Participants More Engaged Than Ever at Work

Now is the time to encourage positive behaviors, especially with health care benefits, sources say.

Since 2000, Gallup has regularly conducted a survey on how engaged workers are with their workplaces, and the results have generally been steady. But in March 2020, worker engagement rose to 37%, up from 35% in 2019. By May, that grew to 38%, and in June it hit a record 40%.

Employees may be more engaged with their workforces, Gallup says, because they say they are getting more feedback from their managers. And 47% of workers say their organization cares about their overall well-being.

With employee engagement up, says Jeff Cimini, senior vice president, retirement product management at Voya, now is the perfect time for retirement plan sponsors to encourage their participants to increase their 401(k) deferrals and to take advantage of such offerings as health savings accounts (HSAs), he says.

“A recent survey found that a majority of Americans would be unable to cover a sudden emergency costing $400,” Cimini tells PLANSPONSOR. “Think about the $1,000 deductible in a high-deductible health plan [HDHP] for a single person, and a $2,500 deductible for a family. We would suggest that an HSA is a good way to cover that, let alone its triple tax benefits and its role in covering health care costs in retirement.”

As the management of benefits has fallen more squarely on the shoulders of workers, it only stands to reason that they have become more interested in and engaged with their benefits, Cimini adds. “We are also seeing employers offer more benefits related to financial issues that people are grappling with, such as student loan debt and emergency savings accounts,” he says.

Kevin Robertson, senior vice president and chief revenue officer at HSA Bank, agrees that now is a particularly good time for employers to talk about the value of HSAs to their employees. “If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is that it has made Americans more sensitive and willing to take action to cover their health care costs.”

Robertson suggests that rather than allowing workers to automatically select previous benefit choices during open enrollment, employers should make it as active a process as possible and ask their workers to think hard about their health care needs. They can support this active process with online calculators and/or call centers where benefits representatives can answer employees’ questions, he continues.

Employers might also want to consider contributing a match to employees’ HSAs to encourage more participation, he says. “They can also consider making negative elections on contributions with the opportunity for participants to opt out of the HSA,” he suggests.

Another way employers can keep engagement high is to continue using short digital messages many have been sending to their employees during the pandemic on such topics as the value of saving for retirement, says Scott Francolini, head of strategic relationship management and consulting at John Hancock.

“More just-in-time messaging and videos can be very effective,” he says. “People also respond very favorably to messaging on the importance of helping them as holistically as possible. People are looking to their employer more than ever for support and solutions.”