Employee Benefits: Planning Ahead
In the past year, employers have had to make significant adjustments to their benefits packages to cope with the pandemic. Most significantly, employers with less than 500 employees have had to adopt new paid leave policies to help employees combat COVID-19 and new childcare demands, with 44% planning on expanding their paid leave benefits in 2021.
But that isn’t the only thing that’s changed. As employers look ahead to upcoming open enrollment and prepare for the year ahead, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Virtual enrollment
Since in-person meetings are sharply declining for safety concerns, employers are shifting the yearly in-person meeting with their broker to virtual walk-throughs over the phone, or doing it themselves online. But it’s more important than ever that employers get the most help they can when it comes to their employee benefits plans.
The changing needs of the workforce, the blowback from delayed elective surgeries, and new regulations mean there’ a lot employers have to navigate if they want to see solid ROI on their benefits packages.
To best prepare your business for the upcoming virtual enrollment period, start by checking off this list:
- Do some preliminary research and see what’s out there. Get a feel for what other employers of a similar size and industry are doing.
- Ask your employees what they need the most. Create a tiered list of benefits they express a need for, and benefits they would appreciate, but don’t require.
- Create a detailed list of questions.
- Call your broker with your questions and the information you gathered and walk through what’s available to you, making sure to take note of everything.
Research preparation will help you cover all the bases and avoid any gaps or lost opportunities. Make sure you give yourself enough time to do sufficient research and get answers to your questions.
2. Shifting the basics
As you plan for the year to come, take stock of all the changes your organization has gone through in the last months. Have you gone partially or fully remote? Are you considering offering remote positions at your company moving forward? Do you have young parents on your team who are juggling new childcare challenges?
Your benefits strategy may very likely need to be updated to meet the challenges relevant to your employees today. To attract, retain, and engage talent, it’s essential you understand their needs and offer resources for them to maintain a healthy life, both physically and mentally.
And that looks different for remote employees, parents with children at home, and employees suffering from increased strain on their mental health due to the isolation and anxiety caused by the pandemic. The basics of employee benefit packages need to shift around these new and different challenges to adjust appropriately.
3. Benefits communication
With the vast majority of organizations still working remote and expecting to continue doing so into the year to come, employers must create a solid virtual communication strategy around their employee benefits.
Depending on the technical skill level and abilities of your employees, you may want to offer varying types of education and support around how to use their benefits. Especially with heightened awareness around healthcare, employees may be more anxious to learn everything they can about their benefits to help ease some of their anxiety.
4. Planning for changing costs
With so much up in the air, leaders in healthcare are warning that cost projections for next year are cloudy at best. Increased demand for mental health services, the blowback from delayed elective surgeries, and potential vaccine costs are making it difficult for employers to prepare financially for the unknowns. To help with this, talk with your employees about what services they expect to need. Work with your broker to define a strategy that works best for your business.
As circumstances change, be sure to keep a finger on the pulse of the insurance industry. Keep tabs on how your employees are feeling and what their concerns are moving forward. Although this can feel overwhelming, remember that there are many resources available to you to help guide you through the confusion and change.
Work closely with your broker and expect them to provide you with objective, informative information. Your broker should be your right-hand man during the next few months, and if they aren’t preparing you with strategies, education, and support, you may need to look elsewhere. As you move through the upcoming six months, stay informed, in touch, and open to new solutions and ideas, and you will come out the other side successfully.
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