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Alleviating the Labor Challenges in Higher Education: Better Benefits

It’s no secret that Higher Education institutions have struggled to keep up with the intensity of ongoing labor-related challenges. Consistent turnover, decreased employee satisfaction, and talent attraction struggles continue on. Whilst there is no silver bullet, there’s an overwhelming amount of data that indicates a correlation between benefits satisfaction and alleviating the aforementioned challenges. As a result, HR leaders are turning their attention to OE 2023/2024 as an opportunity to diversify their benefits strategy. In particular, within the arena of voluntary benefits and employee savings programs.

Many of us are familiar with more traditional voluntary benefits such as Long-Term Care, Mental Health, Legal, and Identity Theft. In a recent Willis Towers Watson survey, 95% of the respondents said voluntary benefits would play a critical role in their rewards strategy for the next 3 years. 

However, no matter where you are in your voluntary benefits and employee savings journey, one thing remains clear. It’s very challenging to design, build, and deploy awareness to these benefits in consideration of the complexity associated with a Higher Education organization's employee population. Here’s why: 

1. Highly Distributed Employee Population

Colleges and Universities have a geographically diverse workforce. Employees work across multiple locations such as campuses, offices, facilities and more. This makes it challenging for HR teams to coordinate benefits packages that meet the unique needs of each employee while also ensuring compliance with local and state regulations. 

Complexity usually comes in terms of employee preferences, flexibility, course budgeting, and implementation. With so many different variables at play, finding a fair compensation strategy for people who don’t share a common location becomes challenging. 

The diverse and distributed nature of the higher ed workforces often leads to communication gaps. If employees find it difficult to fully understand the VBs available, they will be less likely to take advantage of their benefits. 

VBs help bridge this gap by offering flexible options tailored to meet the needs of every employee, regardless of their location. According to the Willis Towers Watson Survey, the top voluntary benefits provided by large employers include: 

  • Critical-illness insurance - 43%
  • Identity-theft protection- 36%
  • Hospital indemnity plans - 24%
  • Long-term care insurance - 16%
  • Student loan refinancing - 10%

Higher education institutions are also increasingly extending voluntary benefits, in the form of health insurance, prescription drug coverage, wellness programs, and mental health programs, according to the 2022 College and University Benefits study (CUBS) 

2. High Turnover and Accommodating Waves of New Hires

In certain roles and functions within higher education organizations, turnover is an evergreen challenge. Benefits play a very important role in employee satisfaction and intent to stay. There’s a direct correlation between employees who enroll in VB and the length of their tenure. Moreover, this creates a vicious cycle of benefits administration during OE and all year round.  

VBs help alleviate this challenge by providing a continuous enrollment opportunity. This allows new hires to enroll in benefits packages at any time throughout the year.

This approach helps higher education organizations remain competitive by attracting and retaining top talent. In addition, providing employees with the flexibility needed to manage their mental, physical, and financially well being.

3. Meeting the Needs of Thousands of Employees Simultaneously

Higher education organizations have a disproportionate ratio between HR resources and total employees. This can be very overwhelming and simultaneously make it difficult for the employees in that department to understand the various benefits packages and plans available. 

VB technology can aid in easing the burden on HR by providing a streamlined and simplified approach to benefits management. Doing so allows higher education organizations to augment the administration of benefits, giving HR the opportunity to focus on other essential tasks. 

4. Obstacles Relating to a Diverse and Ever-changing Workforce

Higher Ed employees represent various age groups, gender, generations, socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities. The diversity of employee needs and preferences can pose difficulties for HR teams when designing benefits packages. Thankfully, VBs bridge this gap by offering options tailored to meet those wide-ranging needs. 

One example of this is financial planning tools; these tools can be offered as a voluntary benefit to help employees manage their finances and plan for retirement. Other packages can include wellness programs that promote employees’ physical and mental health. 

5. The Need to Attract and Retain Staff

As labor trends continue to remain volatile, the ability for higher education institutions to hire and retain top talent continues to be a challenge. As mentioned previously, benefits play a very important role in employee satisfaction and intent to stay. There’s a direct correlation between employees who enroll in VB and the length of their tenure. 

We completed a study with Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and found that by offering Voluntary Benefits improved the tenure by 2x for enrollees. Voluntary benefits provide a competitive edge by offering a comprehensive and attractive benefits package that caters to the diverse needs of employees.

These benefits not only help recruit new talent but also promote employee loyalty and reduce turnover rates. Ultimately, this results in a more stable and experienced workforce.

6. Employee Satisfaction at Historical Lows

Satisfied employees are more likely to be productive, engaged, and committed to their jobs. Statistics show that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy workers.

Therefore, VBs significantly boost employee satisfaction by addressing their individual needs and preferences. Offering diverse benefits (wellness programs, financial planning tools, and professional development opportunities) helps employees achieve a better work-life balance and feel more valued by their employers.

7. Finding Cost Savings for the Employee and Employer

Another advantage of voluntary benefits is their cost-effective nature for employers. Many voluntary benefits are employee-paid. It means the employer can offer a wide range of benefits to their employees without incurring significant costs.

This allows higher education institutions to enhance their benefit packages without straining their budgets. Thus, it is a financially viable solution for employers and employees.

So… What’s the Answer?

The simple fact is that voluntary benefits have become a ‘need to have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’ in 2023 and beyond. At Corestream, have had the privilege of supporting some of the most recognizable Higher Education institutions in the country deploy successful voluntary benefits and employee savings programs.

Corestream can streamline communication, alleviate the administrative burden on HR teams, and increase benefits participation at no cost to you. Our easy-to-use platform simplifies the process of accessing, understanding, and enrolling in VBs.

Learn more by clicking here!

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