Returning to Core Benefits to Overcome Employee Dissatisfaction

Jasper Purvis

December 8, 2023

Originally published on BenefitsPro

Do you remember the iconic refrain shouted by TV anchorman Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network? “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Well, employees today aren’t quite that angry, but they are increasingly unhappy at work. In fact, employees are more dissatisfied now than at any time since companies began tracking employee engagement in the 1990s. Need proof?

So what? Why does employee satisfaction matter and, equally important, why should a benefits broker care?

Employee satisfaction matters because satisfied employees are more productive in the workplace. While there is nothing in state or federal law that requires a certain level of job satisfaction in the workplace, it nevertheless plays an important role. Satisfied employees are 12% more productive and increase a company’s profits. This is because job satisfaction positively impacts employee performance, dedication, energy, and mental health.

HR professionals may be near their wit’s end wondering what to do to combat employee dissatisfaction, especially after the rush over the last several years to add all sorts of voluntary benefits in hopes of supporting the “whole employee” or seeking to build a “holistic” benefits program.

However, brokers need to play a stronger consultative role by reminding their clients that HR already has a proven weapon to help combat employee dissatisfaction: core benefits. This is especially true if the employer is paying a large portion of the premiums.

When it comes to moving the needle on employee satisfaction, a good range of core benefits such as medical, dental, and vision insurance can make all the difference. They do more than simply help employees better afford the cost of health care.

Core benefits: Nourishing the whole employee

Strong core benefits have a rippling effect throughout an employee’s life. In short, strong core benefits support many of the same areas of an employee’s life as many voluntary benefits do. Here are three examples:

  1. Financial stability. Employees who have access to core benefits are more likely to enjoy financial wellness. It’s no secret that unexpected medical bills and dental emergencies can quickly add up and cause financial strain. Further, when workers are uninsured or underinsured, they’re not protected against unexpected, high medical costs, they pay more for covered in-network care, and they can’t get free preventive care.
  2. Mental wellbeing. Core benefits can help alleviate stress, boost mental health, and improve work performance as a result — because employees are more likely to get care and also know they are covered if things go wrong. As one study found, access to health insurance is “significantly associated” with fewer missed workdays.
  3. Work-life balance. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that covering the cost of private health insurance for employees is one key to supporting work-life balance. When employees feel in control of their health and wellness, they can focus on other things in their lives, such as their families and hobbies — and on their job — without worrying about taking time off work for appointments. This can lead to increased morale and engagement, which can translate to better job performance.

How to help HR get core benefits right: Seek and respond to employee feedback

To ensure a company’s core benefits are truly meeting the needs of their employees, brokers should play a consultative role to help them get employee feedback throughout the year (not only before it’s time to renew their plans for open enrollment season). Focus on getting feedback, especially from new hires and after life events. These are benefits “moments of truth” for employees. When HR teams listen to what their employees want and how they feel about their benefits, they are better positioned to tailor their benefits packages to meet those needs.

Employee surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations can all be effective ways to collect feedback and gauge satisfaction levels. When benefit and HR leaders have the level of information those channels can deliver, they’re in a better position to turn the tide on employee dissatisfaction by taking at least three key steps.

  1. Review and update existing benefit packages to ensure they’re meeting employee needs.
  2. Leverage technology to make it easier for employees to access and manage their benefits.
  3. Improve the overall employee experience, making sure their core benefits help make the workplace more enjoyable for everyone.

The key for brokers here is to be positioned to help benefit and HR leaders design, implement, and administer benefit plans that meet employee satisfaction and expectations.

Jasper Purvis is Vice President of Business Development for Selerix, a provider of benefits administration solutions for employers and carriers.

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