BenefitsPro: How to Meet Changing Employee Benefits Interests
Today’s workforce is focused on benefits like never before. In times of uncertainty—particularly around health—employees want to know more about their benefits. What coverage do they have (and what don’t they), what’s covered (and what isn’t)? And now, many are realizing they wish they had more, or different, coverage for themselves and their families.
Every employee has a different expectation about what constitutes a “good” benefits package; and that expectation is typically shaped by their age, lifestyle and specific health needs. So how can an employer offer a package that meets the varying needs of their entire workforce, without straining or breaking their compensation and benefits budget?
Revisit the basics
In today’s workforce, dental, vision and disability coverage are “table stakes”—an employer that doesn’t offer them will likely face real challenges in recruiting and retaining top employees. Don’t ignore these essentials—these, plus health insurance, should form the foundation of your benefits package. Remember, these coverages can be offered as part of the employer-sponsored package, or on a strictly voluntary (employee pay all) basis.
Expand voluntary offerings
Although 79 percent of companies offer some type of voluntary benefits, it’s important to make sure those programs are meeting current needs. Right now, employees are showing particular interest in critical illness insurance, hospital indemnity insurance and either basic or buy-up disability and life insurance offerings. While proof of good health may be required, employees may feel better that they have this extra level of protection for the future, even if they cannot access such benefits immediately.
From the employees’ perspective, voluntary benefits can be very affordable, costing far less than similar coverage purchased on the individual market. And, benefits from these coverages are paid directly to the insured to be used however is needed—for out-of-pocket or non-medical costs—and aren’t reduced by other insurance.
Consider off-cycle enrollment
Because most voluntary benefits are paid for on an after-tax basis, the carriers typically determine eligibility rules and enrollment periods. As such, you may be able to arrange an “off-cycle” or mid-year enrollment period to allow employees to purchase additional levels of protection for their families.
An off-cycle enrollment may be particularly effective in increasing participation, as employees aren’t distracted by reviewing their “traditional” benefits, and at this point in the year they may just now be recognizing the perceived or real gaps in their coverage. It’s likely they’ll pay more attention to the options available, and be more likely to enroll if they are in a position to do so. And they’ll appreciate their employer’s responding to their needs by making these options available.
Look at alternative programs
In addition to voluntary benefit offerings, many employers are making changes to work policies to make life easier for their staff. In addition to the pandemic-driven shift to telecommuting for many employees (which has been toward the top of the “wish list” for many employees for some time now), employers are looking at flexible work hours and schedules, health care advocacy and transparency programs to help employees find resources and use their health plans appropriately, and services which leverage data analytics to improve benefit communications and services. While some of these programs involve an investment on the employer’s part, the long-term employee engagement and loyalty dividends may well help the programs pay for themselves.
Focus on communications
Speaking of communications…a startling 40 percent of consumers are self-educated about employee benefits—increasing the odds that they do not have the information they need to make an educated decision. Yet, when asked, employees prefer one-on-one support. In fact, in a recent survey of consumers, DirectPath found that employees who have taken advantage of one-on-one sessions say it is the most helpful way to learn about their benefit options and how they related to their health care needs. Clearly, talking to experts matters.
With group meetings and in-person sessions off the table for the foreseeable future, consider scheduling telephonic enrollment sessions. Employees will have the opportunity to ask a benefits expert specific questions about their options and their circumstances; because they can choose the date and time of the appointment employees are far more likely to take advantage of the opportunity. Telephonic appointments have the added benefit of enabling employees to include important family members—such as spouses and domestic partners—who may have questions of their own and may, in fact, be the “benefits decision makers” for the household.
Now is the perfect time to work with your broker, consultant or other partners to offer free or low-cost programs and services that meet your employees’ current needs and interests. Showing your willingness to respond to employee concerns, and offer a package that enables them to tailor coverage that works for them and their families, will continue to reap benefits once the economy gets back on track.
Read the article here.
(Kim Buckey is senior vice president of client services at DirectPath)