There is increasing concern and growing media attention paid to how much Canadians are saving for retirement. Is it enough? Should more changes be introduced to government sponsored retirement savings vehicles or should Canadians be left to pursue their own approach?
Employers face these issues to varying degrees. Some offer savings vehicles to their employees by making a group retirement saving plan a convenient option via payroll deduction. Others also encourage employees to save by matching or making some contribution to the employee group savings plan.
A 2011 US Fidelity Investments study reveals that 55 percent of workplace savings plan members believe that if not for their workplace savings programs, they wouldn't be saving for retirement. A 2010 CLHIA (Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association) report indicates that only 50 percent of Canadian private sector workers participate in a workplace-based savings program. With 41 percent of people who aren't part of a workplace savings plan saying that they would consider changing jobs if another employer offered one, the incentive to offer a plan is difficult to ignore.
On average, employers contribute 5 percent to Defined Contribution plans. Group savings plans that see both the plan sponsor and the plan member contribute garner greater attraction and employee retention opportunities. This employer strategy warrants consideration in a time when increased talent shortages are on the horizon.
Plans that see employer matching help employees save, but what else can make a difference to move the needle toward increased plan participation? Here are three tips to consider:
No employer is alike and therefore, plan design considerations play an important role. Call or email us to design or modify your plan. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
Let's face it, since the fall of 2008, we've experienced quite the bumpy ride on the economic roller coaster. Frightening at times, it has been an eye opener if nothing else. Perhaps even a call to action for some plan sponsors who continue grappling with the challenge of engaging plan members into better benefits consumers.
To solve for the seemingly ever present issue of finding ways to increase financial literacy and helping employees see the importance of becoming smart shoppers for health benefits hasn't proven easily doable.
There are ways to chip away at the problem. Like the age old saying 'you can't eat a elephant in one bite', there is no panacea or silver bullet to instantly transform plan members into savvy benefits consumers.
Here are a few tips to consider as you chip away at this issue:
Plan & Measure...First.
Educating plan members involves changing behaviour patterns. This involves understanding what they know, or rather don't know, and then gaging the impact or differential at the conclusion of your awareness campaign. Otherwise it becomes increasingly difficult to measure success or the level of change.
Before you begin, have some specific outcomes in mind with tangible goals and deliverables. Then develop your programs and tactics accordingly. It will make the whole process a lot easier to measure and explain to key decision makers.
Target one area of focus
So as not to overwhelm those implementing a smart consumer campaign and for the plan members you hope to positively impact, make it easier for all by targeting one area of focus. Pick a topic that you're struggling with most and go for it. If prescription drug costs are skyrocketing out of control for your plan, pursue that issue and build your campaign to raise awareness of the key cost drivers and how plan members can help keep their benefits price tag affordable.
Tell a story
We all love stories. Describing a scenario that plan members can easily relate to is a great way to create memory 'stickiness'. Our brain is wired to remember stories; that is why many of us can easily retell a joke or share an urban myth. Use this method of communication to educate and inform. Soon plan member, Sally, will tell two coworkers, and it builds from there. The concept of storytelling has power in its simplicity for recall and retelling.
Try something different
While one way communication remains the most commonly used form of sharing messages with members, social media can be an effective and efficient way to integrate two way communication into an awareness campaign. How many plan members already use social networking sites for personal use? Increasingly, studies are showing that people want their benefits information via methods they readily use. This isn't to say that in-person or email tactics are going the way of the Dodo Bird, but the 'new media' species seems to be here to stay.
Blog and ask for comments or questions to learn what plan members don't like or don't understand about an issue. Tweet to link to a blog or article that speaks directly to your topic. Understand what networking sites employees most use in your work setting and leverage it for maximum reach and impact.
Change doesn't happen overnight. Be patient and stay with it. With your plan in place, and specific, tangible outcomes to measure, you will make an impact and increase awareness. It takes time, but the potential for cost savings, cost containment and the health of your plan members are worth the effort.
Got questions about how to transform plan members into smart benefits shoppers? Call or email me. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
Haven't read part 1 yet? Click here to review.
In a Watson Wyatt Worldwide and Washington Group study, only 36% of respondents stated that they have or plan to implement an integrated disability management (IDM) plan, yet there are lots of reports and data to support IDM as a way to manage costs, strengthening employer-employee trust and demonstrate concern for employee health and well-being. Many employers haven't invested the time to integrate their programs and providers. The plan to create an effective IDM program is manageable when you break it down into its core components. I've found that there are basically six steps to implementing and maintaining a successful IDM plan.
Step 1: Look Inside. Before designing an IDM plan, analyze your current cost drivers, review company policies and workplace challenges and objectives. Know what factors trigger employee absence. Is there a trend or pattern?
Step 2: Integrate Public and Private Programs. A successful IDM plan incorporates programs that are regulated by the Canadian federal and provincial governments as well as private payer components. This includes: workers' compensation, short and long term disability, employee assistance programs (EAP), case management, rehabilitation, and return to work programs. To an injured or ill employee, his condition isn't broken up in increments. Employees don't want to be mired down in red tape of paperwork. This process can exhaust and perplex an employee and shift focus away from the recovery process.
Step 3: Imbed value-added programs. An IDM plan that incorporates return-to-work and rehabilitation elements sees employees return to work more quickly and safely by accommodating transitional duties during the disability recovery phase.
Worksite wellness programs imbedded in an IDM plan help employees adopt healthy lifestyles, identify program early and address medical risk factors.
Employee Assistance Programs offer professional and confidential services that help employees regain or maintain productivity.
Step 4: Track and Measure. IDM plans with great results track absenteeism rates. They include data management and reporting that tracks claim and absence information. In order to allow for easy access of data, analysis and review of program success, you need to track and know how to measure program milestones. Before you start down the IDM path, identify what you want to measure and what qualifies as successful outcomes.
Step 5: Coordinate through a single point of contact. A helpful approach to creating a seamless transition for employees provides a single point of contact through a case worker or disability specialist. When activities related to disability are coordinated, an employer avoids duplication of effort and absences can be monitored and tracked more effectively.
Step 6: Communicate regularly. Remember to develop a communication plan for all key audiences. Employees need to know what is required of them when they are absent or have a disability claim. Knowing the program goals and what's in it for them is important. They need to be updated about changes, processes, who to contact when and why. Make it easy for them and make the messages available in various formats from print, e-mail, web and in-person meetings. Employees learn in different ways. Don't be afraid to leverage social media, if it is a way your employees regularly communicate.
Got questions about how to create an IDM plan or where to start? Call or email me. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.