4 steps to meaningful employer/employee connections.

New York Life | January 19 , 2023

women coworkers

This article by Meghan Shea, Vice President and Head of Strategy and Solutions at New York Life Group Benefit Solutions, originally appeared in Employee Benefit News.

Nearly three years into grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that where work happens has changed. Employees' expectations of their employers have also changed — benefits have become a key differentiator as companies have rushed to introduce policies that facilitate safety and productivity. Now, as we define the future of work, and talent is increasingly difficult to attract and retain, we see a striking disconnect emerging between employers and their people. 

According to recently released research by New York Life Group Benefit Solutions, employers are beginning to reevaluate pandemic-era policies, resulting in growing discontentment within the workforce. In fact, our research found that employees are less likely to feel appreciated than their employers suspect, with 48% of employers saying their employees feel appreciated while just 30% of employees agree with that sentiment. 

To shrink this growing chasm, benefits decision-makers and HR teams have an opportunity to take advantage of this pivotal time to establish more meaningful connections with employees through benefits, programs and policies that provide peace of mind to the hard-working people employers depend on. 

In our research, we uncovered four clear themes that can help employers align with the needs and desires of their workforce and build a workplace where employees feel connected and engaged. 

Lead with compassion

Company cultures are brought to life through the everyday actions of employees. Organizations should regularly evaluate how they foster care, respect and kindness in the workplace, as these are values that strengthen and improve the employee experience and do not include a cost. A simple check-in from a manager to show genuine interest in employees' well-being as individuals can go a long way to demonstrating care and helping foster deeper relationships. As employees continue to evaluate how work fits into life, it is especially critical to understand how these intangible elements contribute to the organizational culture. 

It is also important to evaluate partners and vendors who will be interacting with employees on your company's behalf. Understand how they approach service and ensure their culture and values align with those of your organization.

Find out what employees value

Our research found that employers are out of touch with employees' sentiments surrounding the employee experience. For example, 62% of employees said flexible and generous paid time off policies were important in being productive at work, while just 47% of employers believe this is the case. Although attractive benefits aren't the only way to make employees feel valued, they do play an important role. In fact, according to LIMRA's Benefits and Employee Attitude Tracker, 63% of workers say their current benefits package makes them at least somewhat more likely to remain with their employer. Understanding what is important to each unique workforce is an opportunity for HR leaders to deliver on what is most meaningful – which is often different from company to company. 

Identify the gaps in understanding and communication 

When it comes to benefits, many employees do not fully understand what their benefits provide, or when and how to use them. According to a recent study by LIMRA & EY, less than 50% of employees reported having a very good understanding of benefits such as disability, accident, critical illness, and hospital indemnity insurance. 

This lack of understanding often leads to underutilization and negatively impacts future decisions surrounding benefit programs. Our research shows that 62% of employees ranked benefits that provide more financial support and security as a top three benefit they want employers to keep in place. While offering these types of benefits is important, it is equally important for employers to help employees understand how to use these benefits when they are needed.

Communicate with Intention in the Moments that Matter
Employers tend to make a big push toward benefits education around annual enrollment, but this typically isn't sufficient, especially if you have a diverse workforce comprised of people of different ages and backgrounds. Employee interest in and utilization of benefits frequently coincides with a considerable life change, and employees often aren't aware of who can help them explore their options. These are the most critical times to have benefits information easily accessible. 

According to our research, when employees need to use their benefits, they turn to varying resources including their direct managers, HR and benefits portals. Therefore, employers need to ensure that information is accessible across a variety of touchpoints. That's why partnering with a benefits provider that serves as a true extension of HR and benefits teams is critical. 

As employers navigate the evolving work climate, they have a unique opportunity to align with employees and prioritize building meaningful connections. Taking these steps will have a lasting impact on employee satisfaction and contribute to mutually beneficial relationships.

Read the entire article in Employee Benefit News.


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