February 2, 2021
Optimizing your company’s wellness benefits program on JOON
At JOON, we frequently work with forward-thinking People Teams administering wellness and fringe benefits programs and lifestyle spending accounts that lead to better workplaces and increased workforce engagement and retention.
As the account manager for many of these companies, I have a front row seat to what works and what doesn’t. Below are tips and recommendations, whether you’re creating your first benefits program or improving an existing program.
Recommendations for employers launching a benefits program for the first time
First, congrats! Launching a wellness benefits program is an effective way to improve workforce health and satisfaction, better compete in the war for talent, and garner more positive reviews on Glassdoor.
TL;DR – Overall, my advice is to keep it simple at first and get more sophisticated over time based on feedback. A monthly benefit of $75 towards Health & Wellness is our most popular starting point – it covers everything from physical to mental health and encourages employees to freely invest in their wellness!
- Analyze your workforce and existing feedback. You may already have feedback from a recent workforce survey. Is your workforce stressed? Are people relocating to more rural areas? Do they have student debt? Are they interested in family planning? Consider these factors so that your wellness program is a direct reflection of your workforce’s unique needs.
- Keep it simple. Too many HR initiatives have too much paperwork and process that get in the way of achieving their objectives in the first place! The last thing you want to do is spend time and resources designing a program that benefits recipients are too confused to use. Start with a simple program, allowance, cadence, and eligible category. Typically we recommend beginning with Health & Wellness as a category since it is the most popular and universally applicable (everyone benefits from being healthier!). However, if you have clear feedback that another priority would serve your workforce better, perhaps focus on that first. Let benefits recipients know that this is the initial edition and that it will evolve based on feedback.
- Choose an appropriate and sustainable allowance. Enable your workforce to actively engage in the program while achieving incredible ROI for your organization. The most successful companies we work with start by offering between $50 – $75/month which goes a long way in the Health & Wellness category. For example, a $75 allowance will cover a monthly Peloton subscription along with supplemental app subscriptions for meditation and yoga. For a 100 person company with 75% monthly benefits utilization, such a program will cost about $60,000 – $75,000/year for your business. That’s less than the cost of replacing one employee who burns out or leaves because they don’t feel appreciated. We recommend starting with an allowance you can potentially commit to long-term – although it happens, it’s far from ideal to reduce allowances or remove eligible categories in the future.
- Use it or lose it. For categories like Health & Wellness, we highly recommend monthly allowances on a “use it or lose it” basis. Such programs incentivize benefits recipients to urgently prioritize their wellness in the present, rather than pushing it off. Alternatively, for categories like Family Planning, an annual cadence may be more appropriate. If you’re combining multiple categories into the same program, it’s best to stick with a single cadence so as not to overcomplicate the program and confuse your workforce right out of the gate!
- Test and learn. Analyze utilization and feedback every month after launching your program. For many of our clients, we’ll insert feedback surveys and even links to leaving a Glassdoor review in monthly reimbursement email notifications to benefits recipients. Take feedback seriously and consider revising your program on an annual or bi-annual basis.
Recommendations for employers improving an existing benefits program
If you already have a benefits program, it means you’re in the top echelon of employers! You may want to take your program to the next level for any number of reasons, from improving utilization to becoming more inclusive of an increasingly diverse workforce.
TL;DR – Overall, my advice is to be flexible and inclusive rather than exclusive. While that may mean that your program is slightly more costly and that some benefits recipients may go beyond the boundaries you generally intended, it also means that you’ll accommodate more people, personal preferences, and lifestyles. Ultimately, the goal is to show your workforce that you appreciate everything they do to help your company continue growing!
- Incorporate multiple categories to appeal to a diverse workforce. After Health and Wellness, our next most popular categories are Family Care and Learning & Development. But the world is your oyster and we offer many Standard Categories that can be customized! You can turn all the categories on, or start with one and add on new categories every quarter to keep benefits recipients excited and engaged in the program.
- The fewer exclusions the better. Some companies specify what subcategories and merchants are and aren’t eligible (i.e. making electricity bills ineligible within the Work From Home category) which we understand can be necessary and justifiable, but the more simple the program the more likely your workforce will engage.
- Increase the monthly allowance. Even if it’s a small bump! Announcing a $10 increase shows your workforce that you are continuously prioritizing and reinvesting in them, and may be the motivation some benefits recipients need to utilize their benefit.
- Include merchants that are aligned with your brand values. If you’re using a flexible benefits solution like JOON, you can make individual merchants eligible within your benefits program. We work with companies that make local merchants eligible in order to support their surrounding community. We also work with companies that make black-owned businesses eligible for Black History Month. Consider how your benefits program can reinforce your company values.
- Analyze utilization reports. Talk to your JOON account manager about best practices for dissecting your utilization reports by workforce cohorts. For example, are longer tenured employees utilizing their benefits while newer hires are too overwhelmed and struggle to get onboarded?
- Create a company-wide incentive. The most successful employers motivate their benefits recipients to utilize their benefits. For example, one company we work with set an incentive that if 90% of the company utilized their benefits within the first month they’d also get free lunch at the next Town Hall. Ultimately, effective benefits programs show up in workforce productivity, engagement surveys, and Glassdoor reviews. It’s a worthwhile investment to get right.
I hope you found the above recommendations helpful. Of course, I don’t have a monopoly on best practices, so I highly recommend that you also start a Slack channel to open a dialogue within your company about wellness. Your workforce is your best source of inspiration for how to improve engagement and retention.