Time for a Benefits Review?

The New Year is a great time to analyze and revise.

4 min read

In the new year, many of us decide to make changes and resolutions in our personal lives. At work, we often set budgets, goals, and targets for the coming business year.  There’s something about the new year that makes us want to re-evaluate things, and that’s a powerful and creative force. So why not leverage that energy to do a Benefits review?  If this task is on your to-do list, here are a few tips and ideas to help you assess your company benefits package.

Identify your benefits package goals and budget

You probably already completed this important step when you first set up your benefits package, but circumstances change. Perhaps your business has grown, or your employee demographics have changed.  Maybe outside economic circumstances are forcing you to tighten the company belt and find cost savings. You could be looking for ways to attract better candidates and be more competitive with your hiring. Or perhaps your Benefits package is simply not quite aligned with your original expectations.  When conducting a benefits review, take a look at all of these factors, and any others that may be facing your business and evaluate whether your goals and budget are still the same. Once you’ve pinned down your goals and budget, it’s time to identify strategies to align your benefits package to these needs.

If your rates have changed, figure out why

There are typically a few different reasons why rates might increase.  If you have “pooled” benefits like life insurance and long-term disability, these can be affected by the demographics and occupations of your staff, so if your staff demographics have significantly changed, or if their particular roles incur more risk, it could affect your rates. The other item that often impacts your benefits rates are your “experience rated” benefits like dental, extended health and short-term disability.  If your staff used a lot of these benefits in the prior year, more than you originally anticipated, then your premiums will go up. If you want to learn more about what impacts your benefits premiums we’ve written about it before, so check out our post.

Take a look at what’s being used, and what isn’t

When you examine the overall usage of your benefits plan, you might discover that some things are being used more, driving your rates up, while other things you’re paying for are being used less.  Does this mean something should be removed?  Possibly.  However, sometimes the things that are used less are things that could provide preventative health support.  For example, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) often provide excellent resources that can help your staff find solutions to challenges and avoid future, more costly issues like mental health related disability claims, for instance.  EAPs are often underused, so a solution could be to educate your staff on what is offered in your EAP, the confidentiality of the EAP, and more.

Consider creative ways to curb costs

There are a few different ways you can manage plan costs.  One way is to look at a plan redesign.  Maybe you can set spending limits, or shift certain benefits into a Health Spending Account to ensure you know exactly what your maximum spend will be. 

Another way to reduce your company’s claims might be to enhance your company wellness culture.  Are you taking time to educate staff about preventative health measures? Are you creating a supportive space for staff to discuss job stress, or raise mental health challenges they may be facing? Are your managers trained to recognize and support health challenges among your staff? Have you taken time to educate your staff about what their EAP offers, and how they can access it? And what about supporting national health awareness days and events in the workplace?  There’s a lot you can do to engage staff in health and wellness within your company culture; so, the solution might not be a plan redesign, but a rethink of your employee engagement approach and HR training.

Survey your staff

Evaluating your benefits premiums and usage will give you a pretty good indication of whether your plan design is getting the use you expect; but if you’re looking for creative ways to make changes, or if you want to position yourself for competitive hiring, take advantage of your top resource, the people who work for you. Your staff might have something on their wish-list that could be easy to implement or adjusted in your plan.  When you’re surveying staff, you can bring some ideas to the table and get them to rank their preferences; you could also ask for their suggestions.  Would they be happier with a flexible Health Spending Account that has a lower limit, but allows them to use the money how they choose? Would they prefer the typical Dental and extended health package you already have? Which benefits are a priority to them?  Is there something missing that they would prefer?

Talk to a Benefits Specialist

Whether you’re conducting a benefits review on your own, or with support, a Benefits Specialist will be able to provide you with suggestions and options based on your goals, needs, and budget.  If your available budget isn’t quite high enough yet to achieve your benefits goals, a Benefits Specialist can also help you take incremental steps to get there. And most importantly, working with a Benefits advisor doesn’t cost you anything; it’s basically free support to design the plan that’s right for you, to get ongoing education, and to have expert help the next time you need to evaluate or change your plan.

Conducting an annual benefits review can really help you ensure your benefits are doing what they’re supposed to, but we know it takes time and energy.  If you need help, get in touch, Benefits is our passion, and it’s all we do – we’d love to offer our expertise!