September 9, 2021

An Ode to Employee Population Data: Why Knowing Your People Is Key to Winning Your Benefits Renewal

Colleen McElroy

The way we see it, this benefits renewal season could go one of two ways.

On one path, you keep the same benefits offering — and all the problems that come with it. Some of your employees are content, but others feel frustrated, confused, or even in-the-dark with their selections.

On the other, your employees have the benefits that they need, and they (actually) like and use them. Utilization is up, and so is productivity. Your people feel supported and healthy, and they're energized and engaged at work. Retention rates have improved, and recruiting great talent is easier.

So what's the deciding factor? We don't want to oversimplify, but there is one key tool that you should add to your arsenal: employee population data.

Why does employee population data matter in renewals?

If benefits renewals were an Olympic sport, the gold medal would go to a plan that accomplishes three key goals:

  1. Literacy - Your employees know how to access and use their benefits.
  2. Adoption - They actually do use them.
  3. Satisfaction - It covers the unique needs of your employee population and your employees see the value in their plans.

Understanding your employees is the first step towards designing a program that achieves all these goals. And as an added bonus, it also makes the renewal process easier on you.

With all the coverage options available out there, it's easy to get lost in the "aisles" of the vendor marketplace. But by leveraging employee data, you already have a "shopping list" to guide you to the right selections.

This means you can focus in on the options that work for your population's specific lifestyle, wants, and needs — and leave the rest behind. Not only will this cut down on the time and effort needed to navigate the ever-growing digital health landscape, but it will also boost the likelihood that your employees will have access to the resources they need and want.

What kind of data will I need — and how can I get it?

We recommend sourcing data using two techniques in parallel: the employee census and the survey. This is the yin and the yang, the qualitative and the quantitative, the bird's eye view and the telescopic lens.

Employee Census

This is your raw demographic data, covering the basics of your employee population — age, gender, dependents, etc. With this information, you can start to predict the kinds of services or care your employees may be more likely to want. For example, if your census includes many covered dependents, on-demand childcare might be a benefit worth exploring.

Your census may also give you an idea of what to expect in terms of cost. For instance, higher claim expectancy increases as your population ages.

Employee Survey

Here's where you'll get the details on how your employees feel about their current plans, and what they may want to see in the future. By soliciting feedback directly from your employees, you can get a better sense of what's working and what's not. Plus, your employees will likely feel like their input is valued — and who doesn't like that?

Here are some tips for putting together an effective survey:

  • Make your questions actionable and specific. For example, if you ask whether employees are happy with their plan, their answers won't give you much guidance on where to go from there. Instead, frame your question using specific goalposts — "Does it cover the services you need?"
  • Include questions that address those three main goals: Literacy ("Please rank from 1-5 your level of understanding of the benefits available to you."), adoption ("Do you and your family participate in X service?"), and satisfaction ("Does your plan adequately cover the needs of your family?").
  • Give respondents an opportunity to suggest more benefits. This can be one question at the end of the survey — "If your employer offered one additional benefit, what would you want it to be?" This can be a great opportunity to identify any gaps in coverage and get a better sense of what services folks value.
  • Try to offer incentives for completing the survey. Ideally you'd like everyone to give feedback, but that may not be in the cards. Boost participation by offering a small gift or perk to those who give their two cents — maybe a $5 coffee gift card or a raffle ticket.

(Side note: even though these surveys are an important reflection of your employees' experience, take these responses with a grain of salt. Think of a restaurant review site — which customers are most likely to feel compelled to leave a review? More than likely it's the happiest and the unhappiest. Just keep that in mind.)

Okay, I have the data — now what do I do with it?

With this data in your back pocket, you're halfway there. Now all you have to do is follow these three steps, with your broker in your corner for support throughout the process.

Step One - Look closely at the data and pull out the themes.

What commonalities are you seeing? Did a significant percentage of respondents rank a certain service poorly? Did multiple people request the same benefit? Are several people having trouble making sense of how to use their benefits?

If you can identify trends, it's the first step towards fixing problems and building a better benefits offering for your employees. Your broker should be a strong partner in helping you analyze and interpret this data; as a de facto benefits expert, they can bring specialized insights to the table to make better sense of these numbers.

Step Two - Use these themes to guide your decisions.

What benefits should you keep — and which need work? Your research findings should help you and your broker answer these questions and build a roadmap for the path forward.

For example, if several your employees designated that they found their plan confusing, look into healthcare navigation tools. Or if they expressed a need for better mental health support, prioritize finding additional care options.

Step Three - Share these findings and recommendations with your broker, leadership team, and employees.

Your broker should be the first to be looped in — this information should help make their job easier. Try to have these discussions early on in the renewals process, and then drive them to act on your recommendations.

When it comes time to present your renewals recommendations with your leadership team, these research findings can help them understand your reasoning. In the end, they want to make the best decisions for the business; use your research to draw a clear line between your recommendations and their potential impact on employee engagement and the bottom line.

Maybe you won't want to go into detail with your employees, but offering them a look at the outcomes from their survey can help boost plan satisfaction and literacy. When you communicate plan updates for the new year, share how their input influenced these decisions.

A thoughtfully designed benefits plan can create an impact that outlasts the renewals and enrollment period, keeping employees engaged and happy year-round. Use your employees' wants, needs, and feedback as your North Star, and you'll be that much closer to this goal.

Don't have the time to dig into data? That's where Nava comes in. We can help extract and analyze employee data. Click here for free plan audit.

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