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Manage health, retirement spending with employee education

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

As benefits continue to become a bigger portion of labor costs, employers are responding by offering more health education and financial advice to em­­ployees.

According to a new research report by the nonprofit WorldatWork, 45% of surveyed organizations report that senior executives consider turning em­­ployees into educated consumers of benefits a “very high” priority. The group’s “Employee Benefits Account­­ability and Consumerism 2011” survey also found that corporate leaders in­creasingly tout their benefits and encourage employees to use them wisely.

“Although the top HR executive is still the primary champion of employee benefits consumerism, we saw an up­­tick in respondents reporting that the CEO, president or another member of the senior leadership team is their primary advocate,” says Lenny Sanicola, a WorldatWork certified benefits professional. “This tells me that benefits and especially health care is increasingly being recognized as directly impacting bottom-line profits.”

Other key findings from the survey:

  • 38% of employers say they have seen desired changes in employee behavior as a result of their organizations’ efforts to make employees better consumers of health benefits.
  • Consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) are on the rise. In 2011, 47% of companies offered a CDHP option, up from 27% in 2006. Reason: They’re one way to effectively manage employer costs. Health savings accounts are employers’ preferred CDHP choice.
  • Health care reform does not appear to be the primary driver for the trend toward offering more CDHP options. Although 31% reported that their efforts toward offering CDHP in­­creased due to reform, 67% reported that their efforts stayed the same.

On the retirement side, the number of organizations offering financial education and financial advice increased in the past five years, from 22% in 2006 to 36% in 2011.

Companies that offer financial education to their employees, Sanicola says, “have seen increases in employee contributions to 401(k) plans, as well as more active participation in making investment decisions.”

Learn more at www.worldatwork.org.

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