Adjust benefits before open enrollment


Enrollment open this fall for Benefits 2023 is an opportunity for organizations to show the value of the benefits they provide to employees and help stem high turnover rates.

If the current offers are not competitive, now is the time to think about revising the menu of benefits.

According to HR consultancy Mercer’s survey of health and benefits strategies for 2023, more than two-thirds of responding employers plan to improve health and benefits offerings in 2023 to improve the attraction and retention or better meet the needs of employees. The survey was conducted from April 26 to May 13, 2022, with participation from 708 U.S. organizations.

“Employers are struggling to strike a delicate balance between what they need to do to attract and retain talent in tight labor markets and the challenges of today’s economic environment,” said Tracy Watts, senior partner and head of of American health policy at Mercer. Employers need to be “thoughtful and specific about their benefits to ensure they will get a return on their investment. This requires an understanding of the values ​​and needs of their unique workforce.”

Health care affordability

Health care affordability is a major concern for many workers, especially those on low incomes or those struggling with a chronic illness. Although high-deductible health insurance plans have grown rapidly over the past decade, employers have recognized that these plans are not suitable for some employees. Mercer’s survey found that for 2023:

  • 41% of employers surveyed will provide a low-deductible medical plan option or even a zero-deductible plan with only premiums and a copayment.

  • 11 percent provide free employee-only coverage (i.e. no premium deduction) for at least one medical plan option

While no-cost coverage for employees has historically been more common among smaller employers (29% currently offer it), this is a newer strategy for larger employers.

Health benefit strategies are also focused on supporting employees’ emotional and financial well-being, with more than half of large employers (52%) planning to offer virtual mental health care in 2023.

The majority of survey respondents will offer virtual care solutions beyond telemedicine for physical healthcare in 2023, with more than half of large employers (52%) offering behavioral healthcare services/ virtual minds, Mercer found.

Family formation benefits

Among other benefits that will become more common, nearly a third of large employers surveyed will offer access to fertility treatment coverage and adoption and surrogacy benefits by 2023.

Among U.S. employers of all sizes, 37% of survey respondents will provide at least one benefit or specialized resource to support reproductive health, which could include benefits to support high-risk pregnancies, breastfeeding, planning family before conception, pregnancy loss or family- planning support during menopause.

“In today’s competitive job market, employees may leave their jobs for others that offer only slightly higher pay,” Watts said. “Employers are looking to create a stronger connection with this workforce by providing health and wellness benefits and resources that their employees will appreciate.”

Assess employee needs and interests

“Many HR managers are unaware of the nature and extent of their employees’ resource needs and challenges,” according to Liddy Romero, founder and CEO of the nonprofit WorkLife Partnership. based in Denver whose Resource Navigator service helps companies resolve employee issues. face, and Valerie Wendell, former director of innovation at WorkLife Partnership.

“Benefits are not regularly evaluated for their impact on employees and the extent to which benefits contribute to a culture of care,” Romero and Wendell noted, adding that benefits usage data is often the only measure. that benefits managers review.

The role that middle managers play as “first responders” when frontline employees are struggling with challenges “is often overlooked and overlooked as an important source of information,” they pointed out.

Romero and Wendell recommend that employers better understand their workers by:

  • Guarantee service providers offer useful information on how employees use their benefits.

  • Employee survey whether the benefits offered address the various challenges faced by a diverse workforce. Protect employee confidentiality by maintaining respondent anonymity.

  • Survey of middle managers, who have some of the best insights into the health and struggle of their direct reports (again, on condition of anonymity).

Highlight value for employees

“Benefits aren’t just table stakes anymore; they’re a differentiator. This gives employers the opportunity to put their benefits in the spotlight during benefits enrollment season,” wrote Abby Aldrich, Director of employee experience at consultancy WTW (formerly Willis Towers Watson), and Casey Hauch, managing director of communications and change management at the firm.

The annual benefits enrollment period is “a time when employers have a captive audience with employees”, making it “the perfect time to remind employees of the range of benefits options you offer and the value they provide,” Aldrich and Hauch noted.

For the upcoming benefits enrollment season, they recommended that employers:

Emphasize the security provided by the benefits package and how it supports employees throughout the year.

“Beyond health insurance, employees are looking for emotional support [and] resources to build their resilience and financial protection,” Aldrich and Hauch explained. “Many employers are demonstrating their commitment to emotional safety by removing barriers to mental health care and providing care and self-help tools at little or no cost.

Options such as lifestyle spending accounts (a lump sum for which employees choose how they want to split benefits) are also becoming more common, they noted.

Have a multi-faceted communication strategy to educate employees and reach them in the way and when it is most convenient for them.

Consider how to reach different types of employees using targeted and personalized communication tactics, the consultants advised, because “employee confidence in benefits selections is strongly linked to communication, support and effective tools”.

Ahead of the enrollment window, “organizations invite employees to inquire about their benefits options two to three weeks before the decision time, making it easier to access information when it’s most convenient for them.” “, noted Aldrich and Hauch.

They suggested that HR departments embed a decision-flow tool into their communication or have a chatbot ready to answer questions, no matter the time of day. They also said employers should make it easier to contact insurance companies, service centers or HR partners by providing phone numbers to call and self-help websites.

“Providing security, giving choice and making things easier are strategies that will earn the trust of your employees,” Aldrich and Hauch advised.


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