Benefits on a shoestring: 8 tips — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Don’t waste your time and money offering benefits no one cares about. Review all your coverages. Conduct eligibility audits. Those were just some of the tips Gary Kushner offered last week to comp and benefits specialists eager to maximize the value and reduce the costs of the benefits they provide.

Speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Annual Conference in Chicago, Kushner, president of benefits consulting firm Kushner & Company, offered this advice:

1. Remove unnecessary benefits. Kushner recommended regularly asking yourself, “Why do we offer this benefit?” If it doesn’t help recruitment or employee retention, get rid of it.

Small perks can make a big impression during rough economic times. Little-used benefits can reap your organization enormous good will and loyalty among employees.

2. Examine PTO designs. Kushner challenged HR pros to take a fresh look at leave plans that progressively increase time off the longer an employee has been with the organization. Standard amounts of leave for all employees are easier to administer. Paid time off banks are worth considering.

3. Analyze retirement plan designs (and fees). Study up on the brokerage fees your employees have to pay to maintain their retirement investments. If they're too high, you’ll hear about it from financially savvy workers.

4. Conduct eligibility audits. Make sure you’re only insuring people who are eligible for your coverage. Kushner said about 8% to 10% of those enrolled in employer-provided health insurance plans are ineligible—mainly employees’ adult children. Your insurance carrier or broker can help you do an audit.

Employees are most willing to pay for certain voluntary benefits themselves — and give you kudos for arranging on their behalf.

5. Review health plan coverages. Spend some time talking to your carrier about coverage you may not want to pay for. Most companies will be happy to underwrite experimental or unproven medical procedures, but you’ll pay a hefty price. Kushner cited gastric bypass surgery as one popular, expensive and often ineffective procedure you might want to bypass paying for.

6. Determine cost sharing wisely. Think creatively about who pays how much for what. Could you ask higher-paid staff to take on larger co-pays and deductibles? It might make it easier to offer affordable coverage to the rank-and-file.

7. Make sure your prescription plan covers what you want. Some plans generously cover drugs to treat erectile dysfunction and hair loss, yet scrimp on diabetes meds. “The last thing you want is employees failing to take the medications they need because they’re too expensive,” Kushner said. “That will raise your costs in the long term.”

8. Scrap one-size-fits-all designs. Standard plans for everyone companywide made sense at one time—like 50 years ago! Changing demographics and lifestyles require a different approach to benefits. “Today, only 9% of the workforce looks like Ozzie and Harriet,” Kushner said. Get to know your workforce to understand the mix of benefits you need to offer to keep your best employees.

Optimize your employee benefits program — and arm yourself with the details you need to "sell" your ideas to the C-suite — with our must-listen webinar on April 1.

Benefits on a Shoestring: Tight Budgets, New Strategies

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