4 Points to hit when talking benefits with your CFO

By Sheryl Simmons, Chief Human Resources Officer

As an HR leader, it’s essential to collaborate with all members of your C-Suite. Doing so is not only important to your organization’s success, but it also helps you share your unique insight and be seen as a key member of the C-Suite table. What better opportunity to display your value than by tackling the healthcare dilemma? After all, it’s imperative that your business crafts a strategy to tackle the skyrocketing costs and poor employee experiences with healthcare. Your CFO is already keenly aware of this. Partnering with them to strategize your organization’s approach can likely be a win-win for all, but it’s essential that you begin by learning to speak your CFO’s language for a successful partnership.

1 Treat benefits like an investment opportunity.
When speaking with your CFO, focus on demonstrating the investment opportunity a modern benefits approach can offer your organization. Let them know that your company is in the healthcare business. In fact, every U.S. company is in the healthcare business. Healthcare is the second or third largest expense for most employers. General Motors spends more on healthcare than steel. Starbucks spends more on healthcare than coffee beans. Once your CFO is on-board for a partnership, lay out the strategic, business-focused reasons for implementing a modern benefits approach.

2 Give them the 411 on cost-saving solutions.
Provide a high-level view of the variety of new, cost-saving healthcare solutions available in the market. Be prepared to answer why you selected the options for your company, as well as why you don’t see the others as a good fit.

Keep in mind, your CFO is not entirely fluent in HR speak and that’s okay. Share your knowledge. Get comfortable speaking from a financial viewpoint about the modern solutions organizations are using to combat rising costs like:

  • People-friendly reference-based pricing models that increase access to quality care AND lower healthcare costs
  • Pharmacy benefit management vendors that provide transparent contracting
  • Medical management that is integrating throughout the employee experience

3 Find the numbers. Know the data.
If you have access, dig into your claims data to show the breakdown of your current healthcare costs. It is highly probable that a small population of your employees are driving the majority of your healthcare costs. These are the numbers you need to bring to your CFO. If you don’t have this data available to you, hit your CFO with the fact that just 5 percent of Americans are driving over half of the cost of U.S. healthcare.

Use this information to forecast how new approaches to benefits can lower your healthcare costs. For example, implementing a self-funded solution that offers holistic care management can help improve the health conditions of employees who need it the most, while also offering wellness initiatives to maintain the health of your healthier employees.

4 Show them the money.
It’s fair to say that your company’s bottom line is top of mind for your CFO. In fact, 65 percent of CFOs claim “cost management” as their top priority. With that being said, you must be able to show them true numbers on how a new self-funded solution can provide real cost-savings for your company’s bottom line.

This can be done by showing a comparison of the cost trend of traditional benefit strategies. Fully-insured employers can expect to continue to see a 20 percent increase in their benefits, while self-insured employers that offer traditional PPO networks, can expect a 5.5 percent cost increase for the future. However, employers that are implementing creative healthcare solutions like a health plan management approach to self-funded benefits are experiencing an average decrease in healthcare costs of 20 percent in their first year.

If you’re already in the process of researching vendors that offer these modern approaches, be sure that you’re also making it a requirement for them to provide you with an ROI analysis. If they can’t provide this for you, do you truly trust them to partner with you?

You can find more tips and resources to help you grab a chair and collaborate with the entire C-Suite at

Why companies need HR in a seat at the table

By Sheryl Simmons, Chief Human Resources Officer

As HR professionals, we’re well aware of the many unfortunate stereotypes of HR. We’re the office referee, the fashion police, the corporate party planner and the bearer of pink slips. The truth is, HR is far more valuable. As HR leaders, we are strategic advisors and revenue-drivers. We’re efficiency experts. We’re cost-savings strategists. So, it should come as no surprise when HR leaders pull their seat up to the decision-making table.

HR leaders have unique insight into their companies.
Employees are a company’s most valuable asset, and no one has as much visibility into what makes them tick like HR. We have our fingers on the pulse when it comes to employee retention, talent recruitment, productivity and even the general health of employee populations.

We’re able to identify the challenges our companies are facing. In fact, 47 percent of HR leaders claim employee retention and turnover as their top workforce management hurdle, with recruitment and corporate culture management following closely behind. Meanwhile 46 percent of HR leaders state employee burnout is responsible for up to half of their annual workforce turnover. And, 30 percent of HR leaders see the need to decrease healthcare costs for their organization.

Innovative brands are leveraging the value HR brings to boost their bottom lines.
In fact, large brands like General Motors, Dunkin’ Donuts and Xerox have seen the value of HR so much so that their CEOs all have an HR background. One of the motivating factors for this – revenue.

  • Customer loyalty improves by as much as 200 percent when employees are engaged.
  • A 10-percent investment increase in HR can boost an organization’s profits by nearly $2,000 per employee.
  • Companies that excel in talent management increase earnings by spending 27 percent less than their competitors.

Money talks and these brands are seeing the fiscal advantage of adding HR leaders to the C-Suite table.

It’s time to grab a chair and join the boardroom decision makers.
We’ve covered why it’s essential for HR to have a seat at the C-Suite table. I’ll be sharing how HR leaders can get there at the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition on Tuesday, June 19th.

Visit for more details.

Hello, Ben Admin 2.0

By Nancy Reardon, Chief Product Officer

Benefit administration, private exchange, enrollment, online shopping – no matter what you call it, employers are looking for stronger solutions to help their businesses adapt to new marketplace realities. The largest component of this new reality is the changing needs of their workforce.  

Effectively managing and engaging your workforce will help drive your business forward and ultimately improve the bottom line. For HR professionals to achieve this success, a new approach to managing benefits, which attracts and retains employees, is now a necessity.

Hello, Ben Admin 2.0.
Over 25 percent of benefit decision makers expressed that they thought benefit administration systems were only “partly” integrated. Well, things have changed. Benefits administration and private exchanges have converged to create Ben Admin 2.0. After all, technology and service go hand-in-hand, and you shouldn’t have to settle for less than the best of both. Ben Admin 2.0 delivers a personalized employee experience and a powerful backend—coupled with an upgraded service experience to ensure you and your employees receive the level of support you deserve and expect.   

Benefits are important to employees, yet 80 percent of companies report low benefits knowledge amongst their employees. The fact is, employees need a simple way to understand and effectively manage their benefits. Ben Admin 2.0 is designed to offer a hyper-personalized, comfortable experience, marrying both tech and service, that takes the “scary” out of the process and empowers employees to manage their benefits with confidence.

Of course, this technology not only needs to look “pretty,” but it also needs to deliver functionality that provides you with the peace of mind knowing that your benefits program is running true to your company’s vision and strategy. The good news is that Ben Admin 2.0 is a modern and simple way to administer your employee benefits without unnecessary features that overcomplicate and are impossible to navigate.

For instance, (me)BENEFITS ADMIN 2.0™ was designed to make managing tasks (i.e., processing changes in marital and dependent status) more intuitive. Now, life events and other changes like these can be made automatically and accurately. It also recognizes that each employee’s benefits knowledge and personal preferences are different. (me)BENEFITS ADMIN 2.0 provides decision entry points to meet your employees where they are by providing “doors” to help them navigate to the best plans. Employees choose their preferred path to finding their best plans through the use of such tools as Shop by Doc™, mSCORE™ and the “show me all plans” options.

It’s so much more than an upgrade in technology.
No doubt, there has long been a need for an update in HR technology. In fact, a recent Maestro Health™ study found that 27 percent of HR professionals want to say a final “goodbye” to systems that don’t talk to other systems and 16 percent are ready to get rid of their never-ending paperwork and lack of automated processes. But it takes the right partners to fill the gap when it comes to service, too. With Ben Admin 2.0, the concept of tech or service has been thrown out. It’s all about tech AND service. In fact, tech-meets-service is the norm for Ben Admin 2.0.

Ben Admin 2.0 providers don’t consider themselves to be just a “vendor.” They approach Ben Admin as a partnership and consider themselves an extension of your benefits team. This tech-meets-service approach includes dedicated account managers and client service teams that are available year-round, not just during implementation.

You no longer need to simply settle for a technology vendor. Instead, you can now choose a partner that effectively demonstrates both tech and service. A partner who collaborates with you in managing your employee benefits program.

Why this upgrade matters to HR.
Your world is changing—with constant legislative changes, rising costs, the growing popularity of High Deductible Health Plans and increasing expectations of your workforce—you need benefit administration technology and a partner who recognizes and embraces these changes. Doing so will effectively position your benefits program and your business for success.

As the role of HR professionals continue to evolve from transactional to strategic, you need a solution that enables you to leverage your most important asset—your talent. Ben Admin 2.0 brings all the tools you need together for you and your employees at one destination for managing their overall health and financial well-being.

The new era of Ben Admin has arrived, and it’s ushering in a new approach for HR technology to solve long-standing HR hassles. If you have questions, you’re not alone. Join me on June 6, where I’ll be answering questions alongside Carrie Marquardt, Benefits and HR Solution Practice Leader, Maestro Health. 

4 HR Tips From A CMO

By Lauren Metsig, Chief Marketing Officer

Employee benefits play an important role in our lives. But let’s be honest, they have a bad reputation for being incredibly complicated (and boring). When people hear they need to make a policy change, review new options or choose a new plan altogether, eyes immediately begin to glaze over.

As a marketer, I desperately wanted to change that. I knew there had to be a way to strip away the complexity and humanize the benefits process in a way that helps people understand it. After all, most consumer brands have mastered the art of connecting with consumers in ways that are entertaining and emotionally engaging. For ages, marketers have found ways to make the most snooze-fest topics, somewhat interesting. Because, that’s our job as marketing professionals—to get into the minds and hearts of our audiences and find a way to speak to their pain points. There’s no reason why we can’t do this for employee health and benefits.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with many HR leaders in producing employee communication campaigns (that actually work!) on all types of benefits-related subjects—from FSAs to general open enrollment. Below are four tips I’d recommend to HR professionals interested in thinking more like a marketer when it comes to engaging their employees (with benefits communication and tech).

WARNING: About one minute into the below, you will probably start thinking "who has time for this, Lauren?  Who has the staff or the resources for this?  Lauren, you're off your rocker."  And that's where your vendors and creativity come in to play.  First, always ask your vendors to help (because they should be willing to help you).  Second, just start with adopting one "tip" and try to integrate it into your next communication plan--and then, build from there.   

1 Focus on the experience.
The first step any marketer takes before tackling a new campaign is to consider the best way for your audience to digest the information you want them to see. Of course, as an HR professional you likely already use tactics like posting information in high-traffic areas, like break rooms or near time clocks. However, since no one really looks at those 8.5 x11 posters on the bulletin board, you’re probably not getting the results you want—that’s when a multi-channel approach becomes really important. 

This means thinking about how your people prefer to consume information. If your organization is “email happy” and sends way too many emails for everything, then you probably don’t want to use email as your only source of communication. One of the quickest ways to get information to your people is through their phones. After all, if you look around, you’ll see it’s not just millennials who have their eyes glued to their smartphones – it’s everyone. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, reported that 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, with adoption quickly rising amongst people in lower-income households and adults over the age of 50. By using a simple text messaging service, like EZ text, you can quickly send a message to your people to remind them of benefit meetings, open enrollment and even wellness tips. You can also include a link to a form or open enrollment website to further the engagement. 

The experience of consuming information and education goes way beyond communication channels—it also includes your HR technology, like your benefits enrollment experience. If your enrollment is online, you should be asking questions like—Is it intuitive?  Does it provide your people with easy-to-understand decision support tools? And if your employees are still enrolling on paper, then I would highly recommend you switch to something online—for your sanity and the sake of your employees’ experience.

2 Data, data, data.
HR professionals have access to a wealth of employee information. (If your company is self-funded, your vendor can provide you with even more information, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.) Dig into that data to segment your audience and craft a communication plan that speaks directly to them. You can use this data to fuel personalization of your campaigns, messages and technology.

For example, if find you have a significant employee population that is married, chances are they may be making their benefits decisions with the help of their spouse at home. Consider creating a communications strategy that also engages their spouse through direct mail (…and no, snail mail is not dead. You just need to use it strategically). Try sending them a postcard at home with open enrollment information or reminders to use their benefit accounts—then you're not relying on your employee to share all the communications to their spouse.  

If you find yourself thinking, “Well, I don’t have a data analyst to help.” Don’t worry—ask your vendors to help. Often, your benefit vendors will help you segment your population at no cost. If that doesn’t work, then ask your employee population what they want using a service like, SurveyMonkey. It’s a really simple tool to figure out how your employees like to communicate, what they like about their benefits experience, and what they don’t.

3 Get personal.
Use the information you discovered in your data to your advantage when communicating and personalizing the enrollment experience to make it more dynamic, rather than repeating the same messaging to each employee. One option is to make the path through online enrollment dynamic, shaped around your employees’ demographic and health needs. If you have a segment of employees that typically opt for High Deductible Health Plans, consider presenting them with benefit accounts (HSA/FSA) information earlier in the enrollment process, such as near the voluntary offerings. Also, try personalizing decision support and just-in-time education in a way that makes sense to the enrollee during the election process—if you make multiple tools available, each person can choose a path that works best for them. (Once again, ask you benefits administration vendor or broker for this!)

This kind of personalization during enrollment and beyond will help build an engaged audience from the onset of the benefits year. Not only will your people be satisfied and happy during enrollment, but you will receive less questions and headaches throughout the year.

4 Make it human.
Again, as an HR professional, you know your employees better than anyone at your company. You speak with them daily, so you already have a leg up that most marketers would envy. Ask them about their pain points. Watch their body language. Find out what makes them tick. Then, use that information to craft your messaging, and you’ll likely see your engagement increase trifold.

We’re all human (hopefully). If information is too technical, boring or dense, we tune out. Interactions are more meaningful when they’re engaging. People assume health and benefits will be boring, and when you’re starting with that expectation, it’s even more important to design marketing campaigns that are personalized, engaging and relevant.

Join me on April 19th at HBLC where I’ll be joined by Laura Chambers, Director of Office of Employee Benefits at University of Texas System to present, “Thinking Like a Consumer Marketer at the University of Texas.”