While we’re all sick of hearing the word “unprecedented,” that’s exactly what 2020 was.
That’s why we interviewed 200+ Jellyvision customers to learn about their 2021 priorities and how they’ve shifted their focus a year into a worldwide pandemic.
Last year was full of “firsts” for HR teams. Between adopting virtual strategies, shifting to remote work, and continuously assessing the funnel of new information coming your way, no doubt you agree it was a clusterf*ck (pardon our language).
Fortunately, there’s a silver lining to the chaos. Through immense change, we’ve all learned and evolved. Circumstance pushed leaders to adapt, pivot, create fast solutions to broken processes, and innovatively support their teams.
Even though “holistic wellness program” has been a buzzword for a while, the pandemic accelerated this notion due to sheer need. Companies had always wanted to keep workforces healthy, reduce healthcare costs, and offer well-rounded benefits packages (that people actually understand and use)—but always seemed to fall short. 2020 forced employers to make this happen ASAP, through quick action plus trial and error. In many ways, it was the shove that HR teams and managers needed.
At Jellyvision, we saw the writing on the wall: 2020 was one of the most experimental years for managers, HR leaders, and businesses in general.
The global pandemic shined a spotlight on the areas where HR priorities were lacking, where benefits and resources fell short, and most importantly—the necessity to support “whole person” health. That’s why we interviewed 200+ of our customers in late 2020 and early 2021 to glean invaluable insights on their lessons learned and biggest areas of focus for the year ahead. Our conversations revealed what the future of HR will look like.
We always say that in order to perform at your best, you need to be running at your best. In order to be well and run at your best, you have to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.Kelly Quinn, HR Total Rewards Consultant, SAP
With everything that’s going on … mental wellness, physical wellness and wellness in general is something that will be a hot button issue moving into 2021. We have to come up with ways to help staff get through what’s going on, both personally and professionally.VP of HR, Financial Company
Part of our mental health push is also financial. Any way we can help people make sure they’re on a budget and watch what they’re spending is all part of a wellness push.Benefits Manager, Construction and Engineering Company
Don’t feel like reading the full report? We get it; you’re a busy person. Here are the highlights to give you an idea of the seven key HR priorities we uncovered:
- Mental health cannot be ignored: Our report shows 7x more employers plan to prioritize mental health in 2021, and countless other studies confirm this as well. Companies are putting their money where their mouth is by offering resources like meditation apps and virtual therapy, robust manager training, and expanding employee assistance programs (EAP).
- Companies are experimenting with physical care: Employers are trying unique and innovative care options to promote better physical health for their staff. These initiatives include telehealth, Centers of Excellence (COE) partnerships, on-site clinics, and a variety of fitness/nutrition programs focused on real wellness.
- Financial wellness assistance isn’t just a “nice to offer” benefit: The financial strain of the pandemic helped companies understand they need to increase financial education and help employees leverage available resources. Our customers introduced education on retirement, partnered with financial wellness platforms/apps, and explored student loan benefits.
- Chronic conditions shouldn’t plague employees: Managing chronic conditions leads to lower health care costs down the road. Teams realized this even more in 2020, with 5x more employers prioritizing disease management. They rolled out digital platforms to support management of common conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and GI disease.
- Communication is key: As we’re distanced, communication is the most important channel to reach employees. Our customers focused on efficient and consistent communication, specifically in the areas of HSA education and resources, to help employees be smarter healthcare consumers.
- DEI translates to benefits, too: Diversity, equity, and inclusion aren’t just imperative to management and hiring but also benefits as well. Employers expanded focus to items like family benefits (maternity/paternity leave, family planning, fertility, and adoption assistance).
- Childcare is difficult: Employers realized parents are people too, and it’s challenging to balance a family and career (esp. in 2020). As such, there was a 15% increase in prioritization of family and childcare this past year. Leaders helped more with childcare resources, as well as supported more fertility and family planning programs.
It’s time for employers to think about their team as whole people. We talked to 200+ real HR leaders, gathered the most recent data and research, and compiled it into one handy report, so you can have a top-down view of HR in 2021. (You’re welcome! 🙂) Curious about where and how to focus your efforts for the year ahead? Use these priorities to guide your process.
Also, know that you NEED to focus on every aspect of employee health. Financial health is mental health is physical health—they’re all intertwined and equally important.
2021 HR Priority 01
Supporting Employee Mental Health
Yes, it’s true, mental health is health.
Mental health has always been a priority, and now it’s been amplified because the need has become so prevalent.Stephanie Riedel, Benefits Manager, ServiceNow, Inc.
more employers are prioritizing
mental health in 2021
It only took a global pandemic and a complete workforce shift, but employee mental health is now front and center.
Unfortunately, recent research corroborates that the past year took a toll on mental wellbeing, which impacted physical health and productivity:
- SHRM found that between 22% and 35% of U.S. employees experienced symptoms of depression during the pandemic.
- A Qualtrics survey of 2,000 global workers found that more than half (57.2%) had increased anxiety from the pandemic, which led to other symptoms such as exhaustion, sadness, irritability, confusion, and insomnia.
- A Kaiser Family Health poll echoes this, explaining half of adults reported adverse effects from pandemic ranging from difficulty sleeping to problems eating to an increase in alcohol or substance use.
- Another Ginger survey of 1,200 workers discovered that 91% reported moderate to extreme stress, and 62% said they lost at least one hour daily in productivity due to COVID-19.
The good news is that employers have noted these mounting challenges and taken action to support their team’s mental wellness.
2021 HR Priority 02
Innovate Physical Care
To make a difference, physical care needs to be robust and personalized.
I want to push the envelope in terms of using virtual care. The one good thing that has come out of COVID is people are using virtual healthcare more than ever. The lack of primary care physicians has always been an issue, so I want to see where I can take virtual primary care medicine in the future.Director of benefits and compensation, maintenance products company (NCH Corporation)
more employers are prioritizing
innovation in physical care in 2021
Due to the pandemic, preventative care usage was much lower than normal. CDC reports confirmed that 41% of U.S. adults delayed or avoided medical care because of COVID-19 concerns.
While this makes sense (people sheltered in place for months at a time), preventive care is key in lowering long-range health costs and ensuring a healthy workforce. As such, companies looked for new ways to deliver care via virtual means, on-site clinics, and other methods. Even after in-person care options resumed, our customers found these innovative solutions still made sense and served their team well.
2021 HR Priority 03
Drive Financial Wellness
Cash does rule everything around us.
Once our employees retire, I want them to be happy and enjoy their retirement. But when it comes to retirement, we see that our employees aren’t saving enough.HR specialist, state government
increase in employers
prioritizing financial wellness
It’s no longer enough for a management team to offer what they think are fair salaries and good benefits, then leave the rest of it up to their employees. Financial wellness support is essential.
Financially comfortable employees are more productive. Just check out some stats from a recent Salary Finance Report:
- 42% of working Americans surveyed are stressed about finances.
- That stress results in the loss of 3 working hours per week due to money worries.
- Those with financial stress are 9x more likely for it to affect the quality of their work.
- Financially stressed employees are 10x more likely not to finish daily tasks.
- The estimated impact of a financially stressed employee is 13-18% of their salary cost.
But folks want to achieve better financial wellness (and stop their money worries), especially after the increased strains of the pandemic. And their employers want to help, too. A Bank of America report found that 62% of employers feel extremely responsible for employee’s financial wellness.
Our conversations supported the need and want to support financial wellness. In 2020, companies realized they couldn’t sit back and let their team figure it out on their own, especially when they offer resources that could help, but folks just don’t understand them.
2021 HR Priority 04
Better Manage Chronic Conditions
Chronic conditions shouldn’t cause chronic issues for employees.
We’re focusing on chronic conditions and managing costs, as well as high-cost claimants and how we can better navigate those situations. We’re exploring programs to invest in that are valued by our employees, will help to improve their well-being, and have an impact on our medical spend.Garrick Wisner, Manager, Compensation and Benefits, Plexus Corp.
more employers are prioritizing
disease management in 2021
Recent Mercer research discovered that in their database of 1.6 million plan members, the sickest 6% represent 47% of total medical and pharmacy spending, on average. This isn’t altogether shocking news, as most people are aware of the high cost of healthcare in this country. However, employers can work with their staff to keep costs down and help them better manage chronic conditions—a common theme that popped up in our conversations with customers.
2021 HR Priority 05
Keep on Communicating
Do more than talk to your team; ensure you’re actually saying something.
I think one of the main things we need to do is communicate our offerings—because we do have tools and resources available for employees, but employees don’t know about them.Benefits specialist, construction company
1 in 4
are prioritizing year-round
education and communication
Employers and HR teams increasingly understand communication can’t just be a one-and-done effort during open enrollment or other important periods. To see meaningful benefits engagement, education and communication must be at the forefront.
While a quarter of our customers confirmed they’re prioritizing regular education and communication—that’s not enough. 1 in 5 employees said they want more benefits education, so it’s time to increase focus in this area.
ALEX cuts through the jargon to explain all your medical, dental, vision, and voluntary benefits offerings—including complex plan designs such as EPOs, HMOs, tiered networks, narrow networks, and ACOs.
You can talk, message, and email your staff until you’re blue in the face (or hands), but unless what you’re saying offers real value, and is delivered at a time most relevant to the employee, it may come across as white noise. Targeted, ongoing communication is the way to do it; here’s how our customers accomplished that in 2020 and will continue to work on it and 2021.
2021 HR Priority 06
Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
DEI extends to all facets of the workforce.
There’s work coming out of our ERGs on benefits to consider: what are we not offering, what are our plans currently covering and what can we cover in the future?Benefits specialist, investment management firm
For the first year, DEI is a priority across HR teams in 2021.
Racial injustices and healthcare disparities were even more painfully magnified in 2020. Consequently, employers chose to prioritize action as far as their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. While aspects like hiring and management practices are often at the forefront in DEI discussions, benefits are also another piece of the puzzle. As one customer explained, “Benefits is one face of the DEI cube.”
In response to the heightened awareness around inequity this past year, employers examined their benefits strategy to confirm they support inclusivity as well as underrepresented groups.
2021 HR Priority 07
Childcare and Family Planning
Managers should understand that managing a family is hard.
We might bring in a care program to help people with childcare. A lot is going to be dependent on whether the vaccine works and how it’s going to be distributed.Benefits manager, construction company
increase in employers who are
prioritizing family and childcare
Getting a peek inside our coworkers’ homes via Zoom this year means we’re now all familiar with the juggling act of being a working parent. The shift to remote work and virtual learning left employees stretched thin and at their wit’s end. According to Pew Research, more than half of working parents with children under the age of 12 found it difficult to handle child care during the pandemic. Another survey found that 66% of working parents confirmed their productivity suffered due to balancing childcare and work during the pandemic.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we need to be ready to pivot—because our world is constantly changing.
Just as no one person is the same, no benefits package or experience can be one-size-fits-all.
Our customers echoed that when they described the various changes they made and expect to make as we trudge on in 2021.
One of the pros of our jobs, homes, workspaces, professional lives, and everything else blending together for an entire year in lockdown is that managers got a front-row seat to what HR pros have always known: Outside factors have an outsized impact on professional performance. It’s immensely obvious that employers must focus on whole-body health. If you want happy, engaged, invested, and productive team members, you need to care about what’s happening when they’re not at work.
So here’s what your main priorities should be this year, according to our customers and the latest industry research:
- Mental health isn’t “in our heads.” Mental wellness equates to physical health, period. You can’t have one without the other.
- Bringing physical care options to your employees is an easy way to ensure better practices.
- Your staff wants to both understand and work towards financial security; as their employer you have a unique opportunity to assist with both.
- Helping people manage chronic conditions helps in the present as well as down the road.
- You need to communicate the right amount in the right way. (Hint: This might mean different strategies for different people, and you’ll likely need to update this as your team and their needs evolve.)
- Inclusion should carry on into HR and benefits via family planning, adoption assistance, fertility resources, family leave, and more.
- Childcare + full-time job = challenging. Support the parents on your team with childcare-related resources and benefits. (Bonus, this will attract a wider range of talent in the future as well.)
2021 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.
Jellyvision performed a qualitative survey of 200+ companies from December 2020–February 2021 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.
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