Navigating Benefits

Your Employee Benefits Package: It’s Never Too Late to Strategize

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Posted by June 29, 2016

If you’re a small business owner or human resources professional offering an employee benefits package, you know how important benefits are to your staff. In fact, the benefits you offer may be one of the reasons your staff accepted your offer of employment. In the 2015 Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, benefits were ranked as the third most important factor contributing to employee happiness.

So, take a moment to consider staff buy-in before presenting any changes to your plans or offering additional benefits. Many employees sign up for benefits when they begin a job and never make changes to their policies. Some don’t understand their benefit options well enough to make an informed decision about what they should choose. Others believe the choices they made decades ago are still well-suited to their needs.

There are, however, opportunities that employees will be pleased to learn about – after all, the SHRM report finds benefits are even more important to employee happiness than overall compensation and pay, which ranked fourth. Here’s what you need to know to make a strong impression on your staff.

Benefit Packages Have Changed Over Time

Today’s benefit plans look vastly different from those of the past. Wellness and prevention are now the driving forces behind medical, dental and auxiliary benefit plans, whereas before, copay or deductible amounts were your employees’ main concerns. Coverage is also expanding to include mental well-being, smoking cessation programs, remote work environments, tuition reimbursement and more.

If your employees are hesitant to change their benefits because they’re comfortable with their existing strategy, it’s your job to motivate them to consider a change and remind them that it’s never too late to update their benefits package strategy.

How to Motivate Your Employees to Get the Best From Their Benefit Plans

Long-Term Employees With Old Strategies

If you have long-term employees, they may not have changed their benefits strategy in decades. If your benefits package has worked for your employees for most of their career, they may be hesitant to change, even if there’s a long way to go before retirement. Make time annually – preferably when your plan is renewing – to complete a benefits “audit” with each of your employees. For small companies, meet once a year, and ask them about life changes. Did they recently get married, divorced or have a baby, or did an older child age out of their policy? If so, show them how to update their policy. For larger companies, email a list of benefits they’re currently enrolled in. Don’t forget to share links to the plan summaries, and other benefits available to them as well.

If your employee has never taken advantage of auxiliary benefits, such as flexible spending plans, disability insurance or vision plans, find out if they’d be useful additions to their current choices. If your employee enrolled in a retirement plan 10 years ago, suggest they take a fresh look at the funds to which they allocated their money. Is that still working to their advantage?

Employees With Little Understanding of Benefits Offered

Some employees feel nervous about changing their employee benefits package because they simply don’t understand the ever-evolving world of benefits. The best way to motivate these employees to keep their benefits strategy current is to sit down and discover what their pain points are. Does he need a higher level of dental treatments than your average employee? If so, explain how a supplementary flexible spending plan will allow him to put pretax money aside to cover the costs of future dental procedures.

Another example: one of your employees wants to quit smoking, and your health plan has a cessation program. If she doesn’t know about it, perhaps she would be interested in using the benefit. Be an advocate for your staff’s health by keeping an ear out for ways your employee benefits package can individually help each of them.

Never assume that your staff completely understands what you offer as benefits. Setting aside some time for benefit training and questions – even if it’s only once a year – makes for better-informed staff. The more they understand what you offer, the better they’ll be able to utilize it.

Staff Who Are Close to Retirement Age

Some of your employees may keep the same benefits year after year and now they’re close to retirement. “What’s the point of changing this late in the game?” they may wonder. Encourage this employee demographic to get the most out of their benefits while they are still employed. There may be many small benefits they can enjoy during those last few years – or even months – of employment that they may no longer have access to once they retire.

In fact, if their benefit plan changes upon retiring, suggest that they sit down and review the benefits they currently have, while also mapping out what their benefits will look like when they leave the company. If they can identify any benefits they may lose (for example, wellness options such as free exercise classes or discounts on health-related items), they can enjoy them while presently employed. Help them out by providing a printed summary of benefits and access to detailed plan coverage once a year.

Regardless of what perks you’re able to offer your employees, remember to keep your staff motivated to update their benefits strategy. They may be nervous to change or unsure about what’s available, so be their guide and empower them to get the most out of their package.

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