
over the years, most of which
shift more responsibility and cost
to employees, are benefits still an

| www.worldatwork.org

november 2016  workspan | 39

| 877-951-9191

There are several ways to better understand
the consumer mindset and experience,

such as interviews, surveys
and focus groups.

important part of the employment
value proposition for employers? The
data would say, “You bet!”
With historically low unemployment and relatively low wage growth
in the United States, employers are
rediscovering benefits as a way to set
themselves apart. The most recent
Workforce Mindset Study from Aon
Hewitt illustrates that point. More
than 60 percent of U.S. employees
say “above average benefits” are most
likely to differentiate one employer
from another. (See Table 1.)
This is ranked second only to
above-average pay and in a statistical
dead heat for the top ranking. As
further evidence, a recent study
by the Society of Human Resource
Management (SHRM) showed that
while the core benefits of health care,
retirement and time off have stayed
relatively unchanged over the past
20 years, the number of other benefits
offered by employers has dramatically
expanded. Nearly every week, there
is news of employers expanding
offerings in parental leave, student
loan repayment, time off, physical
wellness and financial well-being.
So if benefits can be a source
of differentiation and offerings
have expanded to address an everchanging and diverse workforce, what
can be done to address the employee
confusion and frustration?

40  | workspan  november 2016

TABLE 1 

|  Top 10 Differentiators
in 2016

1

Provides above average pay

2

Provides above average benefits

3

Is a fun place to work

4

Has a flexible work environment

5

Is a strong fit with my values

6

Provides stimulating work

7

Is an innovative organization

8

Is financially successful/
market leader

9

Encourages appropriate
work-life balance

10
10
(tie)

Empowers employees
Provides valuable career/
development opportunities

Source: 2016 Aon Hewitt “Workforce Mindset Study”

Understanding the
Consumer Mindset
First, we have to understand the
employee mindset and experience.
In fact, we might rephrase that to
the consumer mindset and experience. Let’s face it, our employees
really are consumers of benefits, and
their expectations for their consumer
experience have changed dramatically throughout the years as they
have become accustomed to how

companies such as Amazon, Google,
Apple, Facebook and Starbucks
deliver more than just a product or
service and truly offer an experience.
There are several ways to better
understand the consumer mindset
and experience, such as interviews,
surveys and focus groups. These
research techniques can be ongoing
best practices to identify breakdowns
in the benefits experience, measure
change and find ways to enhance the
experience to drive greater appreciation and participation in programs.
Using a benefits-perception survey,
one health-oriented company learned
that the perceived competitiveness
of many of its benefits programs
was significantly below the actual
competitive value. This prompted the
company to reinvigorate its communication approach, which increased
perceptions without changing
the plan designs.
Another technique that has
proven to be incredibly insightful
is borrowed from our friends in
marketing and is called experience mapping or journey mapping.
Experience mapping begins by
creating realistic personas containing
important characteristics of various
employee segments. Then representative teams take on the personalities
of those personas in a workshop and
work through the different touch

points, processes and communication elements they may encounter.
But unlike more traditional process
reviews, the personas’ actions, reactions and pain points are documented
within the context of their real lives
and all the accompanying complexities and uncertainties. By identifying
the pain points and all the different
elements the person may be encountering, companies from the financial
and professional services to retail
and manufacturing have enhanced
the benefits experiences significantly
for their employees, and likewise
the use and perceived value of them.
When we effectively understand
the consumer mindset and
experience, we are best equipped
to truly integrate benefits into
the context of the daily lives of
employees and their families.
That drives stronger engagement
and productivity as understanding
increases, appreciation of the value
and use of the benefits rises, and
differentiation of the employment
value proposition is enhanced.

Integrating
Benefits into People’s
Experiences
But to make sure current and
prospective employees recognize,
appreciate and fully leverage the
unique value from their benefits, we
need to reimage the benefits value
proposition and put benefits in the
context of people’s daily experiences.
Through using the previously
outlined techniques and leveraging the insights from behavioral
economics, many organizations
identify effective ideas for integrating
benefits into everyday employment
and personal life experiences. The
objective is to guide consumers into
optimal decisions, participation and
related behaviors.
There are many innovative examples, including:
❙❙ Adding work environment health
cues such as signs near elevators
pointing to stairs and showing how
many steps employees can achieve.

❙❙ Adding reminders about 401(k)
contributions or discount purchase
programs that let employees save
money on purchases or services
(i.e., find money when they can’t
afford to save for the future) during
annual enrollment.
❙❙ Putting portion sizes on cafeteria
trays and calorie counts or
healthy-alternative indicators
on food choices.
❙❙ Creating content-focused events
such as “Money Month” to highlight
opportunities to leverage benefits
value outside the annual enrollment time frame.
❙❙ Adding features such as mobile
capability, easy-to-use apps, timeof-need/geo-location alerts and
text-message reminders to well-being
or benefits technology platforms.

Reframing to Address People’s
Priority — Overall Well-Being?
While integrating benefits into the
context of experiences is highly effective in adding value, reframing can
be valuable as well, research shows.
Traditionally we have marketed
and delivered benefits in silos or
categories that work for human
resources — health, retirement, paid
time off, etc. But employees tell us
they don’t understand the benefits,
have difficulty navigating them, are
not sure when or how to use them
and therefore don’t realize the true
benefit employers seek to provide.
Employees tell us that while there is
significant attention and communication about benefits during annual
enrollment periods, benefits just
don’t fit easily into the context of
their daily lives.
According to Aon Hewitt’s 2016
Consumer Health Mindset Study,
when asked about framing benefits in
an overall well-being context, more
than 75 percent of employees said
it would make their employer more
attractive to future employees, make
them more likely to stay with their
employer and increase their overall
satisfaction with their employer. This
percentage rose significantly for

When we
effectively
understand
the consumer
mindset and
experience,
we are best
equipped to truly
integrate benefits
into the context
of the daily lives
of employees and
their families.

november 2016  workspan | 41

Figure 1 | “If My Employer Would Take an Integrated Approach to Well-Being, It Would . . .”
All

Millennials

Gen Xers

Boomers

Make my
employer
more
attractive
to future
employees

76%
86%
75%
69%

Make me
more
likely to
stay
with my
employer

70%
81%
70%
62%

Help
increase
my overall
satisfaction
with my
employer

76%
85%

physical health issues.) Another
positive outcome has been for
employers to be better able to link
decision-making across benefit plans
(e.g., how to decide whether to save
in a 401(k) plan, Health Savings
Account (HSA), build an emergency
fund or reduce debt).
Benefits can be a great source of
creating and sustaining a differentiating employment value proposition.
But this differentiation doesn’t come
easily. Employers can achieve their
desired outcomes — both for the
people and the business — by truly
understanding the consumer mindset,
expectations and experience and
then putting the benefits into the
context of those experiences and
reimaging the ways employees and
their families understand and engage
in those benefits. 

75%
Editor’s Note  The 2016 Consumer Health

70%
0%

20%

40%

60%

80%

Mindset Study is a trademark of Aon.

100%

Source: 2016 “Aon Hewitt Consumer Health Mindset Study.” Figures represent the percentage of respondents that agree with
each statement. A definition of “integrated approach to well-being” was provided to ensure consistent interpretation. See full
study for more detail.

Ray Baumruk  is a partner in the Consumer
Experience practice at Aon Hewitt in Lincolnshire,
Ill., focused on developing and leveraging
research and insights about the workforce.

the youngest group of employees —
Millennials. (See Figure 1.)
Several leading organizations have
begun to reframe and reposition
their benefits in an overall wellbeing context, focusing on aspects of
physical, emotional/mental, financial,
social and career wellness. The idea
is to position benefits as tools and
resources to help employees live

their day-to-day lives more fully
and address what matters most to
them at any given time in any given
situation. This type of reframing has
also helped employees begin to see
a more integrated and connected
set of benefits, such as how financial wellness can impact health
outcomes. (Financial concerns are
a leading source of stress that drive

Contact him at ray.baumruk@aonhewitt.com.

resources plus
For more information, books and
education related to this topic, log
on to www.worldatwork.org and
use any or all of these keywords:
❙❙ Employment Value Proposition
❙❙ Benefits
❙❙ Total Rewards.

EMC 2, a Fortune 500 IT company with 70,000 employees,
wanted to better grab employee attention to benefits and inspire action. Using
experience mapping, benefits practitioners could fully view the communication
plan through the target audience’s eyes and plot out the path as employees (as
well as dependents) interacted with all the touch points. The exercise helped
evaluate what was reaching people and when, as well as exposed gaps in spouse/
domestic partner messaging. The results led to changes to timing and media,
including promoting text messages, soliciting “healthies” (instead of selfies)
featuring real employee photos and leveraging one-minute videos giving people
a health-care snapshot.

42  | workspan  november 2016


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