3 Themes from The Health and Benefits Leadership Conference

Day three of HR Executive’s Health & Benefits Conference is well underway in Las Vegas. Hundreds of HR practitioners and service providers have come together for this event to engage in important discussions about today’s benefits landscape. Some of us have been so enthralled with the dialogue that we haven’t left Caesars Palace (the conference venue) or seen sunlight in 48 hours (time and daylight seem to have a totally different meaning in Vegas).

Conference sessions have so far covered industry news and regulations, as well as big picture trends and challenges – in other words, a little bit of everything to suit the well-rounded audience. However, through this purposefully diverse agenda, there are 3 consistent themes that stand out to me as particularly interesting and noteworthy:

  1. The best benefit leaders are challenging existing systems, their purpose, and broken components. These leaders are not focused on incrementally moving the needle, for example, on healthcare premiums. They are questioning the efficacy of employer-sponsored healthcare, public and private exchanges, and how healthcare is consumed on a macro level. For example, Dr. Zubin Damania is pioneering a new approach to primary care with his company, Turntable Health. Essentially, Turntable has a membership delivery model, just like a gym membership, and emphasizes preventive care and removing some of the friction of scheduling appointments and waiting for your doctor that turn people away from more conventional delivery models.
  2. Technology continues to promote automation, allowing HR leaders to spend more time focusing on strategy. Components of benefits administration are increasingly moving outside of HR teams (for example, with private exchanges) thanks to technology. Benefit leaders anticipate that this trend will allow HR to spend less time on administration and more time on strategy in the coming years. Don’t believe me? Take it up with the Walgreens benefits team, Tom Sondergeld is very passionate about this topic.
  3. Psychology is everywhere. Behavior change is becoming a more clear, actionable concept in the benefits world. Additionally, choice architecture is emerging as a pivotal component of benefit elections and psychologists are increasingly involved in benefit and workplace wellness discussions. Translation: it’s time to brush up on psych 101! Judith Sills, Art Markman, and Christopher Bishop are just a few of the psychology-oriented thinkers at this year’s conference. They delivered a great session entitled “What Makes Your Employees Tick” that covered age-old workplace debates like money vs. happiness.

It will be interesting to see how the agenda morphs even in 2015 as benefits continue to quickly evolve alongside regulations, the economy, and employee needs. While these themes may be in their early stages today, they are shaping the strategies of those adopting them early on. Expect them to become the norm as more organizations adopt these practices and incorporate them into their human resources strategies.

Lacey is the team lead focused on B2B demand generation for Morningstar’s growing Workplace segment. This includes responsibility of marketing strategy and execution with plan sponsors and key providers to expand Morningstar’s market reach. The Workplace umbrella includes financial wellness and retirement products for employees as well as custom models and fiduciary services. With products, services and thoughtful marketing, we strive to empower companies to help employees build financial wellness today and get ready to retire when the time comes.

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