Open enrollment season is in the rear-view mirror. As you and your team look toward the next round, it’s an opportune time to ask the question: What’s missing from your benefits strategy?

In a tight job market, it’s particularly important to develop a benefits strategy that keeps up with – or rises above – your competitors. These steps can help you figure out what’s missing from your benefits package, and how you can develop a plan that attracts the best talent – and keeps costs under control.

Step 1: Benchmark your benefits offerings against those of your competitors.

Go undercover as a job seeker and do some sleuthing. Check out job listings from your competitors, and compare the benefits they list against yours – with a grain of salt, of course, if their descriptions are short on details.

You can also check out sources like the Gallagher Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey for insight into the benefits strategies other companies are offerings. For example, in 2019, they reported that 52% of companies offered telemedicine services, 41% provide wellbeing incentives, and 48% provide hearing aids to employees.

Step 2: Evaluate emerging trends.

In your research, it’s also helpful to look at benefit trends. What new programs are just now emerging in popularity, and how can your company get ahead?

For example, in a survey conducted by the Business Group on Health’s (BGH), implementing virtual solutions and developing a more focused strategy to address high-cost claims topped the lists of changes large companies were considering.

Programs that address high-cost claims, such as back surgeries, are also growing in popularity. In the BGH survey, 85% of large employers cited musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions as their first, second, or third most costly condition group.

Employers are also looking to increase their use of digital health products: 68% of employers in the U.S. said they plan to grow their investment in digital health in the next five years.

As you develop a long-term benefits strategy, consider how you would like your offerings to evolve not just next year, but five years ahead, too.

Step 3: Conduct a wellness survey. 

One way to get a sense of the benefits offerings your employees would use – or that could potentially improve health outcomes – is to conduct a wellness survey.

When sharing out your survey, It’s important to communicate that responses will be anonymous, and to keep questions relatively general. For example, you could ask employees whether they or someone else on their healthcare plan would be interested in a list of programs, if offered, and ask them to check off the ones they are interested in. You can also ask them to rank their interest so you can isolate programs your teams may be the most engaged with.

You don’t have to limit the concept of “wellness” to physical health, either. Include programs that support mental health, or even financial wellness. A successful long-term benefits strategy takes into account how your company can support employees as complete people, across a spectrum of needs.

Step 4: Identify the gaps. 

Once you’ve analyzed what your competitors are up to and researched benefits trends on the horizon, the next step in the benefits planning process is to conduct a gap analysis. Where is your benefits strategy falling short?

This step can also include an audit of your existing benefits offerings. Are there any voluntary benefits that your staff isn’t using? Are there any ways you can boost engagement around those existing programs? For example, a wellness champion network can help you identify evangelists among your employees and support your efforts.

You should come out of this exercise with a list of new benefits programs you’re considering.

Step 5: Determine success metrics.

Once you have your list of potential benefits offerings, consider what success would look like for each program. Do you want to help employees quit smoking? Relieve chronic back pain? Lose weight? Chances are, the vendors you choose will be able to help you set starting benchmarks, but as you figure out whether there’s a business case for your program, it makes sense to find those numbers yourself first.

For a health program, get a sense of the top cost drivers of your existing plans. You can also consider the costs of absenteeism and presenteeism associated with the healthcare problems you’re looking to tackle, and factor those numbers into your costs.

From there, consider the savings, compared with the cost of a vendor, if you reduce or increase your key numbers by a certain percentage. Having a rough estimate of these numbers ahead of time can help you have better-informed conversations with vendors when you reach that stage.

Step 6: Start conversations with vendors.

If you take the time to understand your company’s needs and your goals for the program in advance, you’ll be ready to have thoughtful and productive conversations with vendors you’re considering.

Questions to ask potential vendors in early conversations may include: 

  • Can spouses and domestic partners on our employee plan use the program?
  • What results can we expect from the program?
  • How do you engage employees in the program?
  • What materials can you provide to support our program launch?

Look for companies that align with the goals you set out, and that have a solid plan for how they’ll launch and engage employees. 

Step 7: Consider timing.

If you’ve landed on additional benefits to start offering your teams, be sure to consider timing. While some benefits are best rolled out during open enrollment, others may make more sense “off cycle.” Employees may want additional time to research a new worker benefit, or there may simply not be a compelling reason to wait. 

Look for companies that align with the goals you set out, and that have a solid plan for how they’ll launch and engage employees.

Thinking about a musculoskeletal (MSK) solution as part of your benefits offerings? Get in touch with Fern using the form below to learn how our digitally-delivered, multimodal program can reduce your healthcare costs while preventing unnecessary surgeries.

Learn how Fern Health can reduce musculoskeletal pain costs at your company.

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