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The Changing Role of the Strategic Benefits Leader


Since the start of the pandemic, company benefits have played an increasingly important role in helping organizations protect the safety, wellness, and health of their employees. This is increasingly the case, not only for physical wellness, but organizations now have greater awareness of mental health and financial wellness impacts on their staff given recent challenges and mass resignations.

2022: a perfect storm for benefits

The dominance of remote/hybrid work environments also opens up new opportunities for benefits functions to offer new benefit types that could be seen as tangible expressions of a company’s culture. Therefore, If employee welfare, attraction, and retention are not top of the list of your key strategic priorities for 2022, they should be. Not only are organizations and HR functions adapting to new ways of working and changing business environments, they are also facing the fact that employees have started to "vote with their feet”, demanding a better work-life balance. We are experiencing the largest wave of mass resignations seen in most of our lifetimes. This is also not helped by the retirement of baby boomers and an aging workforce. 2022 is the year to act, and these challenges also offer a great opportunity for benefits teams to relook at the role they can play in strengthening the resilience of companies and their workforce.

2022 is expected to bring a perfect storm that will drive companies to increase their focus on benefits, creating opportunities to address the importance of benefits and the benefits experience and HR teams should be looking to raise the bar in cascading key messages across management teams. Talent shortages are severe in many industries and the competition for companies to offer diverse and attractive benefits will also put companies and HR teams under pressure.

Benefits functions are in a privileged position to offer personalized support across a company's whole employee base and could become the hidden hero of HR in the coming year.

Launching a major new benefits study

To help shed greater light on this important topic, NelsonHall is launching an educational research study, in conjunction with Empyrean, designed to help benefits plan sponsors and administrators understand the wider impact they can make to help their companies adapt and be more competitive. Part of this research will look at the impact benefits can play in demonstrating, shaping and cementing a strong company culture.

Given the market forces outlined above, NelsonHall will look at how the role of benefits plan sponsors and administrators will change over the next year as the strategic importance of the benefits function grows. As part of the research, NelsonHall will be looking at how the benefits function is adapting and reshaping in the light of the wider business environment.

In particular, the study will research the wider and increasingly strategic role of benefits leaders. Benefits strategy is an increasingly important element within an organization’s wider HR strategy, such that benefits leaders are expected to play more strategic roles within the HR department and become key contributors not just in benefits strategy & design but in the development of talent acquisition, talent retention, and overall HR strategies.

The study will also investigate the changing benefits platform requirements. As benefits teams take on more strategic roles within the organization, platforms will take on an increasing proportion of day-to-day transactional activity, with organizations looking to establish hybrid and AI-driven omnichannel operations. These platforms will also increasingly provide the analytics and AI-driven personalized recommendations and decision support to fine tune benefits programs.

Get involved: join the research survey

We'd love to hear your views. To join the research survey The Changing Role of Strategic Benefits Leaders Survey please share your details here. The survey will be open until 31 January 2022 and all participants will receive our research report containing a detailed analysis of the findings.

The survey results will be announced and discussed across the benefits community at the Empyrean EVOLVE client conference in Nashville, TN, from April 6-8, 2022. For those not able to attend, you can obtain a copy of the research report from the Empyrean site following the event.

About Empyrean

Empyrean is a benefits service organization that recently launched its new brand strategy to address "building culture through benefits". It looks to drive positive workplace cultures by connecting its employees to life-enriching benefits. Empyrean’s new brand message makes a strong connection between the role benefits play in building a company’s culture and positive organizational outcomes tied to total employee health and wellness. The brand strategy reflects Empyrean’s product roadmap, as the company continues to develop and roll out employee-centric technologies and services along with strategic carrier and service partnerships designed to improve employee experiences and strengthen employer brands.

For more information on Empyrean’s brand strategy:

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