5 Things HR Teams Need to Know About New Employee Benefits

November 12, 2015

First Stop Health

While healthcare premiums are increasing by double digits every year, you need some positive news for your employees. You’re sick of saying, “Healthcare premiums are going up 10% again…,” or, “We can no longer provide…." It is time for some good news for a change so that you can show your employees that you really do care about the people who make your company what it is!

Rolling out a valuable new benefit seems like a great solution. By embracing the best and brightest ideas in the benefits arena, you can show your employees you are always on the lookout for services that will make them happier and more productive. But there are some caveats you should consider when researching and planning to implement new benefits.

You want the investment to pay off, either in workforce productivity, morale, or savings in another area of the budget. To do that, consider the things your new employee benefits should definitely do:

1. The benefit should ideally save money

Adding new employee benefits shouldn’t just mean forking over more company cash just to say you have it. Only consider new options where you know you’ll see a return on investment for both you and your employees.

For example, many companies are offering HDHPs that can help save money for both the employer and employee in terms of premiums. But with family deductibles that can be $10,000 a year or more, the benefit will often end up costing employees thousands of dollars a year.

2. The benefit should be widely used

How many times have you brought on a benefit that has a hard time catching on? For benefits to truly be of value, they have to be used by the people you’re giving them to. So we have to ask, “What’s the point of investing in a benefit that just looks good on paper?”

It should be self evident that benefits very few people use don’t “benefit” anyone. If no one’s using a benefit, these programs can cost more to implement and sustain than they actually save. This can be particularly true with a telemedicine benefit. Many telemedicine providers have utilization rates from 1 to 3%. At that rate, everyone loses. Others have rates above 40%, and the savings can really add up--both for the employer and the employee.

3. Employees should see real value in any new benefit

Your employees should see company benefits as assets that reward them for being a part of the company and contribute positively to their lives. In short, you should have benefits that give them their personal time and money back.

They should be able to get behind the idea that the benefits you add have a positive impact on their lives and value to their personal bottom line. Benefits should be "good news," not routine or bare minimum “perks.” For example, wellness programs can be fantastic incentives for living healthy, wholesome lives. But you should consider how this benefit adds value to your unique company culture and employees’ lives. If your employees don’t take full advantage of the incentives needed to make the program effective, it might not be the right fit for your team.

4. The burden of roll-out shouldn't fall on your HR team

HR teams do a herculean job of rolling out benefits packages, especially during open enrollment. However, for newer benefits, that may involve changing employee behavior. This is where HR teams could benefit by off-loading some of that work to the vendor. This is especially true when the benefit is specialized or new to the market.

For employee assistance programs, wellness programs, and telemedicine programs, in particular, education and awareness can be effectively handled by the vendor with the oversight of the HR department. This will drive utilization much higher than if overburdened HR departments are tasked with this job over the entire benefit period. They’re the experts, and they should care about ensuring a high utilization rate for their benefit. Look for vendors that have comprehensive engagement plans and a commitment to driving utilization of the benefit.

5. The benefits should set you apart from similar employers in your industry 

If you only offer basic or sub par employee benefits, there is greater incentive for good employees to be lured away by companies with more comprehensive benefits. There’s a “wow” factor in showing your company is on the cutting edge of providing an excellent work environment and culture.

But depending on the new employee benefits you choose to invest in, you can offer basic compensation while still setting yourself apart in other ways. For instance, offering a more flexible vacation policy than your main competitors is an innovative way to improve work-life balance while making your benefits package more attractive to motivated top talent.

Offering benefits like telemedicine also shows employees that you want to responsibly set yourself apart from other companies without breaking the bank on “check box” benefits that don’t have a real impact.

Adding new employee benefits doesn’t have to be a headache waiting to happen. This process can be a way to break through to your employees to remind them that you really do care about the company culture, well-being and happiness of everyone at your company. But when you invest in a new benefit, you need to remember that not every trend is worth the time or money.

New benefits should be money-saving, exciting additions to your overall compensation package that the whole company actually wants to use. Your investment should pay off in more than just dollars and cents! 

Originally published Nov 12, 2015 3:00:00 PM.