I think we can all agree, if we visited a grocery store for a box of cereal and the store only sells bran flakes, we’d look for a new store (unless you really like bran flakes). We might also look for a new store if there were lots of options but with names we didn’t recognize, no ingredients listed and no picture of the front of the box showing us what we would be waking up to eat each morning.
Employee benefits are supposed to be a benefit. Let’s face it, they also cost a lot of money! Employers don’t want employees “leaving the store” because there are not enough choices or the choices aren’t clear. Employees want to be given the benefits that matter most to them and they want to understand how to get the most from the benefit.
Too few choices in an employer’s benefit plan may leave employees disgruntled when what they want or need is not an option. This is especially the case when the expectation is that they should be given this benefit as an employee. There is a thought that employees, especially Millennials, want free lunches, ping pong tables and an onsite gym. While these perks may be appreciated, traditional benefits such as health insurance, are still top of employees’ most important benefits lists.
Employers who offer limited choices for benefit plans run the risk of not meeting the needs of a portion of their employee group. According to the Studies at the Brookings report, Millennials will make up 75% of the work force by 2025. Sources show that these employees are dealing with student loan debt and very high rents. They don’t want high copays or deductibles and often do not yet have the room in their paycheck to take full advantage of a Health Savings Account. Millennials are also less likely to be attached to a particular physician or dentist. On the other hand, Gen X and Baby Boomers may no longer care about low copays as they are not running to the pediatrician with small children. They may appreciate the savings opportunities of an HSA or want the flexibility of PPO plans to see their physician of choice. These are just generational differences, however, employees may have different needs for many reasons.
Having a robust benefit plan full of options is a start. However, if employees do not know what benefits are offered or do not understand the features of their benefit plan, an employer is no better off than if they offer limited choices. Communication and education are necessary to ensure employees are getting the most out of their benefits package. Open enrollment is the time that employers usually explain the choices and allow employees to select from the benefit options. Offering the information in many formats, written materials and employee meetings, may be most effective.
The information provided during open enrollment can be overwhelming and provides a limited time for understanding. Supplying benefit information throughout the year can be useful in reminding employees of the many ways their employer is looking out for them as a valued employee. It can also allow employees the opportunity to understand the features of the various plans at a point when they are actually ready to utilize the benefits.
Deciding whether to offer Lucky Charms, Raisin Bran and oatmeal or Rice Krispies, granola and Capt’n Crunch can be challenging just like choosing which benefit plans an employer should offer employees. Working with a Benefits Consultant and conducting employee surveys and/or, having an employee focus group, can help determine the options that an employee group will value most and will fit within an employer’s budget constraints.
Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates, assists our employer group clients with designing an employee benefit package that will appeal to multi-generational employee populations and work within the company budget. Our team helps determine what employees want from their employer and how best to ensure employees understand what is offered. If you feel your offerings have become stale and need some refreshing, we have the team that can help.
Contact us today to learn more about the services that MMA’s Employee Health & Benefits Department can provide:
Senior Benefits Consultant
About the Author: Carolyn Robbins joined Marsh & McLennan Agency, known locally as Insurance Associates in 2005. She began her career as a large group sales representative for an Insurance Company before becoming an insurance broker in 1991. Just prior to joining MMA, Carolyn served as a Vice President at Patterson//Smith Associates and USI in Virginia. Carolyn’s specialty is helping her clients design, implement and maintain cost effective employee benefit plans.