Supporting The Whole Human
Innovation in the insurtech space tends to hew towards the property and casualty lines of business, and past BrokerTech Ventures cohorts have been no exception to that rule.
But in 2023, the accelerator cultivated startups oriented towards employee benefits, rather than just property and casualty—and in this year’s cohort are counted firms like Boon Health, a startup focused on providing a one-on-one employee coaching platform for employers.
According to Simmons, the idea for Boon Health came from his own experience with employee assistance programs (EAPs). “EAPs were generally highly stigmatized and designed to be more crisis intervention tools than anything—a support line that a company offers for suicidal ideation, going through divorce, substance abuse, that sort of thing. In my own experience, there was nothing geared towards the every-day challenges that I and seemingly everybody around me was dealing with: stress, anxiety, burnout, and so on.”
That led to Boon, says Simmons. “We launched Boon in August of 2019 to be the most accessible means of mental wellbeing in the workplace, by offering a one-on-one coaching platform for employees. As we’ve continued to scale, the business model has since evolved into a one-stop personal and professional growth platform, where we’ve become an extension of HR teams across all phases of the employee life cycle.”
Develop the Personal to Develop the Professional
Boon’s evolution aligns with current innovation trends in the employee coaching space. EAPs have developed into providing self-care, coaching, therapy and psychiatry—which Simmons views as an essential change. Where Boon differentiates is the professional coaching element to their model. “You can’t really separate the personal or the professional. They’re so intertwined. If you’re just going to provide ‘mental health’ coaching, you are missing the boat on several of the challenges that employees are dealing with every single day. My own personal example: I’m stressed and anxious on a seemingly daily basis. As the CEO of Boon, most of my mental well-being challenges are actually very professional in nature—how can I be a more effective leader, how can I grow Boon more quickly, how can I prepare for an upcoming difficult conversation, etc. At Boon, we are bridging the gap between mental well-being and professional growth. Nobody else is approaching it this way, yet this is the model that resonates best with employees.”
But overall, the biggest theme Simmons has seen in employee coaching innovation is personalization. “It’s no longer a one-size-fits-all approach,” Simmons says. “It’s about how you provide the most personalized experience for employees—what people need at that specific moment in their lives.”
Leaning into personalization and focusing on mental health needs as a way to help employees grow has led to success for Boon, according to Simmons. Studies tend to show EAP utilization rates hover well below 10%—but “we’re seeing employees signing up at an average of 40% to 50%,” says Simmons, citing an internal study.
Simmons also highlighted other Boon data on employee turnover. “After about 12 months of working with our customers, we put together an employee retention analysis for our customers. On average, Boon users are more than 50% less likely to turn over than non-Boon users at a company. We are saving businesses more than $3 for every dollar spent on Boon, just from employee turnover alone,” he claims.
As businesses continue to navigate the war on talent and the lack of mental health / career growth solutions in the workplace, innovative and impactful solutions like Boon could become a weapon in a broker’s arsenal when it comes to finding ways to add value for their employee benefits clients. “HR leaders are looking to their insurance brokers to be a strategic thought partner in these conversations,” explains Simmons. “They want to think of you as part of the solution. They want to know what you are offering them beyond their traditional health care benefits. For example, if I’m having an issue with employee turnover, how can you help me solve that issue? Recommending an EAP isn’t going to be sufficient. Personalized solutions are exactly what HR leaders are looking for.”