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Staying up-to-date in any field often requires experts to attend conferences — and in the rapidly shifting field of employee benefits, it’s an imperative. In September the Winston crew heard about the latest trends at the EBN Benefits Forum & Expo in Las Vegas.

The conference covered seven tracks, ranging from general health care to regulatory concerns. The topics that stood out most to us were updates on financial wellness and health savings accounts, looking beyond health care to voluntary benefits that companies should be offering and exploring the relationship between employee benefits and engagement.

Here’s what we learned during our time at the Benefits Forum & Expo.

Helping Employees Understand — and Eliminate — Debt

Financial wellness historically has had different meanings across the generations. In the past, financial wellness has referred to comfortable means. But as the economy fluctuates and pay raises stagnate across industries and as student loan debt affects more and more of the workforce, financial wellness today often refers to debt elimination. Offering financial wellness programs to help employees manage and eliminate their debt should be on the horizon for many businesses.

Student loans are a massive source of debt for members of Generations Y and Z. Since this is a huge concern for a large majority of the workforce, student-debt relief has become a hot topic in benefits trends. Many organizations are leaning toward offering some sort of debt-relief program to help their employees achieve financial wellness.

Taking Care of Employee Health Holistically

For years mental health went untreated because of social stigmas. But now that mental health concerns have flooded the public consciousness, many organizations are looking to offer employees comprehensive health care coverage, including mental health benefits. With work-related stress on the rise — not to mention the unprecedented debt affecting large portions of the workforce — mental health services could become a very popular and useful employee offering, and one that could have a huge ROI for companies.

Similarly, on-site wellness clinics are gaining traction as a way for employees to remain healthy without major expense or inconvenience. Being able to visit a clinic on-site during a lunch break is more appealing to employees than having to take half a day to sit in their doctor’s waiting room. The ROI on healthier employees and less time lost at work means on-site clinics have lots of potential for your organization.

Building Employee Engagement

One employee engagement trend is that employers are gravitating toward using all channels to educate and enroll employees in benefits plans. Self-enrollment was popular before, but more organizations are utilizing their call centers and returning to face-to-face enrollment. We have always used multiple channels here at Winston, so we’re glad to see that it’s what employers and employees want.

This doesn’t mean we don’t use the latest technology though. Another trend is the use of the latest tech to drive engagement and employee outcomes. A user-friendly interface and use of email and SMS notifications (when authorized) can help employees remember to stay up-to-date on their enrollment and benefits options.

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