Originally posted??August 26, 2014 by Steve Grossi on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

Commentary: At BOK Financial, our goal is to cultivate strong relationships with our customers. Each employee provides a personal touch to our customers, so that we become their trusted neighborhood banker. Our management team extends that personal touch to each of our 4,600 employees, as well ??? we define ???valuing employees??? as one of the company???s three key fundamentals.

As part of valuing our employees, benefits are viewed as a direct extension of pay and considered to be a vital part of an employee???s total compensation package. Benefits represent a sizeable investment for BOK Financial as well as for each employee. It???s our corporate culture to place a great deal of attention on benefits, and helping employees understand all of the value of their benefits package is a key focus for our HR team.

People who work for us are independent thinkers. It???s important to make our own decisions, and that???s especially true when it comes to health benefits. This is the reason our company is committed to a program that offers employees the flexibility to choose their coverage in most major benefit areas. Each employee can put together a personal package to suit their needs, and I believe that this flexibility shows the company???s commitment to each and every member of our staff as well as their families.

But this level of commitment to our employees ??? although vital ??? is expensive. After payroll, benefits costs were our No. 1 company expense, and as a result we found ourselves coming to terms with the impending Cadillac Tax, a penalty against companies over a particular threshold in terms of premiums resulting from the Affordable Care Act.

We added a consumer-directed health plan to our benefits offering, along with a health savings account, hoping to bring overall benefits costs down and reduce our exposure to the Cadillac Tax. Our belief was that the CDHP would suit the needs of many employees, and premiums would be lower for both the company and the employee. But explaining the benefit of a CDHP to employees is challenging ??? people are confused by the options, and most simply choose to do nothing and remain in their current plan. Others assume that the most expensive plan is the best, and default to that choice.

After one year with the CDHP, adoption was well short of our company goal, at only 5%. We went looking for help, and ended up with a solution from Tango, a company that helps organizations save money by optimizing health benefits, while keeping employees happy.

The first step was to educate our employees, and Tango explained the differences between each plan in simple, relevant terms. A plan optimizer tool allowed employees to walk through a series of questions and decide which plan was the best based on their individual needs. Since the tool is online, employees can log in from home and walk through the steps with their spouse, and discuss their options. Our CEO and his wife went online at home to use the plan optimizer, and they ended up choosing the CDHP. In all, over a thousand of our employees logged on to the online tool, with most spending at least 20 minutes reviewing and comparing their options.

For even more employee awareness, Tango put a communication plan in place that included email-based updates and information. Weekly and monthly communications continue to go out to the employees explaining how to open and use their HSA, and other helpful tips on topics like reimbursements and tax filing. The emails were very specific and targeted, so employees were more likely to open and read them. Tango also provided videos and webinars specifically created for our employees with a direct comparison between the CDHP and the traditional PPO plan ??? helping to demystify the choice between the plans. Normally this kind of information would come from the HR team, but Tango???s level of service meant that our HR team could focus on other critical employee needs.

Reviewing our results at the end of the first enrollment period with Tango, we saw adoption of the CDHP and HSA go from 5% of the employee base up to 30%. Our employees were pleased with the plan changes and with the amount of information they were getting about the growth of their HSAs. And it was a huge win for the company: BOK Financial saved over $880,000 in premiums and avoided an additional $190,000 in taxes.

BOK Financial continues to work with Tango to boost further adoption of the CDHP, and to retain existing plan members and ensure that employees are getting the maximum benefit out of their HSAs. As a chief human resource officer, the ability to increase adoption of the CDHP while maintaining our relationships with employees was very important to me. I???m thrilled that we???re able to retain our commitment to value our employees, even as we make changes that benefit the company???s bottom line.