Health

How to Bring Your Benefits Communication into the Digital Age

06 December, 2018
  • Marla Arnall

    Communications and branding leader, Mercer Marsh Benefits™

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“Today, employees want new ways of working and an experience that offers just–in-time, intuitive digital access, personalization, and wellness.”

The constant advancements in technology open up a wide variety of new choices for people, helping us build our own digital world. We can now do our weekly shopping in fully automated grocery stores that rely on cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves, and what they put back. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has personalized our homes by allowing devices to “talk” to each other. An example of this is a smart fridge with a built-in camera that displays the contents of the fridge on smartphones, which is another way technology makes shopping for groceries more convenient.

Businesses know that employees enjoy and make full use of computers and smartphones outside of work, so with change happening all around us, why is the way we communicate benefits not changing?

This is a topic I discussed at the recent 2018 Employee Benefits event in Singapore, and I’ll go into further detail about it here.

Today, employees want new ways of working and an experience that offers just–in-time, intuitive digital access, personalization, and wellness. But that isn’t easy. HR departments are under increasing pressure to not only design cost effective and attractive benefit programs, but also to deliver them in ways that demonstrate they truly care.

Fifty-three percent of employers communicate with their employees once a year about benefits. And the once a year communication is typically carried out in two standard ways: in person at the renewal session or by giving employees a handbook.1 Increasing the frequency of communication is one of the quickest ways for employers to boost employee engagement and appreciation of their benefits, and it’s worthwhile as employees who feel their needs are being met are 2x more likely to advocate.

What’s the best way to do this? For employers, making the experience digital is the future. However, this does not mean changes need to be made to the benefits design, there are many ways to enhance communication methods.

Four tips to make your benefit communication more like a consumer experience:

 

  1. 1. On brand: The names of brands are everywhere–on billboards, television, in shops, etc. showing that commodities and how we perceive them play a pivotal role in our lives. Therefore, branding your digital experience plays an important role in ensuring employees recognize the importance of benefits and it also helps to boost awareness.

  2. 2. Interactive: The days of encyclopedia-sized employee handbooks filled with pages of extensive benefit entitlements written in insurance jargon are a thing of a past. However, a more user-friendly employee handbook is still relevant, and employers are now advised to create responsive materials that function like an app or website instead of static ones, to help employees communicate effectively.

  3. 3. Personalized: Our research shows that by adding a personal touch to employees’ benefits information helps to develop an individual journey. An example of this is using personalized videos with individual names embedded in the clip to show employees their statements. This approach increases action, trust and appreciation among staff.

  4. 4. Social: Everyone (pretty much) is on one social media platform or another and employers need to take advantage of this by leveraging what their employees are saying on these channels. Sharing positive stories from employees about their benefits or their enjoyment working for the company is a fantastic way to attract talent and boost morale. It also reinforces your standing as a company.
     

Utilizing these four tips will help increase awareness of benefits, explain what employees get out of their benefits, help employees understand which plan is right for them, and, finally, the employees will share their experiences and speak positively about it.

 

1 2017 Benefits Under The Lens Survey by Mercer Marsh Benefits

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Mustafa Faizani | 30 May 2019

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MORE IN HEALTH

Catherine Li | 25 Apr 2019

In China, as in many other countries with growing economies, employee health management is a relatively new concept. This presents an exciting opportunity to create something new — but also generous room for error. A superior benefits program meets the diverse needs of active employees and retirees while aligning with the company’s business development and talent strategies. Although these dual goals may seem straightforward, it’s easy for HR to get sidetracked along the way. Have you steered clear of these four pitfalls? Misunderstanding 1: Benefits are Just for Brand-Building   Benefits design commonly goes through three phases: foundation-laying, boasting and returning to fundamentals. Young technology companies have a tendency to get stuck in phase two, coming up with fun, innovative and even newsworthy benefits. These less-traditional benefits programs have several advantages, including supplementing basic benefits and enhancing the program’s overall appeal. 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Misunderstanding 3: Our Benefits are so Great, They Speak for Themselves   According to Mercer’s 2015 Benefits Communication Trend Survey of HR managers in China, more than 70% of employers think benefits communication is important. Yet only 17% of organizations have a specific role for employee benefits communication, and nearly 70% have little or no budget for benefits communication. Assuming your benefits programs will self-promote is a mistake. Even if your benefits are good, busy employees may not have time to learn about them and may misunderstand or underutilize them — substantially lowering your returns. 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Liana Attard | 21 Feb 2019

Office life can be extremely stressful, especially with the competitive nature of work and long hours that can lead to stress and sleep disorders for some employees. In fact, research by Mercer Marsh Benefits for our 2018 Medical Trends Around the World survey showed that globally the top three risk factors for employees remain metabolic and cardiovascular risk, dietary risk and emotional/mental risk. To put the global mental health problems into perspective, 1 in 3 people in the UK have been recorded as suffering from mental health issues.     The emphasis is now on employers to help with the mental wellbeing of their employees by providing comprehensive wellbeing strategies for emotional and mental health. Adopting integrated health and wellbeing strategies underpinned by stronger digital and data capabilities will be a critical factor in managing the rising costs of workforce health benefit programs. Employers are encouraged to adopt a whole system approach to wellbeing, in which mental health is recognized alongside physical health, as one of the essential building blocks to help employees fulfill their potential. But unfortunately, employers are slow to realize the risks concerned with mental health, with less than 50 percent of insurers and respective employer medical plans providing access to personal counseling. In Asia, mental health tends to be a taboo subject as it has a stigma around it and employees are concerned about coming forward with their issues in a fiercely competitive workplace environment. The Hong Kong Mental Morbidity Survey, a three-year study launched in 2010, found fewer than a quarter of people with common mental disorders had sought medical support in the previous year, and only 3.9 percent had seen a psychologist for help, reported SCMP. When we asked insurers: What three risk factors do you think influence employer sponsored group medical costs the most? Globally, as I mentioned earlier, mental health was third with 43 percent. However, in Asia mental health ranked bottom, behind occupational risk (44 percent) and environmental risk (51 percent), with 31 percent.  But this doesn’t mean that mental health benefit programs in Asia should be ignored by companies, even with the increase in medical costs worldwide. According to the 2018 Medical Trends Around the World survey, the global medical cost in 2017 increased at 9.5 percent, almost three times the inflation rate of 3.4 percent. Hong Kong’s increment was below the average global level but higher than the other two developed Asian cities, namely Singapore (8.6 percent) and South Korea (7 percent). “Hong Kong’s medical costs significantly outpaced the local inflation rate and employer’s cost on health care continues to grow. Therefore, employers should review the existing design of health care plans, further invest in data analytics and adopt a whole system approach in order to effectively manage employee health care cost,” Billy Wong, Mercer’s Health & MPF Business Leader, Hong Kong said. Employers can tackle the risk of mental health problems by launching workplace health strategies. Check out my ideas on ways to keep your workforce mentally healthy and happy.  Mindfulness Training: By implementing mindfulness training at work, employees will be able to effectively deal with stress, increase productivity in the office, maintain greater focus and their overall health will improve. But what exactly is mindfulness training? It’s a meditation technique aimed at focusing the mind on the present moment, which enhances an employee’s ability to work on day-to-day tasks and find balance. Fitness programs: The physical health benefits of working out are well documented, but exercise is also an effective way to boost your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins which make people feel happy. Employees who are feeling stressed, depressed or suffering from anxiety are advised to workout for 30 minutes a few times a week.  Flexible work schedule: Working from home and flexible work schedules give employees the freedom they need to stay motivated. The flexibility allows employees to take a break and lowers the risk of burnout. Working from home can reduce parenting stress as employees are afforded the flexibility to meet the needs that come with having a family. These factors and more increase employee morale and help to reduce absenteeism.  

Sophia Van | 07 Feb 2019

Health is the new wealth. Our physical and mental well-being impacts every aspect of our lives—including our ability to be loving parents, supportive friends and successful professionals. Information about our health is profoundly personal. No one beyond our trusted medical caregivers should have access to our most private details. The sensitive nature of our medical records, however, makes them a coveted target for sophisticated cybercriminals. Growth economies are particularly vulnerable. Cybercriminals target healthcare for two fundamental reasons: the healthcare industry is a rich source of valuable personal data that commands a high dollar value on the black market, and the healthcare industry’s existing technologies and processes are fraught with vulnerabilities. The exponential growth of personal health data is being generated from an increasing number of connected devices and networks. 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Just as gold, diamonds and printed money have attracted thieves for centuries, information has become one of earth’s most valuable assets. The more sensitive, damaging or revealing the information is, the more value it possesses. Details about how healthy, or unhealthy, individuals and groups are can be ransomed for astronomical prices.     In July 2018, ransomware targeted SingHealth, Singapore’s largest healthcare institution, and stole the information of 1.5 million patients, including the profile of the country’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong—who was identified as a specific target in the attack. These types of ransomware attacks are constantly being perpetrated against healthcare facilities as they struggle to implement comprehensive defense strategies. This trend will only escalate as cybercriminals and healthcare institutions attempt to outsmart and outmaneuver each other as bank robbers and banks have done throughout history.2 2. Hacks can mean life or death.   One of the most concerning current threats to health information privacy is a serious compromise of the integrity and availability of data. Those risks include possible harm to a patient’s safety and health, loss of protected health information (PHI) and unauthorized access to data. In fact, in 2013 The Washington Post reported that the doctors for Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the disabling of the wireless functionality of his heart implant out of fear that it could be hacked by terrorists.3 It’s arguable that cybercrimes in the healthcare industry can have much more drastic consequences to brand equity for institutions than major financial losses. The fear of not being able to access one’s critical health information is a legitimate, and intense, sense of unease. This anxiety is partially what gives the information its value and power. Data security breaches can directly impact the health and well-being of patients, and even result in fatalities. Destroying medical records and hijacking critical pharmaceutical prescriptions can quickly result in casualties and cause death. By stealing information and manipulating public fear, cybercriminals can leverage their stolen assets in unprecedented ways. The reality is these crimes have life-threatening consequences and can be perpetrated from across the world in the middle of the night. 3. Breaches are inevitable and may be internal.   The potential monetary gains for cyberhackers are enormous. Unsurprisingly, more than 70 percent of healthcare industry companies expect a breach from financially-motivated cybercriminals. However, the pervasive image of a lone cyberhacker working from a dark apartment in an anonymous city, or nefarious state-sponsored groups of squinting cyberthieves lined up in rows of bland cubicles, only represents part of the story. Internal employees also pose a great threat to healthcare institutions. Every employee is a human being, and whether or not they are disgruntled, financially distraught or simply unaware of how their behaviors can impact security protocols, there is the potential for corruption. Having the right security clearances, passwords and access to sensitive information may simply be too tempting for internal employees with an ulterior motive.  4. Robust security measures are needed.   The cat-and-mouse chase and confrontations will continue to evolve as cyberhackers continuously seek new ways to penetrate the defenses of healthcare institutions and stakeholders within the healthcare systems—including the manufacturers of connected medical devices. Today’s international and tech-savvy criminals are determined, sophisticated and creative. Healthcare institutions must be even more so. Though the growing awareness of cybersecurity threats have shaken the entire industry, many companies in growth economies have not set up and executed a holistic security framework that provides comprehensive governance and board oversight. Security measures lack an integrated approach that leverages the talents and acumen of not only healthcare professionals, but cybersecurity forces and policymakers at every level of government. The seamless integration of defense resources is required to combat cybercriminals who pose a dynamic and evolving threat. All stakeholders dealing with health data should shift from passive cyber defenses, to active cyber defenses. Cybersecurity for IoMT must also be a major agenda for next-generation medical devices. Governments and policymakers should provide security guidance and regulatory protocols for medical device manufacturers. The industry must quickly develop and adopt best-practices, frameworks and architectures for ensuring cybersecurity protections across all of IoMT. Hospitals and health systems need to secure medical devices in the same way that banks ensure the security of the credit cards they issue. Growth economies must respond, and lead, with appropriate security measures and cybersecurity policies. 5. Healthcare can fight back.   Ransomware and cybercrimes can create unimaginable chaos. But businesses, communities and growth economies are not powerless. When working together, they can create a network of systems, assets and protocols that can thwart even the most tenacious hackers. Diligence is key. The healthcare industry must be proactive about preventing cyberattacks before they occur and be smart about responding to them and mitigating damage when they do occur. Though many healthcare institutions have begun to develop effective security strategies, few have implemented a complete plan that addresses preparation, prevention, detection, and response and recovery strategies.  The healthcare industry and associated stakeholders must approach cybersecurity defense strategies with the same level of seriousness and strength that militaries apply to their own defense strategies. For instance, an effective and aggressive defense program would include the use of deception technologies that stop attacks by deceiving the attackers. Also, artificial intelligence (AI) can monitor traffic in and out of each connected device and differentiate between normal and abnormal behavior in real-time—alerting network security professionals when the device is listening to or talking to criminal networks, servers or individuals. AI can proactively block bad actors in real time before they can gain access and inflict damage. Winning cybersecurity strategies intercept and prevent attacks proactively; after all, once a device has been compromised and higher-level servers have been breached, the damage has been done. Lastly, the healthcare industry should consider other innovative defensive measures such as quantum computing, cybersecurity war rooms that provide around-the-clock security operations centers, and a holistic strategy that leverages not only technology but also human behavior and processes. To learn more about how cybercriminals are holding healthcare institutions hostage, and what the industry can do to protect itself, read this whitepaper.   1 Why Ai, Blockchain, & Enhanced Encryption Are The Future Of Enterprise Data Security http://www.cbinsights.com/research/ai-blockchain-encryption-enterprise-data-security-expert-intelligence/ 2 Singapore Suffers 'most Serious' Data Breach, Affecting 1.5m Healthcare Patients Including Prime Minister Eileen Yu - https://www.zdnet.com/article/singapore-suffers-most-serious-data-breach-affecting-1-5m-healthcare-patients-including-prime/ 3 Intermountain Healthcare Launches Security Operations Center To Combat Health Data Cyberattacks https://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20151114/MAGAZINE/311149977

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