“Improving Employee Benefits” Is Now Available

I’m happy to announce that my new book, Improving Employee Benefits, has just been published.  Improving Employee Benefits shows HR and benefits professionals how to use behavioral economics to increase the uptake and IEB Coverimpact of their benefit programs, from the initial design process to implementation and evaluation.  And, we’re offering a free copy of the digital edition now.

Most of us who work with employee benefits have been surprised – and sometimes dismayed – at how employees struggle to make the best use of their benefits.   How savings programs like 401ks, FSAs, and HSAs or wellness programs are underutilized despite their tremendous value for employees.  Or, how reading benefits communications seem to fall to the bottom of employee priority lists, again and again.  Yet, in survey after survey, employees say that they value their benefits and that they want to save money, be healthy, and properly insure for their families; there’s a disconnect between what employees want, and what actually happens.

Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of behavioral research that helps us understand this disconnect: Why employees fail to take action on their benefits, even when they want to.  It’s not because employees are lazy; it’s because we’re all human, and we forget, procrastinate, get distracted, misjudge, or make hasty decisions.   Behavioral researchers have studied not only how our minds make (good and bad) decisions, but also how well designed programs can help us make better decisions and overcome our inertia to take action.  And that’s what Improving Employee Benefits is about.

In the book, you’ll learn:

  • How employees make decisions about their benefits program.
  • Practical tips for getting attention and participation in a program: from using social proof to running competitions to eliciting implementation intentions.
  • Easy tools to use for measuring the impact of a program and documenting the value a program provides for the company and employees.
  • When incentives are most useful, and when they are likely to backfire
  • How to get HR and senior leadership on the same page about the (behavioral) purpose and success criteria for benefits programs.
  • How to hold vendors accountable for the impact of their programs, and move past misleading industry benchmarks and participation numbers.

The first section of the book is for HR leaders: it provides an overview of the behavioral research and how it can be used by HR teams.  The second section of the book is squarely focused on techniques and practical examples for practitioners:  from how to write and visually design more effective emails (based on hundreds of field experiments) to how to find where in a benefits process employees are getting stuck, and how to help smooth the path for employees.   While the books is intended for HR teams, vendors, consultants, and communications professionals will all find lessons applicable for their work.

With the launch of the published book – available we’re making the digital edition of the book available for free, for a limited time. If you are interested in receiving a printed copy you may the order one via Amazon.

Stephen is a behavioral scientist who studies financial behavior and how digital products can help individuals manage their money more effectively. He serves as Head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar (HelloWallet’s parent company), where he leads a team of behavioral scientists and practitioners to conduct original research on saving and investment behavior.

Stephen has authored two books on applied behavioral science, Designing for Behavior Change and Improving Employee Benefits, and founded the non-profit Action Design Network, educating the public on how to apply behavioral research to product development with monthly events in seven cities.

Stephen holds a BA from U.C. Berkeley, a Master’s from Johns Hopkins-SAIS, and a PhD from the University of Maryland, where he analyzed the dynamics of behavioral change over time. He has two wonderful kids, who don’t care about behavioral science at all.

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