Fall is often the time of year when many employers launch in their benefits enrolment campaigns. During this time, there is a so much information made available to employees. It can be difficult to get their full attention and feel confident that the most effective approach to open enrolment has been implemented. In addition, benefits communication trends see employees being given greater choice during the enrolment process. This may bring pressure to employers in terms of how to maximize awareness and to employees while making their decisions.
Here are some tips to help employers effectively manage the enrolment period.
Look at your plan holistically. As I wrote about in a recent blog, taking an integrated approach to benefits and retirement savings will help to streamline the experience for the employee. When working with service providers, ask them to provide ways to coordinate information, and where possible, create a single intake email and toll-free number. The entire process can be confusing and if the employee has to work too hard to get answers, he may opt to do nothing at all.
Be the prompt. Now is a perfect time to remind employees about the value of contributing to their pension plan and that it is never too late to start saving. If possible, leverage social media to create videos and real stories that help them connect their needs to the enrolment process. In addition, employees may have forgotten about the various aspects of their wellness program (health risk assessments, screening clinics, debt management support and more.) When employees connect the dots to all the benefits they have access to, they have it 'just-in-time' to optimize their selections.
Leverage learning management tools, online games and contests. Many insurance companies provide free resources on their websites to help plan members have fun while learning about benefits and retirement savings. The enrolment process shouldn't be looked at differently. Using learning management tools, games, and contests creates a sense of adventure and a challenge that could be just enough to pique the interest of employees who might otherwise put decisions about benefits selections on the back burner.
Make it easy for employees to understand their big picture needs. When employees have a bigger view of their claims spending patterns as well as their potential future needs, they're likely to have more confidence about their enrolment decisions. Are the kids coming in the age when braces will be needed? Will it be time for progressive glasses or contact lenses? Is it time to reconsider life insurance coverage? Helping employees understand what they might be out-of-pocket is important. So is getting them to reflect on the number of trips to the doctor or the urgent care clinic.
Integrate information regarding community resources. The enrolment window is an ideal time to pull together resources, discounts, and special programs for employees. Linking it all back into the bigger picture for the employee builds a stronger communication offering during this important decision-making time. When the employee has a better sense for what they've used, what they might need, and what is available to them within the plan and via community resources, they are more likely to make better informed decisions.
This is a busy and stressful time for human resources and benefits staff. Knowing that they have the support and expertise of a trusted advisor is key. If the idea of enrolment seems daunting, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, every week, over 500,000 Canadians won't go to work because of mental illness. The cost to the Canadian economy tops $51 billion per year. This statistic doesn't factor in all the other absences resulting in disability claims.
Even when an employee attempts to come back into the workplace there can be complications related to duty to accommodate and ensuring a safe return to work.
To mitigate risk and ensure successful return to work scenarios, considerations for employers include --
Build strategic return to work plans. If an employee was off work due to a mental nervous disorder, should he be reintroduced on a graduated basis even if his attending physician has signed off on a 'without restriction' basis? Increasingly, cases of disability relapses are occurring. Employees who return too quickly without a suitable ramp up time get caught in job stress creating a stimulus of anxiety which results in the reinstatement of their disability claim or a net new one. No matter the type of disability claim, when an employer takes a strategic approach to reintroducing the employee into the workplace, the greater the likelihood that relapse incidences won't occur within days or weeks.
Engage the employee in the return to work plan. Thinking about coming back to work after two weeks vacation can cause any employee anxiety. When an employee has been away from work due to a disability, his stress at the thought of returning may be crippling. Reaching out to the employee and involving him in the plan (along with his claims adjudicator) is a way to build awareness and confidence in the success of the return to work plan. Focusing on the duties he enjoys most and can tackle with greatest ease will reduce the challenges he may believe are ahead of him.
Help supervisors and managers understand their role. Helpful resources are often very close at hand. Many service providers offer front line supervisor training to help them understand their role in the employee's return to work plan. Specialized training is available especially for employees off work due to mental nervous disorders. When an employee feels that his supervisor cares, is confident in how to help him navigate the return to work, and feels supported regarding other workplace stressors, the more willing he will be to attempt a successful return. In addition, the fewer unintentional mistakes the supervisor will make because he is equipped and confident about his role in the plan.
Ensure all the key stakeholders have appropriate resources. To support employee success, there are extensive workplace strategies for mental health and other disability-related claims. One helpful resource is called Supporting Employee Success, which was launched in June 2013. This tool includes a planning process checklist for the employer and the health care professional. It helps them clearly identify return-to-work expectations and what success in the plan looks like. Making sure supervisors and primary Human Resources contacts have access to resources of this nature will better equip them to understand their responsibility in the return to work scenario.
Building a return to work strategy and developing a culture that supports healthy workplaces requires time, effort and planning. For more information regarding ways we can support you, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Lately, the buzz words at benefits conferences and in many employee-centric articles tend to be aimed at "workplace wellness".
A consistent goal for many plan sponsors also involves their ability to effectively keep a lid on employee benefits costs while at the same time, ensuring they offer programs that are in high demand. Managing benefit plan costs while addressing talent attraction and retention strategies can be challenging. It may also appear somewhat philosophically at odds.
The 2014 Towers Watson survey reported that 76% of employers plan on increasing their investment in the benefit plan within the next few year. Where are they placing this investment? It is primarily centred on specialty wellness programs designed to support employee awareness and to prevent health conditions. Employers seem to be dialling into the correlation between prevention and savings. The Towers Watson survey also reports that employers are introducing biometric screening, on-site medical services, and physical exercise programs.
The demand for specialty vendors creates the opportunity to offer additional services, but it doesn't necessarily help with streamlining the experience for the employer or the employee. When service providers work together to ensure the employer gets a clear big picture of what's happening in the benefits plan, everyone wins. This integrated concept isn't easily coordinated, but it becomes more manageable when the employer enlists the help of a trusted advisor who can work with the various providers to ensure the employer has the information needed to make the most proactive strategic decisions regarding the plan's future. This holistic undertaking involves an overall plan review where claims history, absenteeism trends, and other productivity drivers are analyzed and then synthesized.
Statistics, surveys, and research reports beat home the message that employers can positively effect benefit plan costs when they take a proactive and integrated approach. This includes looking ahead at potential as well as known benefit plan cost drivers. When an employer looks upstream to influence plan member behaviour, there is an increased opportunity for the shift toward prevention and early intervention. This shift may result in fewer claims and lower plan costs and it happens when an employer has the full plan picture.
Understanding what triggers plan costs now allows decision-makers to recognize what preventative measures are necessary. The more employers do to integrate their benefits program and establish workplace policies with incentives to promote physical and mental wellness, the more opportunity there is to create a wellness-based culture. Based on the findings from a 2013 Gallup survey, employers that adopt an integrated approach to employee wellness experience 27% lower absenteeism, 41% few product recalls and 25%-65% lower turnover.
Changing employee behaviour isn't easy. One of the major wellness program hurdles involves finding ways to help employees see and believe the need for change in their lifestyles as well as building awareness that prevention is key to helping them avoiding chronic illness. If nothing is done to move the needle on these points, we'll continue to see medical costs related to chronic diseases escalate in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
Having a roadmap that allows an employer to make better decisions based on existing claims patterns and trends is a step in the right direction. Plan sponsors are not in this quest alone. Contact us. We're here to help so that 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.