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April 11, 2019

Approaching healthcare benefits strategically

Why the C-suite needs to join the conversation

John McDonough

Healthcare benefits tend to be viewed as a burden by many companies. Those benefits can be costly and the open enrollment period can be stressful. Many companies simply put that burden on HR, hoping to just get it over with.

How does a company design employee benefits that promote a healthy, productive, engaged workforce and stay within budget? Constraints such as changing regulatory environments, expanding workloads and shifting talent trends can cause companies to turn to short-term solutions instead of longer-term, more strategic approaches that will help both the organization and the employees.

But what if healthcare benefits could actually be powerful strategic tool for growth? That’s where the C-suite comes in. After all, managing talent is an essential part of managing the company, including performance, compensation and engagement.

Benefits can increase engagement.
A recent Gallup survey found that less than a third of U.S. workers feel involved, enthusiastic or committed to their work. On the other hand, companies with engaged employees can perform up to 202 percent higher. And that affects the bottom line.

Employee benefits can be a powerful tool to drive increased engagement, staff retention and productivity. To get the most out of your investment in employee benefits, it’s important to establish a solid strategy.

Talking about healthcare all year long.
C-level executives need to join the benefits conversation. After all, they are best qualified to understand how the business is evolving and what obstacles it will be facing.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates that employers will spend an average of $10,000 per employee on benefits during 2019. That’s too large an investment for the C-level to be left out of the benefits conversation.

That conversation needs to happen throughout the year, not just prior to and during open enrollment periods. As the business changes— and employee needs change— how you manage your healthcare benefits needs to change as well.

Saving on healthcare helps you invest in other benefits.
Managing the healthcare supply chain helps you save money, leaving you with more to spend on perks, bonuses, increased wages, investments, new products, new or updated technology, recruitment and training.

The best way to get the most out of your benefits.
Find an insurance advisor who fits your business. An advisor should be more than someone who helps you find the best policy. They should be able to help you increase the quality of benefits, make sure your employees are getting the benefits they want and need and ensure that you spend the right amount on each employee.

How do you find the right advisor?
First, determine what kind of business relationship you want. If all you want is a vendor who’ll get you a good insurance policy, they should be easy to find. But if you’re looking for someone who will dig deep and get to know your business, what kind of employee population you have, and what your plans are for the future, then you’re looking for a partner. Here are three ways to make sure you find the right one:

  1. Make sure the advisor understands your goals and challenges.
    You need someone who will help you turn benefits into a strategic advantage rather than simply another necessary expense.

  2. Make sure the advisor can create a plan that works for everyone.
    You want an advisor who can develop a plan that truly offers value to employees and will promote engagement and job satisfaction. If the advisor can also produce a plan that creates opportunities to save you money, you have a win/win situation.

  3. Make sure the advisor will help you educate employees.
    When employees are more involved in their healthcare benefits plan, they feel more empowered to make cost-effective choices that won’t compromise their care. So, an advisor who can help you help employees better understand how to practice wellness, adhere to health regimens, and get the most out of their plan at the lowest cost can be invaluable.

What’s your competition offering?
Benefits are a top priority for current or prospective employees when they’re evaluating an organization. Given the constantly changing benefits market, ignoring how your programs stack up against the competition could put your organization at a disadvantage.  

Taking the next step.
Most employers will continue to offer healthcare benefits over the next decade. The employee population will continue to shift due to boomer retirements, government decisions will alter the landscape, and attitudes towards benefits—particularly healthcare—will change. Preparing for those shifts will be essential and will require committed, ongoing involvement by the C-suite.

Finding the right advisor will be one of the most important decisions your organization can make regarding benefits. Getting the maximum positive impact out of your benefits decisions is crucial, and that’s why you need an advisor who can truly be a partner.

Marsh & McLennan Agency representatives are available to talk about your needs and goals whenever you are.