Post-pandemic, business and profits are all about hyper-personalization

The pandemic was a tectonic shift that changed the world. Businesses were closed and only essential workers were allowed to enter workplace. The sky over Los Angeles, where I live, became crystal clear as the commuter pollution disappeared. The streets were empty. Essential workers began demanding hazard pay, PPP, increased paid sick leave and job protection. What followed was not the “few weeks to flatten the curve” that politicians promised, but 24 months that would change everything.

I was recently honored to be invited to participate in a series of webinars sponsored by BCS Financial and hosted by Eric Silvermanfounder of Voluntary Outage, to discuss the resounding implications that COVID-19 has had on human resources and employee benefits industry. During that conversation, I mentioned that no single event had done more to shake the status quo of society since 9/11.

There’s no going back to the old playbook of benefit fairs and brown-bag lunch-and-learns that fail to accommodate new anxieties, remote workers and the Great Resignation. But there is a silver lining for those looking for a way to differentiate your consulting practice.

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COVID has caused working Americans to take stock of their benefits, realizing both their vulnerability and financial exposure. After years of apathy and disengagement, they are now ready to be actively engaged—and it didn’t take a cancer diagnosis to prompt that realization.

HR departments dealing with a complex array of issues are eager for solutions to all their new problems. If you let customers talk about their concerns, they will provide all the information you need to win your retainer. Two areas of concern you’ll hear about most often include unsustainable costs and low adoption of strategic imperatives.

With health care costs rising at twice the rate of wages and three times the rate of inflation (before the last hike), they will double by 2027, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey.. In addition, Aflac reports that new plans and other cost control strategies have failed to capture the attention and imagination of employees. After only 32 minutes of reviewing their options, 92% defaulted on their previous coverage.

As basic and voluntary benefits become more commoditized, industry professionals and carriers can no longer approach product categories such as basic, voluntary, ancillary, etc., in a silo. Doing so leaves them telling only part of the story, further exacerbating the challenges of poor employee decision-making that has led to 80% of the wrong coverage being selected. The result is an average of $1,431 per year in unnecessary expenses, and many of the aforementioned HR concerns. So what are the solutions?

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Those who have begun to thrive in this new environment have realized that today’s challenges have less to do with plan design and cost comparisons, and more to do with employee engagement and education. Their strategies use modern technology and omnichannel communication (voice, MMS, text, email, video) to build powerful campaigns that reinforce corporate narratives of care.

They also use recognition and appreciation to build loyalty to the organization and as a catalyst for action, seeking to move the needle on employees becoming proactive consumers. And they meet employees where they are, providing hyper-personalized decision support from empathetic subject matter experts in a hybrid way. When on-site is not an option, they use web conferencing to maintain the intimacy of one-on-one interactions with the added flexibility that alleviates anxieties and responsibilities and provides maximum flexibility for employees to get the support they deserve. This is the silver lining!

COVID forced companies to be nimble to survive. They used text to contact employees about pressing business-related issues, such as closings and explosions. They used Zoom meetings to connect when social distancing made it otherwise impossible. And the best fostered a sense of community through a story of concern and care.

Employees have also adapted. They were forced to take personal responsibility, finding new ways to cope with freedom and balance priorities from distractions. They were asked to ingest massive amounts of information and decipher what actions to take to create the right peace of mind about the safety and security of their loved ones. Out of necessity (in most cases), they embraced the technology – accelerating its adoption by about 12 years in less than 24 months. This not only paved the way for remote work, but also enabled them to send their children to school, attend religious services and attend happy hours. For many people, Zoom has become the new phone call and has replaced two-hour daily commutes.

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The fact is that 24 months ago, if you had attempted to present a hybrid approach to solving the problems plaguing your customers, it would likely have been met with objections of “low sophistication” and serious doubts that it would be a success . There would be a reluctance to use voice or text broadcasting, despite the ineffectiveness of traditional web portals, manuals and email campaigns. But today, HR teams have evidence that these modalities are effective and well accepted. They have experienced firsthand the efficiency of contact beyond email and have seen employees deftly navigate what once seemed impossible.

In the end, ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and understand that the answers to today’s problems are not found in charts or blueprints. They are more likely to be solvable by focusing on engagement strategies and providing decision support. Moments in time don’t last forever – I guess that’s why they’re called moments. I encourage you not to let this pass.

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