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By Nolan Friesen

HR professionals know that employees are a company’s most important asset, and group benefits programs are an important factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

As a company grows, adjusting coverage at a sustainable pace can be a challenge – and there are a few considerations that can help guide your company through growth periods.

Assess the industry

Take time to do an assessment of other companies’ plans to see what competitors are offering. An advisor can help do an analysis of what other companies in your industry are offering, and how offerings may differ across provinces. A caution on this step is to ensure that you only compare within your industry and against companies of a similar size.

Depending on the nature of your industry, recommendations for offerings may differ. For instance, safety glasses, shoe inserts and back braces tend to be a more important part of coverage for hands-on workers than they would be for staff in an office environment.

Work with an advisor to make a plan

For most small companies, basic coverage and benefits are a fit at first – but as your company and budget grow, you might be driven to opt for more coverage. Before you begin to develop an employee benefits plan, decide what the goal is. Does your company want to be a leader in the industry in terms of group benefits? Or are you looking to meet your employees’ needs through the growth period and reassess when it has stabilized?

Taking the time to determine your long-term goals prior to selecting a plan will help you to avoid costly situations in the future, such as introducing a comprehensive employee plan only to find that it’s too expensive to maintain or that your budget has changed. Retracting enhanced coverage shortly after it is introduced leaves a bad impression on employees and will often reduce morale. Once you’ve determined what your goals are, your advisor can walk you through coverage and plan options that account for your company’s growth trajectory. Be sure to consider your provider’s ability to offer online services so that you don’t have to deal with paper claims.

Implement a staged rollout

Another way to mitigate the risk of unpredictable company growth is to rollout increased coverage over the course of a year or even multiple years. Consider phasing in new benefits over a predetermined amount of time, or implementing different levels of coverage (i.e. executive class, director’s class, etc.) so that you’re able to accommodate unexpected claims, high turnover rates or changes in budget for your plan.

One problem HR professionals commonly face is the potential for high turnover among new employees. As your company enters a growth stage, the retention rate for employees may be in flux. To avoid unexpected claims due to high turnover, talk to your advisor about implementing a waiting period before benefits kick in – anywhere from three to nine months can work depending on your industry.

Consider employee health spending accounts

Health spending accounts are a popular way to cap your budget while offering your employees the flexibility they want. Rather than selecting additional coverage areas, such as vision or orthodontics, health spending accounts allocate a predetermined amount of money to each employee to spend on these areas as they see fit.
These are being used more commonly because employees are happy with the flexibility these types of plans offer, and employers are able to set a budget without any surprises. For smaller businesses in particular, comprehensive packages for all employees can be challenging to offer.

Gather feedback from employees

As your business continues to grow, be sure you are opening channels up for employees to give feedback on the group benefits plan. Find out what their coverage priorities are so you can refocus resources as you expand your offering. Receiving feedback from plan members can offer insights that will help you keep your employees on board. In addition, continue to keep an eye on industry or regional trends to benchmark your offering against competitors.

Managing the human resources for a growing company can be tricky, but taking the time to determine your vision for and implementing a plan around your employee benefits will keep everyone happy.

Nolan Friesen is manager of employee benefit sales at Western Financial Group.

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