Voluntary Benefits: help or hinder?

2 min read

Voluntary Benefits: help or hinder?

Financial Wellness Consultant, Jeff Tulloch, tells us about voluntary benefits and the why employees need benefit education now more than ever before.

‘Doing more with less’ was the trend from last year, galvanized by a restrictive labor market, growing healthcare costs and the added pressure of employee financial stresses. In fact, Gallagher’s 2023 Workforce Trends Report found that retaining talent was a top priority - but attracting talent decreased in importance (40% in 2022, 34% in 2023). The data highlighted a new focus, ‘decreasing operational costs and growing revenue’ (growing revenue increased from 43% in 2022 to 47% in 2023). Meaning businesses in 2023 were doing more with less, by increasing their efficiencies and controlling their costs.

Voluntary benefits have continued to grow in popularity over the past decade. A recent report from Goldman Sachs Ayco revealed some interesting changes to employee demand and the popularity of different benefits like: ‘child and elder care assistance’ (+177% growth), ‘pet insurance’ (120% growth), ‘critical illness’ (120% growth) and ‘hospital indemnity’ (152% growth).

The challenge with voluntary benefits

From numerous conversations with HR and benefits leaders, it seems employees continue to ask for a wide variety of benefits, but they struggle to have the knowledge needed to choose the most appropriate benefit(s) for them, based on their specific situation. A recent report found that 31% of employees admitted they do not fully understand any of the employee benefits they selected during their most recent open enrollment period. This rings true for core benefits too.

Complexity of navigating different voluntary products

To make the experience for employees even more complicated is the overwhelm of a disjointed experience in the benefit portal from the competing messages from different products taking employees to different platforms and channels. Meaning many employees give up and voluntary products remain misunderstood - leading to poor benefit ROI.

But financial education can help

Benefit programs can be complex at the best of times and employees need guidance. The truth is, without financial education or clear and accessible information, employers are inadvertently creating barriers to entry. Proactive financial education can be a positive contributor to help employees understand the benefits offered and make the right selections.  Here are the top 4 reasons why financial education should underpin voluntary benefits to eliminate confusion and support participation.

  1. Financial education breaks down options and simplifies, helping employees understand the details of the voluntary benefit, how it works, and the advantages and limitations for their circumstances.
  2. Financial education explains how costs are calculated, who’s responsible for what, and how contributions impact their overall package.
  3. Financial education can signpost to the relevant platforms and give guidance on the details throughout.
  4. Financial education encourages engagement. Let’s face it, better understanding equals better engagement. When employees understand the value of their benefits, they are more likely to engage, this leads to larger participation, greater utilization and ultimately more outcomes for both employees and employers.

Done correctly, financial education can also be uber-personalized, pointing individuals to the specific benefits that make the most sense for them based on their specific lifestyle and financial situation.

Where can you find out more on financial education?

nudge is a leading financial education provider, and their solution supports and helps rectify the voluntary benefit challenges around misunderstanding, complexities in communication and multi-channel and platform integration. Ultimately, nudge is a great place to start if you’re interested in boosting the understanding and participation of your voluntary benefits.


Originally published on LinkedIn.