How evolving consumer health can change the benefit mindset

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Change is set to sweep across the benefits landscape, and a number of newly emerging factors will begin influencing how employers look at benefits packages and engage workers.

Major influences on the horizon include audacious aging (changing the mindset of old age), the next generation workforce (millennials and centennials), augmented health (technology meeting healthcare), the chasm economy (the wealth gap) and DIY healthcare (hands-on approach), says Don Abraham, president of consulting services at Kantar Futures.

“An influx of alternate solutions and business models — including shared consumption, do-it-yourself solutions and localized services — will revolutionize long standing and hierarchical industries, including finance education and healthcare,” he said at the National Business Group on Health’s Business Health Agenda conference in Washington, D.C.

During live polling at the event, 42% of the hundreds of employers in attendance agreed that the “audacious aging” of employees would be one of the aspects they’re least prepared for going forward.

The benefits industry has been talking for years about the death of retirement, Abraham said, but 10,000 boomers a day are moving into their post-work lives. “Our assumptions and expectations are wrong,” he added. “There are assumptions as organizations need to think about. As a society, we compartmentalize our elders. We’re not embracing aging gracefully or being able to work later in life.”

He pointed to a $292 billion industry on the anti-aging process. “Life’s third age is going to grow in importance going into the years ahead,” he said.

However, in second poll, employers were split on what was most critical going forward, with a split vote between “augmented health” (30%) and “DIY healthcare” (31%).

Augmented health is very powerful, Abraham says. “Organizations are scared because it’s daunting, but the power is rich and there is a lot of money going into them and a lot of savings for employers coming out of it,” he added.

Additionally, there is the DIY healthcare trend. “You’ve started to see the rise of “I don’t care about the experts, I’m taking this into my own hands and figure it out,”” noted Abraham. As healthcare becomes more expensive and confusing, people are side-stepping traditional care and opting for a more home-grown approach.

We can offer benefits, but at the end of the day, your employees just want to take care of themselves, he said. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink,” he noted of providing so many benefits.

In addition to aging and healthcare, the “economy chasm” and “next generation workforce” will still play an important role for employers going forward.

The next generation workforce, which is just a code name for millennial, is a generation where 61% associate an employer brand with job satisfaction … and 87% consider having a job you love as being a sign of success and accomplishment.

“The vast majority came into the workforce when the economy wasn’t that great, and it’s taken a while for the economy to get humming again,” he said. “This is a group that came up expecting it to be tough. This means they have grit, but it also means they have different expectations going forward. When times get good, they can very easily think about looking at something new to try,” he cautions.

And the chasm economy continues to pose challenges for employers, he continued. What started with the 2008 collapse, he said the widening gap of those with money and those without will Employers need to look at how to tackle health and retirement planning for workers who might have limited means.

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