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4 Things to Do Before You Make a Big Change to Your Benefits Offerings in 2018

Have you and your benefits team colleagues (and your company’s CFO) been mulling over the idea of making a change to your company’s benefit offerings for a while? If so, you’re not alone. With healthcare costs constantly rising, and so many things in flux with health insurance generally, a lot of companies are taking a long, hard look at their benefits program and thinking about how to make it work better.

If you find yourself in this boat, here are four things I’d recommend (as a broker who’s helped many companies through this) you do before you commit to anything in 2018.

#1. Have a benefits heart-to-heart with your broker.

Set up a meeting and explain to him (or her) that you want to conduct an employee survey across your organization to find out ways to improve its benefits strategy. Mention some of the questions you’re planning on asking (listed in step two), and ask if he has any additional recommendations. Finally, ask him to provide some benchmarking around average deductibles and premiums so you can see where you stand (however, this information may cost you, so if your budget is tight, be aware).

#2. Survey your employees to get a sense of which benefits are most and least appreciated.

Don’t just ask ten employees who all do the same job, either. If you want a truly useful survey, be intentional about getting feedback from multiple points of view. Ask for feedback from managers, executives, and a wide range of employees from a wide range of departments. (One good way to do this is by sending a link to an online survey with SurveyMonkey.) Also, try to avoid using questions that have simple yes or no answers, and use response scales instead.

For example, employees can strongly agree, strongly disagree, or somewhere in between with the following statements:

  • The benefits provided by my organization meet my needs
  • My employer’s benefit offerings played a significant role in my decision to join this company
  • I would like to reduce the value of some benefits I receive and increase the value of other benefits
  • My organization has done a good job communicating information about our benefits
  • I can easily find answers to the questions I have about my benefits
  • The information/materials I receive about my benefits are easy to understand

OR….to just get a sense of which benefits are more essential and valuable to your employees, you might ask them to rank your benefits in order of priority. After tallying responses, you could arrive at a breakdown that looks something like this:

#3. Ask yourself if your problem is a benefits problem or a benefits communication problem.

Once you’ve surveyed your wide net of employees, get together with your group of relevant decision-makers and assess the results.

What you may find is the biggest issue isn’t with your benefits offerings themselves, but with how aware your employees are of what you offer. They may have no idea how comprehensive your benefits are. If that’s the case, you might want to take a closer look at your benefits communication before you make a change to the offerings themselves.

Often, I find that clients don’t have a benefits communication strategy beyond giving employees handout after handout describing their benefits. Usually, these handouts contain insurance jargon that just confuses the average reader. It’s important to simplify things for employees, and presentation and packaging are part of that; instead of giving employees dozens of handouts, consider putting together a benefit guide for them –a booklet or a digital tool that gives them the run-down on their benefits. Any information that you find redundant or confusing, pare it down or get rid of it altogether.

#4. Create an action plan for the following year with your broker’s help.

Meet with your broker and your CFO to discuss the fruits of your survey and create a plan for how and when you will address employees’ concerns leading up to and after renewal.

Maybe you found that your employer’s offerings aren’t keeping up with competitors in your industry, and you want to add new lines of coverage without increasing costs to your employer. Have your broker look into adding those coverages on a voluntary basis for your employees.

Or maybe you found that older employees are happy with their benefits, but younger employees aren’t. Before you write off their complaints (those darn entitled Millennials!), it’s important to remember that different generations have different needs in the workplace. Millennials often have hefty student loan payments, and so are focused mostly on that, whereas Baby Boomers are more concerned with retirement, and Generation X is feeling pressure to support school-aged children and care for older parents, while saving for the future. Bearing the priorities of all these groups in mind, consider adding some voluntary benefits to the mix that address those concerns. Like a student loan repayment benefit from a company like Peanut Butter. Or retirement planning and college tuition savings workshops. Or a leave of absence communication tool that helps Gen Xers understand what’s in store for them if they have to leave work to care for a parent.

Anyway–hope this was helpful!

Jonathan Porta via Jellyvision

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