Last year, we interviewed 200+ Jellyvision customers to learn about their 2021 priorities and how they’ve shifted their focus a year into a worldwide pandemic. 

This year, we’re bringing you a refreshed report with new insights, statistics, and recommendations. You might be wondering: what’s changed? 

At first glance, it seems like the answer is “not much.” The pandemic continues to be top of mind for most companies. Employers are still deeply concerned about the well-being of their employees. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues remain in the center of conversations. 

However, our conversations reveal that, actually, a lot has changed. Hybrid teams are on the rise, presenting a new set of challenges to navigate in the workplace. The Great Resignation is shaking up the war for talent in unexpected ways. Employers expanded their benefits offerings—but now they’re trying to figure out how to get their employees to actually use them.

Hold on. Does this mean you have even more things to worry about in 2022 than you did in 2021? Maybe. But here’s the thing: the world of work is constantly changing—especially in these last few years. And it’s impossible to keep up with every new trend, app, or workplace-related issue.

That’s why the goal of this report is to cut through the fluff and only surface the most common, urgent trends we’re seeing—based on our in-depth conversations with other HR leaders. Our hope is that, through these insights, we can help you:

  • Identify new priorities that you might not have had the bandwidth to think about yet. 
  • Refine your existing strategies based on the latest information.
  • Take action on whichever priorities you do choose to focus on in 2022.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the insights you’ll find in this report:

Mental health and overall wellbeing are priorities that AEP is tackling from all sides, all the time. They’ve really been focus points over the last year and a half.

Benefits Consultant, Electric company

Just as a general strategy in 2022, our plan is to ramp up all communications benefits-related.

Manager of Benefits & Wellness, Food distributor

Organizationally, DEI is a huge priority. We’re launching employee resource groups around different communities, and I believe there’s the possibility of hiring a Chief Diversity Officer on the horizon.

Benefits Manager, Hospital

Since COVID, our sites have been hiring quite a bit. So I’m looking forward to seeing the numbers during open enrollment and what new hires have to say about ALEX.

Human Resources Manager, Mining company

TL;DR 

Don’t have time to read the full report? No problem. We know you’re busy, so here’s the TL;DR version of the five HR priorities we uncovered for 2022:

  1. There’s more work to be done with holistic wellness. Companies are more committed than ever to supporting the wellbeing of their employees. But there’s room for improvement. That’s why our customers are doubling down when it comes to building out their programs, strategies, and communication efforts. 
  2. Communication around mental health is a must. Employers are investing more in mental health—not just in offering benefits but also in upping communications to ensure employees are aware of all the resources available to them. 
  3. Employers are shifting their DEI focus. Organizations leaned towards quick fixes in 2021, but now they’re re-calibrating and focusing on more impactful, long-term DEI strategies. 
  4. Benefits engagement is top of mind. Last year, 98% of HR leaders we spoke with said they’re expanding their benefits offerings in some way. Now, the challenge is figuring out how to get employees to use those new offerings. 
  5. The Great Resignation introduced new priorities. One of the outcomes of The Great Resignation is an increased focus on talent acquisition and retention. And the primary way our customers are doing this? Through their benefits offerings. 

2022 HR Priority 01

Expanding Holistic Wellbeing Support

In 2021, customers repeatedly emphasized the importance of whole-person health. Specifically, they were focused on making the shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more holistic view of employee wellbeing.

Amidst the continued backdrop of the pandemic, as well as the Great Resignation, it’s no surprise that holistic health remains a top priority. For some, that means refining or expanding their existing strategies. For others, it means launching a wellness program for the first time.

Either way, it’s clear from our conversations that companies are going to double down on their holistic wellbeing efforts this year. 

Wellness is everything. When you think about our mission statement, ‘taking care of associates today and tomorrow,’ we certainly want to make sure that we are truly doing that in every aspect of the business that we can.

HR Manager, Government organization

Action Items

While many organizations have already launched wellness programs and initiatives, there’s still significant work to be done. According to WTW’s 2021 Wellbeing Diagnostic Survey

  • Less than half of companies had employee well-being programs.
  • Only 26% of companies had adopted and articulated a worker well-being strategy with objectives and goals for each program.
  • Only 14% of companies had effectively communicated the strategy and value proposition behind their programs and delivered on their promises.

Heading into 2022, more customers expressed a desire to start, revamp, or continue strengthening their wellness programs.

Burnout rates were at an all-time high in 2021. According to APA’s 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey, 79% of employees experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. The symptoms that accompanied this stress included: 

  • A lack of interest, motivation, or energy
  • Lack of effort at work
  • Cognitive weariness
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Physical fatigue

One of the ways employers plan to address this problem is to look for ways to help their workforce achieve more balanced lifestyles—whether that’s by introducing more flexible policies or offering benefits that support employees both in and out of work.

You can pay people more but, ultimately, if we’re frying people because they’re overworked, the money is just a bandaid. We have to start thinking about work-life balance as well.

VP of Total Rewards and HR Operations, Real estate company

It’s clear from our conversations with customers that they’re approaching the holistic wellbeing problem from multiple angles. Wellness isn’t just about making sure employees go in for their annual check-up (although that’s also important). It’s also about helping them set work boundaries, manage their finances, and take better care of their minds and bodies. 

I’ve been attending a few virtual wellness fairs, and the common theme from every employer…is that they’re taking a holistic approach. Typically, you’re hearing about these pillars like financial, emotional, social, and physical wellness. And we’ve started to adopt those in the last year too.

Kristen Shudra, Director of Benefits, Stantec

2021 HR Priority 02

Promoting Mental Health Offerings

Last year, Jellyvision customers told us that they were introducing new vendors in the mental health space and upping communications to ensure that employees were aware of available offerings.

In 2022, they’re going even deeper on this trend as the pandemic continues to take a toll on employees’ mental health.

Employers are also well aware that the need for mental health resources isn’t going anywhere—even after the pandemic. In fact, we conducted a survey and found that 95% of HR pros anticipate employees will continue to seek mental health care at higher rates than they did pre-pandemic.

After parental leave, our number one reason for leave of absence is mental health…We want to have people get the support and help they need prior to having to take a full leave of absence for mental health.

Senior Benefits Analyst, Healthcare company

Action Items

A common theme we noticed in our interviews (and in recent research) is that there’s still low employee awareness when it comes to certain mental health resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).

.

2/3

of employers offer an EAP

But only

1/3

of employees are aware of available EAPs

To close the gap, our customers are being more intentional about incorporating their mental health offerings into their benefits communication strategies.

Jelly
tip!

ALEX offers resources year-round to answer employees’ most common questions and guide them to benefits they may not even know exist (like free counseling sessions or teletherapy). Learn more.

In addition to bringing more awareness to their EAPs, many of our customers said they’re also revamping their programs to make them more attractive and useful to employees.

Similar to last year, our customers are thinking hard about how to create the best mental health benefits package for their employees—whether that’s by upgrading, expanding, or replacing their current offerings. If you’re curious which mental health benefits other companies are using, here are some of the most common ones that were mentioned in our conversations: 

2021 HR Priority 03

Rethinking DEI Initiatives

In 2021, we saw many employers prioritize DEI initiatives. This will remain a major focus area, with 79% of companies allocating even more budget and resources to DEI in 2022.

But employers are rethinking the way they approach their strategy. According to a study by Mclean & Company, many of the actions taken in 2021 by organizations leaned towards quick fixes, rather than holistic strategies that directly address diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Many of our customers are adjusting accordingly and planning to invest in more impactful, long-term strategies this year.

DEI is an ongoing process that you want to engage in. Things change and needs change, so your benefits and policies should be just as flexible and dynamic.

Natalie Johnson, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Paradigm

Action Items

Companies are getting to the root of the problem by re-examining all their processes, benefits, and policies through a DEI lens.

We want to look at our benefit offerings and make sure that they are diverse, equitable, and inclusive. That is something that’s going to be a priority… We could be making some design changes to make our plan more modern.

Senior Benefits Specialist, Insurance company

One specific theme we noticed is that many employers are exploring more inclusive benefits to support families in the workplace. This includes diverse family-forming options, such as adoption or gestational carrier services, as well as expanded child care support. 

Employers are also trying to create more safe spaces for their employees to have conversations about DEI issues. One approach many of our customers are planning to adopt is to launch more employee resource groups (ERGs) to foster a more inclusive culture. 

With the Whole Self Employee Community, employees come together globally to build community and a safe space around mental health, neurodiversity and physical disabilities. And the conversations and connections that have resulted there have been hugely impactful and supportive for members of that community.

Jen Bergman, Global Benefits and Well-Being Program Manager, Zendesk

2021 HR Priority 04

Facilitating Year-Round Benefits Engagement

While employers continue to introduce and expand upon their existing offerings, many are also recognizing that this is only one piece of the puzzle. Just as important as providing benefits is getting employees to actually use them.

To accomplish this, education is key. Unfortunately there’s a gap between the level of education employers are currently providing and what employees need. Our State of Employee Benefits Report found that:

1 in 5

employees want more benefits education

1 in 4

Employees spend 7+ hours researching their benefits.

But where there’s a gap, there’s an opportunity. That’s why, in 2022, our customers are planning to buckle down on their benefits communication strategies to ensure that employees—whether they’re in the office or working remotely—are taking advantage of all their offerings.

Making that communication push throughout the year will help us stay in contact with our employees and let them know that we’re here to help all year round.

Benefits Manager, Healthcare company

Action Items

Our customers told us that one of their goals is to communicate with their employees throughout the year without overwhelming them. For many companies, this means investing the bulk of their communication efforts on specific benefits that have low awareness—such as EAPs or voluntary plans. 

We feel like sometimes there’s too much out there…That’s why we’re really focusing on what we have and trying to educate people on how robust our EAP and existing programs are instead of adding others.

VP of Benefits & Wellness, Financial services company

Several spoke more generally, saying they’re making updates to the cadence and techniques around their benefits communications to ensure they’re reaching their workforce in the right place at the right time. 

Jelly
tip!

ALEX can help keep your workforce engaged with their benefits all year long by sending them reminders, resources, and recommendations that are personalized to each employees’ needs. Learn more.

2021 HR Priority 05

Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

As a result of the Great Resignation, talent acquisition and retention are a top priority in 2022. 

According to a SHRM survey from 2021, 41% of U.S. workers are actively searching or planning to search for a new job in the next few months. Of these workers, 68% have considered a career change over the pandemic.

Our customers recognize that one of the strongest levers they can pull to attract and keep top talent is to design a robust, inclusive benefits program that meets the needs of employees.

But they know that the refrain “if you build it, they’ll come” doesn’t apply in today’s market, so they’re also thinking about ways to differentiate their offerings from other companies.

We’re trying to really hone in on enhancing our brand of benefits because it’s a key differentiator for us.

Benefits manager, Video game company

Action Items

A SHRM survey found that there’s a divide between what employees believe are the most important factors to make them stay at a company versus what executives believe. Employees said their top three reasons for looking for a new job were:

  1. Better compensation
  2. Better work-life balance
  3. Better benefits

But company leaders thought workers were looking for new jobs because of:

  1. Better benefits
  2. Better career advancement opportunities
  3. Discomfort in the workplace due to COVID-19

Clearly, there’s a mismatch. That’s why a priority for many organizations this year is to get crystal clear on what employees need from them—whether that’s through surveys, conversations, or exit interviews.

It’s also critical to educate your existing employees about the benefits that are available to them. And that’s a huge area of focus for Jellyvision customers in 2022. 

According to a recent study, 2 in 5 employees say they don’t understand the benefits communications their employers send out, and 1 in 3 admit they’ve never taken action as a result of their employer’s benefits communication.
One strategy some companies are using to combat this problem is to rethink their onboarding process. Why? It’s one of the first opportunities employers have to introduce employees to their benefits package and ensure they fully understand what’s available to them—and we still have some work to do. According to our Onboarding Statistics Report:

Only

1 in 3

employees felt confident in their benefits understanding during their most recent onboarding

Nearly

2 in 5

employees didn’t receive employee benefits information before their first day

We’ve moved all of our orientation to a virtual setting, and one of our goals is to look at our new hire process to figure out how to get employees to look at the benefits materials. That’s a top priority for us because answering new hire questions takes up a lot of our time.

ProHealth Care

Investing in an engaging onboarding process has other benefits too. Research shows that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

Key Takeaways for 2022

Our conversations with HR leaders reveal that many of the priorities from 2021 are being carried over into 2022.

What’s changed is that, as organizations start to take action on these issues, they’re discovering challenges and thinking of new ways to approach these problems—whether that’s with regard to communication, engagement, or awareness. 

We want to clarify: this isn’t a bad thing! It’s natural, and expected, to run into obstacles while testing out new strategies. That’s one of the reasons why we publish this report—to show you how other innovative HR teams are addressing the same challenges that you’re facing.

2022 also introduces new priorities for employers to think about, such as retaining top talent and keeping employees engaged with their benefits year-round. We’re excited to see how companies tackle these challenges over the next few months and report back on their results in 2023. 

We know this was a lot of information. So if there’s anything you take away from this report, it’s this: 

  • When it comes to employee wellbeing, the goal isn’t perfection—just get the ball rolling and find ways to improve on your strategy as you go. 
  • Communication is key for all mental health benefits but especially for undervalued programs like EAPs.
  • Long-term impact > quick fixes when it comes to your DEI initiatives.
  • Year-round benefits engagement is hard. Keep experimenting, iterating, and learning.
  • Your benefits package can be a true differentiator when it comes to talent acquisition and retention. 

Before we close out this report, we just want to say you’re doing an awesome job. We know these past few years have been challenging, stressful, and, frankly, exhausting. But all the hard work you’re putting into these priorities? It matters. And we—along with your employees—appreciate everything you do.

2022 priorities in action

Your priorities are clear. Can you say the same for your benefits offerings? 

You know how to support employees. But your offerings are only meaningful if employees know about and use the benefits available. And getting employees engaged with your benefits, while ensuring they make smart choices (especially while working remotely) is no small feat. Fortunately, ALEX ensures employees maximize benefits offerings and avoid costly mistakes by: 

  • Guiding employees to the benefits that are right for their needs. Whether it’s enrollment season, a pressing mid-year question about coverage or someone logging into ALEX HSA to check their HSA balance, ALEX generates awareness for your entire slate of benefits offerings, including mental health services and EAPs. ALEX helps each of your employees understand their options and make recommendations based on their unique health and wealth situations—maximizing your benefits investments.
  • Promoting and driving enrollment into cost-saving programs. For employees with chronic conditions, ALEX guides them to your chronic care management programs, like Livongo, and helps them enroll on-the-spot. In fact, our partners who use Livongo save $1,908 per employee per year in gross medical costs.
  • Engaging with employees in the moments that matter. As employees use their benefits throughout the year, ALEX intercepts them and encourages better care choices when healthcare is top of mind. For example, when employees have questions, Chat, our smart chatbot, gives instant answers and plugs your cost-saving tools, such as prescription cost-comparison tools, helping employers save even more money when they implement Chat.
  • Helping employees discover new ways to save and turn it into action. Let’s face it, benefits are hard. ALEX breaks down complex topics with choice bits of humor in a way that makes information stick. For tips and tricks on how to get the best bang for their buck, employees can rely on Smart Tips videos that are available 24/7 and cover everything from saving for retirement to when to use urgent care vs. the ER—saving you and your employees time and money.

Methodology

Jellyvision performed a qualitative survey of 200+ companies from December 2021–February 2022 via phone interviews. Job titles of individuals surveyed include VP of human resources, global director of benefits and compensation, HR specialist, benefits strategy manager, total rewards consultant, and others. Company size ranged from small- and medium-sized businesses to large enterprises. All interview participants are based in the U.S.