With December almost behind us, it will soon be time to step into the new year. January offers a fresh start and the opportunity to revisit your current group benefit plan design.
With over 30 years industry experience, I've seen a myriad of benefit plans in my day. This knowledge gives me the insight to ask key questions and because I keep a close eye on industry trends, legislative changes and different service provider/insurer product offerings, I'm able to ensure my clients have a plan design that optimizes their specific requirements.
Through the years, I've had a number of different requests related to benefit plan design, but the most common themes shared with me include --
- "It needs to be valued by our employees";
- "It needs to compare favourably to the competition";
- "It needs to provide just the right amount of coverage so that employees aren't over or under-covered".
- "It needs to help attract and retain talent."
Making sure that the benefit plan remains relevant and valued requires regular attention. Plan design models that were in vogue in the 1980s might not have the same impact for today's workforce. Advancements in technology, immigration and globalization have altered how we do business and how employees look at their benefits package.
Questions to have answered.
As you begin your benefit plan design review, consider these comprehensive questions:
- What is your benefits philosophy?
- Can you easily identify and communicate your top short and longer-term goals for the benefit plan?
- Do these benefit goals align and support the larger corporate objectives?
- Do you have a plan and method in place for analyzing your workforce demographics? Knowing the percentage make-up of your workplace cohorts as well as their current and future needs will provide insights important to the benefit plan analysis.
- Is your existing plan design compliant with current provincial and/or federal legislation?
- What pending legislative changes do you need to consider?
- What do you know about your competition's benefit plan?
- How does your plan stack up against others in your industry?
- What are the results of the plan funding arrangement review?
- Has your organization significantly changed in size?
- Is the current funding arrangement still the right one for you?
- Do you have a traditional insured arrangement and wonder if your company is a good candidate for a self insured or a more flexible solution?
- What does your claims experience reveal?
- Are claims being over or under-utilized?
- What are the cost patterns and how does it compare to other employers in your industry?
- What cost containment strategies should you consider as a result?
Look to a trusted adviser.
Working with a trusted and experienced adviser can help you stretch your benefit dollar, maximize your plan's effectiveness and highlight applicable tax advantages. At Gallagher Benefit Services Inc., we can help you identify pockets that your current plan doesn't include or where your plan might be improved. Please contact us. Together we'll discuss your goals and navigate your next benefit plan design review. As always, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
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.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.