Businesses large and small routinely face challenges in putting together health benefits programs that employees will value and appreciate. Health benefits politics are ever-shifting, and health insurance complexity is ever-growing. It’s a tough task, with many sensitivities, in even the simplest situations.
Irrespective of the size of the business, there are some common considerations for leadership teams that can make the decision-making process more manageable and more objective.
1. Make It Affordable
Health insurance plans are becoming more expensive and, concomitantly, offering fewer benefits. Cost is thus the most obvious and frequently-cited challenge for businesses providing health benefits.
Create objective cost targets—for example, basing a health benefits budget on total revenue as opposed to profit-margins, or as a percentage of labor costs—so that you can anticipate change and compartmentalize spending.
2. Consider The Industry Standard
Become familiar, if possible, with the health benefits benchmarks of your industry. In the smallest businesses with a higher percentage of low-wage, general-skill staff, benchmarks might have less generalizable value, but having objective data nonetheless demonstrates a necessary due diligence that objectifies reasoning behind decisions.
Look to trade groups for information, which can be specific to technical skills, or technology skills, or executive compensation. If nothing else, review general data, such as that available through the Kaiser Family Foundation, which gives averages and projections for health insurance plan premiums, employer contribution percentages and employee participation levels.
3. Keep In Mind Employee Perception
Putting a small number of plans into a fixed program for a diverse employee base with different socioeconomic backgrounds, different health priorities and different thresholds for medical uncertainty and pain(s) can quickly lead to frustrated employees and challenge HR teams.
Do your employees truly value the health benefits being provided? If the goal is to be offering a genuine benefit, and you are paying real money that affects an operating margin, it’s vital that you have a finger-on-the-pulse of employee perception. Otherwise, you might think you’re providing a great service while in truth you’re throwing money away.
4. Look At Your Corporate Culture
Be honest: For a given year, is it your business priority and bottom line to have a big heart? Consider this on a spectrum–not all-or-none–and allow that it can change annually. This approach can point out unintentional hypocrisies, such as offering bare-bones insurance and considering it overly generous, or offering robust insurance support while struggling to make payroll. It might also lead to actionable opportunities for improved cost-efficiency.