Revisiting your employee benefit plans and practices should be a continual effort, not a once every 5-year endeavor. Employers who regularly review and optimize their employee benefit plans and practices throughout the year reap the rewards of increased employee appreciation, improved employee retention, greater productivity, and ultimately, a happier workforce.
While staying abreast and ahead of industry and compliance changes can be daunting, seeking out information on these changes and new avenues to make your benefits plan more effective and affordable is critical. Even if replacing existing or offering new benefits isn’t currently an option, it’s important to consider and plan for changes months in advance to ensure a smooth rollout and experience for your organization and your employees.
Here are a few areas to consider as you revisit benefit plans and practices throughout the year in this continually changing marketplace.
A good starting point to evaluating your benefit plans and practices is to look at employee participation in those plans. By looking at how many are enrolled as compared to employees who are eligible to enroll will provide a snapshot of employee interest.
If a plan has low participation, say less than 10%, you could easily infer that the plan isn’t “valuable” for the majority of employees, the cost doesn’t outweigh the benefits of the plan, or they may have a lack of understanding of the plans themselves. Once you gather the performance numbers, you can better determine the value of the benefits you are offering and make decisions on either plan changes, or employee education.
With an idea of which plans and practices may and may not be working, gathering employee feedback on those plans can help confirm your findings as well. Quick, online, and anonymous (if necessary) data gathering can guide your approach and provide you with essential information needed to adjust your employee benefit plans and practices.
Surveys and questionnaires are a great tool to gauge what matters most to employees and to prioritize “must-have” options as well as “nice-to-have” choices. Some questions to ask: What plans are they enrolled in? What plans do they use? What is their understanding of how those plans work? What is their experience with the carriers? What plans do they want – that either they currently cannot afford or that you currently do not offer? How do they like their enrollment system?
All of these questions and more are important questions to ask when you’re revisiting your employee benefit plans and practices, and planning for any upcoming changes.
Once you are armed with a complete picture of employee participation and employees’ opinions, wants, and needs, you can work to adjust your benefit plans and practices in a strategic and targeted manner, making changes where it really counts.
If the plan analysis supports that a certain benefit is too expensive, your employee benefits consultant can negotiate on your behalf for rate relief with the current carrier, recommend a competitive bid process, or look at alternatives such as pools or trusts, and then provide you all the options that can offer more competitive rates, enhancements, and service guarantees.
Benefit plans both medical and voluntary can be complex and challenging for your employees to understand, at no fault of their own. Some employees need and want basic information only on their plans, while others are intimidated by the whole process and require an in-depth dive. Employees are much more likely to utilize the benefits of certain plans once they have a well-rounded understanding of the “hows” and “whys”. Those same employees who have the process down, are excellent sources to engage them to share their experience at Open Enrollment meetings or other messaging opportunities to help their fellow employees.
It’s important to have regular open communication, education and engagement with your employees about the benefits available to them and how these plans can work in tandem to support their overall benefits package. This is especially important when plans are changing and/or new plans are being offered.
Implementing a regular cadence and mix of flyers, brochures, webinars, videos, email and text campaigns is an effective way to reach all of your employees and to employ strategic messaging that addresses some of those pain points identified in your surveys. This is where the best benefits consultants shine and can assist your organization with clear strategic communication that addresses exactly those pain points. Most employees only look for this messaging at Open Enrollment, but well-crafted messaging throughout the plan year can remind them how valuable those benefits are to their physical health and financial wellbeing.
Think Outside the Box
In today’s more adaptive workplace, employee needs go well beyond just health insurance and PTO. They spill into flexible work environments and hours, wellness programs, gym memberships, pet insurance, and more.
A lot of these outside-the-box needs can be identified in the employee surveys, and if enough employees indicate these needs, you know that it’s a “valuable” option that can enhance your employees’ satisfaction with you, the employer, in meeting their needs.
Developing thoughtful programs helps your staff realize that you care and want to provide what can assist them and their families to get and stay healthy both physically and financially. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Show Your Employees You Value Them
The most effective employee benefits team listens and communicates regularly with their employees. By listening to your employees and adjusting benefit plans and options to fit their individual needs, budget and lifestyle, employees will naturally feel heard, supported and empowered, which nets greater productivity and talent retention for your organization.
Supporting employees through regularly revisiting and optimizing your benefit plans and practices is a key differentiator in a volatile market.
For more information on how Valley Schools Employee Benefits Consulting services can help your organization with better advice and better benefits, feel free to reach out and speak directly with a member of our team.