Your members' financial landscape has a lot of moving parts, and it goes far beyond just their compensation. In turn, the choices you make regarding your benefits can have a significant impact on members' lives.
A recent survey tracked the shifting scope of benefits packages and found that offerings increasingly include nontraditional perks meant to alleviate more diverse sources of financial stress. Easing some of the burden of rising health care costs and other financial issues is a great way to help members and cement engagement.
Here are three of the most popular member benefits that can deliver true value to your membership and position the board as an advocate and source of support.
For hourly workers, time spent at the doctor can mean money they're losing out on. But in many cases, members don't necessarily need to show up to the doctor's office to get the care they need. A rapidly growing segment of the health care sector, telemedicine allows doctors to diagnose and treat patients without having to see them in person.
Telemedicine appointments are also often less expensive than in-person visits, according to the American Council of Science and Health. While the average telemedicine visit costs about $40, an in-person visit for the same condition could be as high as $170. Almost every state has passed a reimbursement law for patients who use telemedicine services.
If your insurer offers a telemedicine option — whether through an app or another platform — encourage members to take advantage of the benefit. Workers may schedule a video call on their laptop at home after work or on a phone during a break in the workday. Depending on the level of interest, it may be worth working with employers to set aside some private space on worksites to hold telemedicine appointments.
Member Discount Programs
A well-thought-out discount program can make a difference in your members' day-to-day lives. Consider bolstering your benefits with discounts that offer multiple ways for members to save. For example, health-related discounts like gym memberships work double duty. In addition to saving members money on the cost of the membership itself, they can reduce health care spending, since people who exercise save $2,500 a year in medical costs.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to member discount programs. Don't forget to search for opportunities on a local level — you may be able to secure discounts by working directly with nearby businesses. If the task seems overwhelming, it could help to establish a relationship with a discount program company that can do the legwork for you.
Depending on the type of program, workers may also be able to get discounted theater, sporting event or even Disneyland tickets, making what might have otherwise been a cost-prohibitive activity or event possible. What's important is that the discounts are exclusive to your workers.
Women's Advancement Initiatives
In 2017, women in the U.S. earned 82 percent of what men earned, according to the Pew Research Center. Even in industries where women make up the bulk of the workforce — teaching, for example — they still fall behind. The American Association of School Administrators reports that fewer than a quarter of school superintendents are women.
Unions can assist in moving past these professional discrepancies. Pairing women with sponsors who advocate on their behalf, for instance, can go a long way toward helping them get noticed and promoted. For many women, however, finding a sponsor at work without a formal program in place can be difficult.
If you decide to implement a sponsorship program, start by setting up a solid framework. Get workers all levels to participate, and match workers with a sponsor based on their interests. Provide plenty of opportunities for program participants to give feedback.
Just because something is popular doesn't always mean it's worthwhile. When it comes to popular member benefits, however, keeping an ear to what brings the most value to workers can be rewarding for members and their union alike. Talk to your members and see what offerings will do them the most good. From there, you can make informed adjustments to your program that will help enhance member satisfaction.
With 15 years' experience writing for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, The Christian Science Monitor and Newsday—Deborah Blumberg specializes in business and finance and health and wellness. She writes about topics including corporate communications, financial markets, real estate, renewable energy, cancer, health education, nutrition, supplements, the microbiome and functional medicine. She was a Knight Center fellow and a Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism fellow. Her time working in marketing and communications at JPMorgan Chase taught her how to best tell a company's story. She's adept at turning complex ideas into compelling copy. She's also an officer of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and a Women in the Visual and Literary Arts board member, and she is fluent in Spanish.