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Employee Benefits... General HR, Party of One?
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HR, Party of One?
by Alissa Miller, Benefits Consultant

Have you ever sat down at your desk and felt completely overwhelmed? Do you get caught up in the stacks of papers, endless to-do lists, full calendar, and employee meetings and wonder, “How am I going to get all this done?”  That sounds like a typical day in the life of a Human Resource professional.
  

One of the biggest concerns we hear from our partners in Human Resources is they feel overwhelmed, specifically when it comes to their employee benefit program.  Being responsible for the employee benefits program, along with all the “other duties as assigned”, can give even the most seasoned Human Resource professional anxiety.  This is especially true if you are a Human Resource department of one. 

Let’s go through five important aspects of your employee benefit program that will help you be more efficient with your time and energy so you can let go of some of the anxiety and get more done! 
  1. Get compliant.  Dealing with the numerous changing laws including ACA, ERISA, HIPPA, COBRA, and many more can be enough to keep you up at night. How would it feel to know that your policies and procedures are all in compliance and you had an action plan moving forward to stay compliant? Does it sound too good to be true? Fortunately, it’s not! There are programs and resources available where you can run a checklist, conduct a mock Department of Labor audit, access a notices generator, and more. These resources allow you to create a remediation plan and repeatable process that is proactive, not reactive, to the changing laws.
  2. Make employee benefits an asset, not an afterthought.  Yes, they are time consuming and expensive, but they are a key attraction and retention tool. In the current confined labor market we have to keep in mind that employees consider employee benefits with almost the same weight as their salaries. Studies have shown that the importance of a robust employee benefit program outweighs vacation time/PTO, performance bonuses, flexible schedules, and 401k options for employees. Make your employee benefit program a priority because your employees and recruits are considering this key factor when choosing an employer.  
  3. Be creative.  Employee benefits have evolved rapidly. Taking a holistic approach to your program is going to be essential moving forward. A study done by MetLife states that 76% of employees place the responsibility of their health and wellbeing into their employer’s hands.  This is beyond just physical healthcare and includes mental health, financial health, student loan planning, work-life balance, and more. Take a hard look at benefits that are important to your employees that won’t cost your employer an arm and a leg. For example, have you thought about work place voluntary plans, work from home options, pet insurance, tuition reimbursement vehicles, a robust EAP program, virtual care options, casual dress days, quiet rooms, and volunteer opportunities?
  4. Know your data.  When your annual renewal comes up, are you crossing your fingers, hoping your increase is limited to single digits, and just reacting? Take a different approach! Data driven employee benefits are essential to the success and engagement of your employees. Even the smallest employers can obtain information on how their health plans are being utilized.  Knowing the macro cost drivers that shape and influence your health care plan without being directly related to claims can identify areas of potential cost containment. If you’re a large enough employer to receive claim data, use it! Take the time to get to know the numbers and be proactive.
  5. Technology is your ally.  Even if you’re not tech savvy, using benefit technology is going to save you time and put you ahead of the game. Technology such as benefit decision support tools to help employees walk through their options can save you hours of employee meetings and questions. Having a comprehensive menu of innovative employee benefits could all be for nothing if you don’t have an effective communication platform to educate and convey that they’re available. An intranet, creative video messaging, and benefit portals to streamline benefit communication will be a huge asset to your program.
Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by your employee benefits program keep in mind that there are a few simple ways to be more efficient and effective. Take the complicated out of compliance and create a repeatable process that you can follow annually. Your employees are looking for a robust benefit package, but remember, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Think outside the box about what’s important to your employees, create a benefit to compliment that, and convey that through a proficient communication platform. Most importantly, know your numbers. Track your data and use your results to drive your employee benefit plan. Even the smallest HR team can make a mighty impact!
 
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