Research reported by the Execu Search Group shows that flexibility may very well be the key to keeping millennials engaged. Allowing more vacation time, better training and a more flexible work schedule, including the ability to work at home when needed, are keys that will make young people happier and more productive. The SHRM says that more companies are offering these benefits in order to retain young workers in today’s competitive labor market.
You might be surprised to hear that millennials represent one third of the American workforce, but Pew Research Center confirms it. If your health benefit plan hasn’t adapted to the needs and lifestyles of these young people, you’re missing an opportunity to boost retention, build loyalty and enhance wellness.
For starters, it’s important to realize that 45% of young adults age 18 to 29 do not have a primary care doctor. They do, however, have a smartphone and you can bet they use it to access the internet constantly. With online sources like WebMD offering so much healthcare information, it’s no wonder that millennials are likely to self-diagnose and even treat one another at home before seeing a doctor. If young people can find much of the healthcare information they need in the palm of their hand, you can bet they expect to find benefits and enrollment information easily accessible as well.
They Want Information Now
Just like so many of us who have come to expect an immediate response to everything, millennials who do need a doctor expect the visit to happen quickly and easily. According to PNC Healthcare, this explains why 34% of millennials prefer to use a retail clinic rather than waiting several days to see a primary care physician in their office – a rate twice as high as baby boomers. It would also seem to point to an increased use of telemedicine.
Cost Matters to Millennials
Millennials face more than their fair share of financial pressures and take their finances seriously. Surveys show they are more willing to request a cost estimate prior to choosing a treatment option than baby boomers or seniors ever were. This not only makes cost transparency tools important, but it’s a very positive trend that should contribute to lower claim costs going forward.
Whether it be treatment options, provider access or cost of care, the demand for health and benefit plan information will only increase as more and more millennials enter the workforce. In order to respond to change, self-funded employer groups will need the resources of an independent TPA that can combine the right plan design with more personalized, interactive communications and more innovative ways for younger employees to access the more personalized care they will need going forward.
The State of Benefits report from BenefitFocus shows that workers under the age of 26 are investing 20% more of their salary in HSAs than other generations. This is certainly due to the fact that nearly half have elected to enroll in high deductible health plans in 2017. While PPO plans remain very popular, especially among older adults, employee contributions to HSAs and FSAs are rising. A growing interest in savings among young people is another factor contributing to the increased popularity of HSAs.
After numerous articles advocating technology and social media as the only sources of information valued by young workers, a recent study by MetLife has shown that nearly two-thirds of millennials favored a one-on-one discussion with a benefits specialist when trying to understand their employee benefits.
Believe it or not, millennials even lead other generations in consulting with family and friends on benefit-related issues, showing that they value the personal experience when it comes to complex matters. Because they have become accustomed to the way technology streamlines information, they are looking for the facts without a lot of fluff. Nonetheless, one-on-one consultations and phone conversations are proving to be effective in giving young people the personalized information they need to understand their healthcare benefits and make informed decisions.
Even though this issue also discusses the importance of reaching millennials, it seems an appropriate time to explore this topic from an even broader perspective. Studies like the 2015 Aflac Workforce Report show that more than 7 of 10 employees seldom, if ever, understand what is covered in their healthcare plan. On top of that, a USA Today analysis of government records shows that 1 in 5 invasive surgeries may be unnecessary. On the other side of the coin, we know that when employees fail to obtain the preventive care they need, serious health risks and the potential for even larger health claims exist.
So with the value of your health benefit plan and its cost control and wellness enhancement features hanging in the balance, let’s consider a few thoughts that may motivate your employees to care enough about their benefits to make smarter healthcare decisions.
Timing is Everything – It isn’t a lack of information keeping people from understanding their benefits; it’s how and when people are choosing to get their information. While benefit booklets and plan documents are required, they simply can’t compete with push notifications, text alerts and other “real time” communication. In a world where too many people still pay little or no attention to their healthcare plan until they need it – plan, provider and cost-related information must be more personal and more accessible.
Consumers Rule The Day – In many areas of their lives, your employees are behaving as informed and empowered consumers every day. While this behavior isn’t carrying over to healthcare as quickly as we would like, new products and services are making actionable information easily accessible to both employees and employers. HealthiestYou and Real Time Choices are just two services capable of delivering more personalized, comparative data to individuals when they are making a healthcare decision.
One Stop Shop – More and more TPAs are taking steps to offer one integrated, online “hub” where members can access their benefit plan, claims data and much more. From network providers to cost and quality comparisons to individualized wellness incentives and rewards, the ability to provide one place where members can find the information they want is critical.
As these and other technologies continue to evolve, they will do more and more to connect your employees with the right information at the right time – the real key to engaging employees in their health benefits.
If you’re asking why the number of young adults enrolling in health plans post-ACA is falling, consider economics. Not only have many young people remained on their parent’s plan to age 26, but student debt and a slow, economic recovery have also taken a toll. This is especially troubling when you consider that people age 18 to 34 will represent half of our workforce by 2020 and 75% by 2025.
While economics is involved, we must know where to find young people before we can move them to act, so taking time to learn their likes, dislikes and habits is a must. And no habit is more popular among young adults than media. Individuals age 18 to 36 spend nearly 18 hours a day using smart phones to engage in social media, music, videos and gaming. They’re accustomed to shopping online for virtually everything and they expect quick answers with comparative pricing.
Keeping things simple is critical, as shown by a 2015 National Bureau of Economic Research study that revealed that offering just one health plan will produce better results than offering many options.
Millennials love sight and sound, so short, light or funny educational videos that simplify benefits or wellness may go a long way. Lasting relationships will develop if education and communication are ongoing. The time to get serious is now, because they are here and chances are most will expect to manage their health and healthcare the same way they do everything else – with technology.