Employers: It’s Time To “Be Care Curious” and Close the Gap on Misaligned Benefits

Employers It’s Time To “Be Care Curious”

November is National Family Caregivers Month and its official 2019 theme is “Be Care Curious” (#BeCareCurious). It’s a shout out to the nation’s family caregivers that encourages them to ask questions and explore options when making care-related decisions.

“Be Care Curious” could also serve as a rallying cry for America’s employers, encouraging them to learn more about their organizations’ family caregivers and how caregiving affects their productivity, health, and finances.

The need for employers to learn more about their organizations’ family caregivers was a key pillar of the Harvard Business School’s 2018 report, The Caring Company, which warned, “Many companies appear not to understand which (caregiving-related) benefits their employees most desire or which address their employees’ most pressing care needs.” As proof, the report offered up a trove of compelling statistics including this: 78% of employees who care for loved ones indicate that caregiver referral services are a “very important” factor in their decision to stay with an employer. Yet, only 38% of employers thought these services effectively retain employees.

Remarking on this astonishing gap between the views of employers and employees, the report stated, “The extent of this misalignment suggests that employers are poorly informed about the needs and preferences of their workforce and that employees do not have any ready mechanism for expressing those preferences.”

Closing the Support Gap
As we’ve written in the past, the best way to understand your employees’ benefits needs and preferences is to ask them directly. You can do this anonymously (via surveys and questionnaires) or face-to-face (at meetings, benefits fairs and the like), whichever you believe will generate the most honest responses. Knowing exactly what your employees need and want enables you to support them more effectively and ensures the programs you invest in deliver the best possible ROI.

Closing the Support Gap

In the meantime, if you’re interested in strengthening your company’s overall support for family caregivers, there are programs and practices that almost all caregivers need. Flexible work arrangements are a great example. Recent studies show that flexible work arrangements make family caregivers happier, healthier and more productive. Genworth’s 2018 Beyond Dollars research, for example, found that fewer caregivers miss work (70% in 2018 versus 77% in 2015) when they have flexible work arrangements, and fewer have to cut back their work hours (46% in 2018 versus 52% in 2015). Outcomes like these are why more and more employers consider flexible work arrangements to be a “table stakes” benefit.

Here are three other essential caregiver support programs you should consider:

  1. Referral Services—As noted above, 78% of caregiving employees indicate that referral services are “very important” to their retention. The most effective caregiver referral services will go beyond simply offering confirmed referrals to providers nationwide; your employees also should have 24/7 access to expert guidance from bachelor- and master-level specialists who can help them choose the most appropriate providers, answer their questions, and share helpful educational materials. A variety of online tools, interactive content, informative webinars, and other resources should also be available to employees. Some referral services, such as LifeCare’s, even provide a discount shopping platform that saves employees money on purchases of caregiving-related products and services.
  1. Senior Care Management—Given the growth of the nation’s aging population and the resulting rise in the number of family caregivers, a high-quality senior care management program provides an array of invaluable support services to employees who care for older parents, spouses, family members and friends. These services include in-person assessments of elders; detailed care recommendations; 24/7 telephonic and online access to experienced senior care specialists; and a host of online resources that will keep your employees focused and productive at work.
  1. Backup Care—Nearly half of all parents miss an average of four days of work at least once every six months, and workers who care for aging loved ones miss more than 126 million workdays per year. Many of these absences are due to breakdowns in their regular child and elder care arrangements. A state-of-the-art backup care program keeps your organization’s caregivers from having to take time off, and it saves them from the stress of scrambling to find reliable alternate care at the last minute. Positive organizational benefits of backup care include reduces absenteeism and presenteeism, improved productivity and engagement, and better health for your family caregivers.

Implementing programs like these will better align your company’s benefits to your employees’ actual needs and preferences. And it will help you establish the kind of supportive workplace every employee appreciates.

If you’d like to learn more about how high-quality caregiver support programs can boost your employees’ productivity and your organization’s bottom line, contact us here or call us at (833) 282-3366.