You have great well-being benefits in place. So why don’t employees use them?
It’s a good question – with many answers – that HR pros often ask.
In fact, more than 85% of employers offer well-being benefits beyond physical, yet only a handful of employees – about a quarter – use them, according to the The Gartner 2021 EVP Benchmarking Survey.
“Employers are under increasing pressure to manage their benefit costs while at the same time finding new ways to support their employees’ overall well-being,” said Jennifer DeMeo, senior director, Retirement, Willis Towers Watson.
But the outlook is good: Almost 70% of employers made employee well-being a top strategic priority in their benefits package going forward, the Willis Towers Watson 2021 Global Benefits Trends Survey found. First on that list is emotional well-being, cited by 86% of leaders. Physical and financial well-being follow, both cited by about 67% of those leaders.
So most HR leaders and others on the C-level have done – or plan to do – the right thing for employees’ well-being.
Now, the challenge is to get employees to tap and thrive from those well-being benefits.
Here are five strategies to get employees to use and love the well-being benefits you have for them.
Align better with employees
Employees don’t necessarily think they have bad well-being benefits. Many just don’t think they have good well-being benefits for them.
Only about a half of employees think benefits are personalized and geared specifically to their current needs, the Gartner researchers found.
“Employers need to see their employees as people first and foremost. Our research shows that 82% of employees say it’s important for their organization to see them as a person, not just an employee, yet only 45% of employees believe their organization actually sees them this way,” said Carolina Valencia, vice president in the Gartner HR practice.
One way: Offer more choices. Researchers found most organizations provide five or fewer well-being programs. The key is to find and offer the right programs. That starts with surveying employees.
But don’t expect them to tell you what they want or need. They often don’t know the benefit and program possibilities. Give them examples or samples of what you can provide. Ask them to rate how likely they would be to use those.
Take a wholistic approach
Employees have differing views of well-being. What’s important to Judy in Accounting is probably not the top priority for Carl in Quality.
But if you address and offer benefits in the four most critical elements to well-being, you will likely provide something that works for everyone.
Here are the well-being factors you want to consistently address:
- Physical: To improve physical well-being, 77% of companies added or enhanced online and virtual medical services, the Willis Towers Watson study found. More employees than ever will try the virtual route. So if you don’t offer virtual service, now’s probably the time to explore it with your insurance provider.
- Emotional: The pandemic affected employee mental well-being in ways never seen before. This is another critical area to offer virtual and online services.
- Financial: Employees’ paychecks are just the starting point. You can help employees – and nearly half of employers plan to do that – by adding or enhancing financial well-being benefits. Try to offer programs on savings, budgeting, loans and debt counseling.
- Social: Many employees want opportunities to improve their social well-being, and companies can help by providing time and resources for volunteer opportunities, peer recognition and charitable donations.
Mend the gap
Many employees don’t access well-being benefits because they don’t know exactly what’s available, the Gartner study found. It’s HR’s job to manage the gap, researchers said.
- Reward employees for trying and using your well-being benefits. Give them tools to learn more about what you offer at their convenience. Then give incentives for using them – such as discounts for gym memberships, reduced insurance rates for regular checkups, rewards for accessing online meditation, etc.
- Change the attitude. Work with leaders to destigmatize mental health. Get them to have open and honest conversations about the importance of mental well-being and the tools you offer to attain it.
- Give managers tools, resources and training on how to recognize issues with mental well-being and provide effective support.
Find your champions
Some employees are happy with your well-being offerings. They’ve at least tried almost all of them. They likely stuck with what they love and appreciated what they didn’t.
Make these employees your allies in promoting well-being. Ask them to informally or formally talk about experiences they’re willing to share with colleagues.
For community-like well-being benefits – such as group meditation, counseling or exercise – you might get champions to help get colleagues involved the first few times.
Work with employees – not just your champions – to create more social well-being opportunities based on their personal interests. When employees come together in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), they build relationships that often improve their workplace well-being.
Put sincerity at the heart of efforts
Employees will take your well-being efforts seriously if you prove employees are the top priority.
“The cornerstone of an effective wellness program is demonstrating to your workforce that you actually care about their mental wellness and that you are not just checking a box,” said Laura Sage, a former hedge fund director who founded the meditation platform for workplaces Chill Anywhere. “If corporations don’t provide mental wellness resources and create a culture that’s comfortable holistically discussing mental wellness, who will? It will become increasingly difficult to cultivate a healthy workforce, which is needed for better idea generation, creativity, collaboration, and ultimately the bottom line.”
How can you put sincerity at the heart of your efforts? Rely on regular employee feedback. Survey with questions such as:
- What well-being benefits are you aware of?
- Which well-being benefits do you use?
- Can you rate each well-being benefit on a scale of 1-10
- How can we help with your well-being?
- What well-being benefits do you know of at other companies that you’d recommend we try?
- How can we help you access our well-being benefits?
Most importantly and critical to sincerity is that you follow up on the surveys. Show employees the results. Explain what you can’t do based on the feedback and why. Then share what you will change or enhance because they’ve asked for it.