Need to know
- Different types of group risk protection becomes important at different life stages.
- Therefore, a one-size-fits all approach to engaging employees with group risk benefits is unlikely to be successful.
- Employers should speak with young employees to find out which group risk benefits they would find valuable.
Young people often feel they have an invincibility cloak. Nobody wants to think about being made redundant, having an accident which makes it impossible to work, or getting seriously ill. Perhaps that is why employers often struggle to engage young employees with group risk benefits such as critical illness insurance, life insurance, and income protection.
Chris Morgan, chief marketing officer at insurer Ellipse, says: “I have seen plenty of examples of good communications, but probably focusing on other benefits, rather than group risk.
“Employers shouldn’t forget about group risk benefits. They tend to be the stable benefits; often they have been in the programme for many years. And when we do employer roadshows and communications, certainly there’s a feeling that the benefits are important but not necessarily as much flavour of the month.”
Yet if the worst happens, these benefits can quite literally be a lifeline. So how best to engage younger staff with them?
Know the audience
A one-size-fits-all approach to group risk products is unlikely to have much success. Using different personas as an engagement technique brings myriad people within one workplace to life. It also illustrates the different insurance requirements they have at various life stages, explains Adrian Humphreys, head of group risk and healthcare at JLT Employee Benefits.
Different types of protection become important as a workforce reaches different life stages. For instance, life insurance and income protection reach peak importance for employees with young families, says Humphreys.
However, organisations often waste money on insurance that is inappropriate for their target audience, says Humphreys. “[Organisations] lard out private medical insurance [PMI] and say, ‘Here’s full PMI you can have.’ If you look at [one persona], Angela who is in her 30s, full-blown PMI is pretty much useless because you get the best paediatric care in hospitals and there are very few hospitals which will look after a child privately. What would be valued more is a speedy diagnosis product which is half the price of full fat PMI. An [organisation] that gets really clever can start to flex the benefits.”
Using another persona as an example, meanwhile, life insurance is a waste of money for Max, JLT’s 21-year-old persona, adds Humphreys. “He’s 21 years old and he’s going to live forever. He’s cheap as chips to put on the group policy, but that’s lazy. Max is going to look at this and think, ‘Gee, thanks, who am I going to leave my money to? My mum? That’s not interesting at all.’”
However, a person of this demographic would find other products much more worthwhile, says Humphreys. “Max might much rather [an employer] spent that money on a group income protection policy where, let’s assume after a statutory sick pay [they] get paid a couple of years’ salary, how good is that for someone aged 21? He can pay the rent for a couple of years. If the worst happens and he becomes paralysed, for example, he can pay for rehabilitation. What Max might really like is perhaps a one-off payment for rehabilitation in the event of an accident, and a couple of years’ salary to retrain.”
Targeting employees with the right information at the right age and life stage is a hallmark of good communication, and will result in much better engagement, says Kevin O’Neill, head of workplace health at consultancy Barnett Waddingham. “Segment advice to make sure the advice reaches the relevant audience. Give one message to the youngsters, and a different message to older people.”
To design a group risk package that appeals to young employees, talk to them first, says O’Neill. “Before we give any advice to [an organisation], we will survey staff to find out what’s important to them. Once [we] have that [we] can analyse the feedback and sit down and have a sensible conversation with the employer and saying you are offering X, Y and Z, but your staff would rather have A, B and C. Then we consult and design something more relevant.”
Employers should give staff the flexibility to tailor the products on offer to fit their own circumstances, says Morgan. “We see some employers offering flexible benefits for their staff via some kind of portal and that is a very important step, not just for group risk but for other benefits as well. Giving them some control over what they have is important.”
How then to help people make the right choices for them, without straying into advice? “If [employers] can make the message relevant to the demographic, it should all fall into place,” explains O’Neill. “We try to make it real by giving people case studies.”
Face-to-face meetings and workshops are often the best way to explaining group risk products and answer questions, but it does depend on audience. “Anything is better than giving people a piece of paper that they won’t read,” adds O’Neill.
Giving younger workers a menu of options with clear information about each one is a good way to help them to make the best decisions for their own circumstances. “People aren’t stupid,” says Humphreys. “If they get a pool of cash, and it’s important that they can’t cash it in into hard cash, what [employers should] do is say, ‘Here’s your pool of money to spend, spend it how you like, here’s the menu of options.’ [Employers] have to be extremely careful not to stray into advice. [They] can put together some very simple explanations.”
Employers could even build a tool to help young employees make choices, says Humphreys. “Give people a benefits tool set against their pay grade: senior managers might get £2,000 and more junior people might get a couple of hundred. They could walk into the marketplace, see the things they can buy, and fill up their shopping baskets as they go around. That to me seems quite logical and we could give a lot of steering through decent communications as to what best suits them.”
For today’s increasingly mobile workforce, perhaps this tool could be embedded in social media, or a workplace app. As O’Neill says: “When [organisations] have a mobile workforce, it’s good for them to be able to log into apps. The days of bumping all the benefits on the intranet and saying, ‘There you go’ are gone. We are trying to get people to be more proactive.”