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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.”

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