While extra benefits may be common knowledge, not every employee may be aware of these details, and even those who do know about the gym membership discount may not know that these discounts can extend to hotels, car rentals, and tickets to movies, theme parks, concerts, and the zoo.
Like everyone else, plan sponsors and their benefits teams had a lot on their plates in 2020, so adapting to the “new normal” may have made benefit elections a little rocky. That said, as we look ahead there are two main points that sponsors will have to address this year: first, how open enrollment works when a significant percentage of the workforce is still working remotely, and how to present the information in an easy to understand and engaging manner with those considerations in mind. Now that employees will (rightfully) expect a more polished and streamlined approach for remote workers, sponsors also have the opportunity to improve their methodology.
For example, health insurance providers will very frequently offer additional benefits on their own, such as discount programs for gym and fitness center enrollment. While this is fairly common knowledge, not every employee may be aware of these details, and even those who do know about the gym membership discount may not know that these discounts can extend to hotels, car rentals, and tickets to movies, theme parks, concerts, and the zoo. By highlighting the “extras” that come baked into a plan, sponsors can help keep things interesting and informative at the same time.
Speaking of “fun extras”, according to a recent study by Willis Towers Watson, almost all employers (a whopping 94%) are not only offering voluntary benefits but consider them a crucial part of their benefits packages. Unlike retirement plans or health insurance which employers pay for, voluntary benefits are supplemental, opt-in, and employee-paid offerings, though employers pay administration costs, and are highly prized by employees. Specifically, financial planning/counseling through an existing vendor (with 93% of plan sponsors plan to offer this by 2022 or beyond), tuition reimbursement programs (88%), telephonic financial planning/counseling (77%), onsite fitness centers (54%), backup childcare (48%), and eldercare (44%) rounded out the current most popular offerings. However, COVID-19 has impacted the voluntary benefit market too, and identity theft (78%), hospital indemnity (65%), pet insurance (69%), critical illness (76%), and group legal (75%) are the fastest-growing supplementary options today.
As supplementary options aren’t employer-paid, there’s room to get creative. Similarly, there are other ways that sponsors can prioritize their workers’ needs. For example, while tuition reimbursement for continuing education is an excellent program that benefits both the company and employee, we’ve explored how student loan repayment is another option that may help sponsors gain traction with certain audiences. Just mentioning it will ensure you have the immediate attention of every Millennial in the room (as well as their Gen X and Gen Z compatriots), all of whom have been hit hard by the student debt crisis in ways that may very well impact retirement savings. Though it’s treated as income, having that money go directly to their loans and bypass their bank account can help some employees bake loan repayment into their budget without having to think about it, and without the temptation of spending the money elsewhere.
It’s certainly about the “what” but it’s also about the “how”. Open enrollment may not be a thrill, but plan sponsors can certainly highlight how standard and supplementary benefits prioritize employee interests and their individualized needs. Hosting both in-person and online options ensures that employees who are in person and remote have accessible educational options, and even soliciting employee feedback on what they find most inaccessible or confusing can help employers find and target problem areas in their communications. Highlighting pertinent benefits for specific target groups (ex: “if you have children, check out our 529 options!” or “need help planning your financial future? We offer financial planning as a supplemental benefit!”) is another tactic that can help employees connect to opportunities that they didn’t even know existed, too.
These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.
Before leaping into the unknown, we recommend a thorough examination of your plan. Because we are experts in the field, we know the marketplace and know what your existing vendor is capable of offering. Through this examination, we can help you optimize the service you receive.get xpress proposal