When most people think of Las Vegas, they think slot machines, extravagant entertainment and hasty decisions. But the people that gathered in the meeting rooms at Caesar’s Palace last week thoughtfully discussed decisions with far-reaching consequences. At the second annual Human Resource Executive Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, speakers and attendees examined the present and considered the future of employee benefits.
Hailing from major employers all over the country, senior-level HR/benefits practitioners heard from thought leaders and industry experts on all things HR and employee benefits. Across the board, a theme emerged: There are big changes occurring in employee benefits right now, due in large part to the Affordable Care Act. However, ACA or no, the only way to handle benefits changes is for organizations to change as well.
Dr. David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association's Center for Organizational Excellence and Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, kicked off the conference with his panel, Moving from Cost Control to Value Creation. HR experts from Marriott International, Walgreens and the Integrated Benefits Institute emphasized the need for innovative thinking with a focus on creating value rather than just controlling costs.
The data presented in the next general session, The Changing Landscape: Surveys, Data and Early Indicators, supports that directive. A newly released Towers Watson survey shows most HR leaders expect the importance of voluntary benefits to rise, not fall, over the next five years. The Kaiser Family Foundation and MetLife released their latest data as well, revealing rising costs for traditional employee benefits since ACA implementation.
Next, Jim Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, offered insight into the political chess match related to federal changes in health care and retirement legislation.
In Lessons from Consumer Reports: Teaching Health Literacy and a New System to Americans, Tara Montgomery, the publication’s director of health partnerships, detailed its Health Impact program. The program has developed and disseminated hundreds of educational resources to help consumers make better health decisions, compare their options and avoid harmful, wasteful care.
Another area where Americans sorely need more information and direction is in planning for retirement. Employee benefits consultant Melissa Kahn led a panel of experts through strategies to help employees ensure their financial security.
Among the most popular breakout sessions, Sarah Lecuna, benefit program manager at Intuit, presented Beyond ROI: Wellness and the Employee Experience at Intuit, and a panel led by the HR pros behind Twitter and the American-Speech-Language Hearing Association covered implementing ACA for large employers—both to packed audiences.
The Ideas & Innovators session, an attendee favorite from last year, wowed us again with the speakers’ fast-paced and highly visual presentations. We heard about a new model of concierge medical care, how to keep employees healthy through positive reinforcement and organizational culture, the case for employers turning to the exchanges, and how Millennials will lead workplace transformation.
To close the conference, I took the stage with health care and employee benefits consultant Carol Harnett to bat around lingering questions about health care and the future of HR and employee benefits. We spoke frankly about the challenges and opportunities in the industry right now, and asked attendees to consider the main purpose of employee benefits in their organizations.
In all of the sessions, I was gratified to see that attendees were engaged and alert, asking questions and hardly glancing at their mobile devices. Their attentiveness was paired with an evident desire to act.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’m already looking forward next year’s conference! Mark your calendar for the third annual HBLC, April 8-10, 2015, at the Aria in Las Vegas. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a compelling case study or session topic you’d like to share; we’ll let you know when the RFP begins!