Few, if any of us, get training in evaluation of insurance and financial products before we enter the work world. But I just spent two days at Eclipse17, hosted by PlanSource, attended by HR and Benefits leaders, brokers, and HR technology providers committed to closing that critical gap. Throughout the conference, successful organizations talked about the importance of helping people understand their benefits, helping them chose the right ones, and ensuring they utilize and understand their full value — not just during open enrollment, but year-round. Here are some of my takeaways from these organizations’ reports of how they are rethinking benefits.

Communicate and Educate. PlanSource itself, with a $4M investment in infrastructure and the January, 2017 acquisition of Next Generation Enrollment, is supporting these efforts with a user-friendly “shopping cart” enrollment process with multiple levels of decision support tools. This evolution of benefits administration technology and practice echoes our own findings that organizations where employees have a strong understanding of benefits were 56% more likely to reduce turnover than those that don’t. PlanSource believes that technology can deliver a new level of employee experience around benefits, and a host of other HR processes.

It’s all wellness. Lizz Rhoads of Compassion International shared the story of how they “blew up” their HR and ben admin processes to take a person-centric approach. They reorganized health, financial wellness, absence and leave, and benefits under one umbrella, and created their “my wellness” program to be the one stop for employees dealing with these issues. So often, financial stress can be related to illness, or healthcare bills can impact financial stability, and as Lizz said, “leave management is the reactive side of wellness.” Bringing it all together acknowledged the way employees dealt with these issues, and got all of the relevant departments talking to each other.

Measure what matters. Compassion’s new structure, along with ongoing communications, has saved over $3.3M for the organization and their employees. Yes, they measure their success by their savings and what they save individuals. These savings included a shift in enrollment in consumer-driven healthcare plans from less than 15% of the population to over 70% in two years, and employees who paid off over $1M in personal debt through debt counseling and financial wellness services provided by Compassion. They also stopped biometric testing, because they weren’t using the data. A quick self-quiz was a more powerful tool to get people to the doctor.

Wellness is about the whole person. Mark Cochran of Johns Hopkins talked about the “Cancer at Work” program they developed and how it is being used by organizations to help employees manage the medical, financial, workplace, and family impact of a diagnosis. One amazing success story was of a young woman diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer while working at a bank. Her nurse liaison spoke with her and discovered the woman was also training as a concert pianist. The recommended treatment for her form of cancer commonly resulted in painful neuropathy of the hands. Together they worked with her doctor to find a successful alternate treatment.

All of these stories were very human. They weren’t just about cost or productivity. They were about finding ways to manage the complexity of health care and cost and business impact, as well as how those impact the lives of an individual employee. These are important lessons to learn as we increasingly focus on employee experience. Automation is critical enabler of communication and transparency. But the messages and intent must always be managed by the organizations beliefs and priorities.