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Admin April 17, 2018 4 min read

Highlights from the 2018 Health & Benefits Leadership Conference

The 2018 Human Resource Executive Health & Benefits Leadership Conference (HBLC) just wrapped up in Las Vegas, and we’re here with the top takeaways for benefits and HR teams.

We’re big fans of HBLC. Jen was program chair for the first three years and has since served as a program advisor. The conference brings together an amazing mix of perspectives that never fails to inspire us—and this year was no exception. We continue to be energized and inspired by just how much our work can—and does—influence the lives of millions of employees.  

If you weren’t able to make it—or want to compare notes—here are our top 5 takeaways that still have us buzzing.

1. Loneliness Is the Next Big Health Threat

Well-being has moved beyond the physical and financial; mental health is taking center stage. While employers are increasingly offering mindfulness and stress management programs for employees, many of them don’t address a key component: companionship. According to L. Casey Chosewood, director of the Office for Total Worker Health® at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, loneliness could be the next global epidemic. In fact, Britain recently appointed a “Minister for Loneliness” to combat the health implications of loneliness, which can be as bad as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.1 

The loneliness factor also has broader implications for workforce management. Many of our social connections come from work, so some employees may delay retiring for reasons that aren’t solely financial. Going forward, the path to retirement will need to include more than just a focus on saving money and will need to help employees plan for purpose and socializing.

2. Employers Will Continue to Invest in Financial Wellness for Employees

In an attempt to crack the code on how to engage employees in financial wellness, companies are trying everything from experimenting with 401(k) default percentages and creating robust educational programs to borrowing ideas from behavioral economics. Since income is the No. 1 predictor of health and employees continue to struggle with finances, companies will continue investing resources to help employees get a better handle on their finances.2

3. Health and Retirement Security for Contingent Workers Could be the Next Big Step

What does the expanding contingent workforce coupled with less job security mean for traditional employer-provided benefits? Will the government step in and provide more safeguards for contingent workers and impose more demands on employers? James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, expects one of the next big shifts in employee benefits policy to be around health and retirement security for independent workers. In fact, last year the Senate introduced the Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act, which requires the Secretary of Labor to establish a pilot program for portable benefits.

4. The Robots Are Coming

The next wave of workers may not be just Gen-Z—it may be robotic, too. It’s estimated that within the next 10 to 20 years, robots will replace or support many jobs across all sectors of the economy. In fact, some employees may even report to a robot! What does it mean to work in a world where your colleagues are robots? How does that change the role of benefits in the employee value proposition? These are just a few of the questions we’ll need to answer as robots enter the workforce.

5. Change May Be on the Way After the Midterm Elections 

Political instability in Washington could have a significant impact on employee benefits. Klein described what changes in the House and the Senate party majorities could mean for medical and retirement plans. There are conflicting views in both parties about ACA repeal-and-replace efforts. But regulatory activity is expected around Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), including allowing HSA contributions if a spouse has a Health Care Flexible Spending Account and allowing HSAs to cover medical expenses for children up to age 26. Key retirement policy developments revolve around the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act, which includes a proposal to remove the 10%-of-pay cap on automatic escalations of employee 401(k) contributions, and the Retirement Savings Lost and Found Act to increase portability of and access to retirement savings.

As always, HBLC provided us with lots of new insights and opportunities to learn from our amazing community of benefits leaders. We can’t wait to delve deeper into more topics like these throughout the year in our blog, white papers, and other thought leadership efforts. We’re also excited to put our new findings to work on behalf of our clients, to help them engage employees to improve their health and financial well-being.

We're proud to work with large employers who recognize the business value of engaging employees in benefits. If you want to learn more, contact us.


1 Ceylan Yeginsu, “U.K. Appoints a Minister for Loneliness,” The New York Times, January 17, 2018.

2 L. Casey Chosewood, opening conference keynote, “Will his job be the death of me?” April 2018.