Springfield, MO

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Opinion: Improve employee retention through health plans, benefits

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If you are like most employers, attracting and retaining quality people right now is tough. We are in a market where unemployment is extremely low, and those who want to work are already actively employed. So, how do employers of all sizes attract talent and, most importantly, retain who they have with their employee health plans and benefits packages? Here are some recommendations to evaluate health and benefits packages in this evolving labor market.

Understand the needs and wants of your employees. This can vary depending on the age bracket or generation of your employees. A great first step is through an employee survey. Ask great questions and allow employees to give their own feedback. You may not be able to have a solution for everything at once, but make a long-term plan and have a one- to three-year strategy for implementation. Another area of importance: How do your benefits compare with those businesses in the markets where you operate? Know who you are competing with for talent, and be sure you understand the benefits they are offering as well. A benchmarking analysis will set a baseline you can use to find areas for change or improvement, allow you to set goals and measure your performance over time.

From my experience, employees want options when it comes to their benefits programs. No longer can the employer just offer health insurance. It’s now: How many different plans can you offer to meet the needs of a diverse staff? Employers now may offer two, three or even four health insurance plans based on the size and diversity of the organization to help them manage costs and meet employee needs. What has become extremely popular over the past several years are high-deductible health plans. These plans can be offered in conjunction with a health savings account. These plans typically have lower monthly premiums, especially for those looking for a low-cost option so they can afford to cover a spouse and dependent children. It also gives your employees an opportunity to set money back pretax to pay for future medical expenses.

Additionally, employers must offer plans offering virtual/telehealth options for care, also addressing behavioral and mental health benefits.

Most employers in our area still contribute a significant amount toward the employee medical premium, but not toward the family. When one looks at your organization from a very high level, what are your turnover costs? It may make financial sense to start contributing toward the dependent premium if you are not currently.

In addition to medical insurance, there are many other options you can use to enhance your offerings, including dental, vision, life and disability. It typically varies by industry and competition on whether the employer contributes to these premiums. We find that most employers will pay for a basic life insurance policy for employees, then offer an option to purchase additional coverage should they elect. Another employer-paid option often is an employee assistance program. It is a great benefit and allows your employees to have access to licensed, professional counselors to help overcome personal or workplace challenges. The employees who enroll in the program, as well as the topics discussed, are confidential.

Voluntary benefits, such as cancer, critical illness and accident coverage, are extremely popular right now. The benefits are offered at no cost to the employer and are simply a payroll deduction. It is a win for the employees as they get to purchase these products at group rates.

The most critical component is communication and engagement with your employees. More than likely, your health insurance premiums are right below payroll on your expense statement. If you are going to make this kind of investment, be sure your employees completely understand the benefits you offer and the value they bring. This is not a once-per-year communication; it is consistent and timely communication provided and broadcast throughout the year. Multiple methods should be used to distribute this information.

We can no longer go with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Erica Gaynor is an adviser and account executive at Ollis/Akers/Arney. She can be reached at


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