Remote work, an increased need for mental health services and the Great Resignation are causing employers to re-evaluate their old benefits plans and carve out a benefits package to attract and retain workers.
Employers cannot turn a deaf ear to the changing benefits needs of current and prospective employees, particularly in light of the changing employment environment brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
Remote work, an increased need for mental health services and the Great Resignation are causing employers, both big and small, to re-evaluate their old benefits plans and carve out a benefits package to attract and retain workers. Further, with a recession looming, they are trying to do it without breaking the bank.
When offering benefit options and finding companies to partner with, agents need to be cognizant of the fact that 63% of employers offer most of their workers the opportunity to adopt a hybrid work model of working both remotely and in person, according to the Society for Human Resource Management 2022 “Employee Benefits Survey."
“A trend that is really changing the market is the new normal of hybrid and virtual work," confirms Andy Glaub, senior vice president, director of sales, Aflac. “Much of benefits insurance sales happen through an employer's benefits package, but with the worksite evolving, so enrollment and communication tools must meet employees where they are."
Medical benefits are a central item companies are reviewing, with 87% of U.S. employers placing it in their top priorities in the coming two years, according to WTW, which notes that mental health is now at the forefront of both employees and employers' minds.
“Another trend to note is the pandemic really exposed the important need for mental health care and resources," Glaub continues. “Carriers are looking strategically at everything in our policies and added value services to better serve our policyholders' mental health care needs."
Agents can play a key role in providing advice about the various benefit options available, particularly for smaller businesses. Here are three ways agents can help small businesses maximize employee benefits:
1) Know the options. “In terms of health insurance benefits, there are affordable excepted-benefits health plans specifically designed for small businesses that can't afford health coverage for employees or can only afford minimal coverage," says Scot Wilkins, senior vice president of broker services, Sankaty Light Benefits.
“These tax-advantaged plans can be paired with most employer group plans or an employee's individual plan, spousal policy or Medicare plan to dramatically boost the benefits of those," Wilkins explains, adding that agents' knowledge of such options “could solve the workforce and budgetary needs of their small business clients."
2) Be a resource. Many business owners, particularly small business owners, wear many hats. Relying on the advice and the knowledge of an agent can be essential to helping them create a comprehensive benefits plan that is within their budget.
“While employee benefits are an important piece of the puzzle, many don't have the time to spend on administration and facilitation," Glaub says. “In fact, many clients may not even remember what benefits they have in place."
“Checking in regularly, not just when an enrollment is scheduled to help answer questions, add new employees and facilitate wellness benefits can help ensure a long-term client relationship," he says.
3) Understand the client's workforce. The Great Resignation has created many challenges. In particular, employee turnover is raising pressure on companies to make changes to retain their workforce. Agents who understand the type of employees employed by a client and those they are looking to attract can help correct the disconnect when carving out a benefits package.
“People value their benefits, which makes them a strong bargaining chip for employers," Glaub says. “Traditional insurance benefits are just one small part of the equation. Today's worker is more likely to be weighing traditional factors like pay and benefits along with work-life balance and finding fulfillment in the work that they do."
“While an employer can't control what whole life balance looks like for each employee, what an employer can do is look at their benefits from the employee perspective," he adds.
As health costs are expected to rise by more than 5% in 2022, according to a survey published by consulting firm WTW last year, employers are expected to seek out “non-traditional, tax-advantaged health insurance plans, such as fully insured excepted-benefits plans, which dramatically and affordably boost an employer's and employee's health plan benefits," Wilkins says.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.