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Better Employee Benefits May Be Customized Benefits

by Byrne Anderson
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Benefits brokers are constantly scouring the marketplace looking for better benefits that they can offer clients. They are looking for better and more competitive health insurance plans, and better dental and vision options. Even things like pet insurance and long term disability cover are on the table. But are they missing it? Perhaps they are.

Traditionally, employers have looked at benefits from the standpoint of “what can we offer our employees?” They have expected their brokers to go out and find attractive benefits they can turn around and use to recruit and retain employees. But maybe there is a better way. Perhaps better employee benefit are customized benefits.

A Matter of Perspective

What this post is proposing is simply a matter of prospective. In other words, do employers look at benefits from the perspective of what they can offer, or do they look at it from the employee’s perspective? The employer that adopts the latter perspective doesn’t start by commissioning the benefits broker to go find new and improved plans. Rather, the employer goes directly to employees to ask what it is they want.

It is becoming increasingly more obvious that today’s workforce doesn’t have the same priorities as its predecessors. For example, we now know that employees are willing to give up precious benefits and salary just for the opportunity to continue working remotely. Such an idea would have been unthinkable 40 years ago.

Benefits are changing because employee perspectives are changing. The question for employers is whether their perceptions are changing as well. If they continue to view benefits the way companies did back in the 1980s and 90s, they run the risk of never truly giving their employees the best benefits possible.

Employees Want Customization

As a general agency serving thousands of benefits brokers around the country, Dallas-based BenefitMall insists that employees want more customization in their benefits packages. They say that employees want the ability to pick and choose from a basket of options to create benefits that meet their individual needs.

BenefitMall’s proposal is backed up by a 2017 survey conducted by LIMRA. The survey revealed that a surprising 73% of American workers want the ability to customize their benefits packages. Employees are no longer content to be told by their employers what they need. They want the freedom to make that decision for themselves.

Compensatory and Non-Compensatory Options

Dig into the details of what employees are saying and you discover that health insurance and a retirement plan are not the be-all and end-all of the modern benefits environment. Such compensatory benefits are still important to people. But so are non-compensatory benefits. Employees are also interested in:

  • a hybrid work model
  • flexible scheduling
  • childcare assistance
  • access to mental health services
  • financial management help.

There are many ways to implement a customized benefits package. An employer could survey workers to find out what they want, then work at providing the most requested options. Employees could pick and choose up to a certain dollar amount.

Another option, for companies with fifty or fewer employees, is to offer a defined contribution benefits plan whereby the employer contributes a flat amount that employees can take directly to the marketplace to procure their own benefits. Defined contribution plans are not wildly popular, but they are out there.

It is clear that employee perceptions of their benefits are changing. Companies looking to compete for talent could probably use a new perspective as well. Perhaps the best employee benefits are not measured in terms of monetary value. Maybe the best benefits are those that can be customized by employees.

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