Offering group benefits and retirement plans to employees takes financial, administrative and time commitment from employers. To get the most bang for their buck, employers need to make sure their benefit plans work efficiently and are used effectively. Here are five benefit trends to watch.
- Employee wellness. The term “workplace wellness” may conjure up visions of health screenings and smoking cessation programs. Employers, however, are also starting to see the positive impact of a healthy workplace culture on employee productivity and safety.
The trend: Employee wellness is morphing into total well-being. Employees’ mental, social and financial health is just as important as their physical health.
Action plan: One size doesn’t fit all in wellness. Employers should choose initiatives that resonate with their workforce and company culture. There are many low- and no-cost options available, from free web resources to lunchtime learning speakers through an employee assistance program.
- Psychological health. According to a recent Ipsos Reid poll, one-third of Canadians are at high risk for mental health issues, and 11% reported taking time off work or school for mental health reasons. Recognizing this as a growing workplace issue, the Mental Health Commission released a voluntary set of tools and resources for employers. Psychological health issues can impact absenteeism, productivity, workplace safety, disability claims and cooperation between coworkers.
The trend: Despite privacy concerns and the stigma attached to mental illness, employers recognize the need to be involved.
Action plan: Provide an employee assistance plan, coverage for psychological counseling sessions, referrals to community services, mental health first-aid training and return-to-work programs.
- Prescription drug management. Prescription drugs account for 13% of total health expenditures in Canada. Employer-provided drug benefits are highly valued by employees, but the costs can be high.
The trend: Employers are looking for ways to keep drug costs in check.
Action plan: Save with pay-direct cards, mandatory generic substitution, coupons, dispensing fee caps, preferred pharmacy networks and prior authorization for specialty medications.
- Financial literacy. According to a recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 42% of Canadian employers report that employees’ personal financial issues impact their overall job performance. Many employees are living paycheque to paycheque, and they don’t always make wise purchasing decisions.
The trend: Employee stress due to financial woes negatively impacts workplace productivity.
Action plan: The government’s Task Force on Financial Literacy recommends employers add financial training to workplace training efforts and communications. Resources available include group and one-on-one workshops, e-learning courses, retirement calculators, credit counselling services, newsletters, payroll stuffers and free web resources. The International Foundation’s Financial Education/Retirement Security resource page offers a variety of tools to help employers.
- Benefit communication. Group benefits and retirement plans are a big budget item,so employers must make sure employees understand their benefits and how to use them effectively. Communication is critical.
Trend: To catch employees’ attention, use different communication approaches.
Action plan: Employees respond best to personal messages tied to life stages. Create different messages for different groups. For example, focusing on life events (marriage, pregnancy, promotion, retirement) captures employees’ attention at the right time with the right message. How you deliver the message also matters—Use the media that your employees use, keeping in mind media preference is individualized, not generation-based. There are boomers who love Facebook and Millennials who prefer face-to-face meetings.
Julie Stich, CEBS
Director, Research at the International Foundation