Employers can no longer afford to relegate employee benefits to a simple review. A deeper dive is required.
Employers are constantly being stretched for time and resources when it comes to juggling core business priorities. When the balancing act becomes too much, the status quo often prevails. Employee benefit plans may fall victim to a “set it and forget it” mentality, whereby only high-level reviews of the plan are entertained. Renewals come and go, and the most important assets of the company (the employees) bear the result of a stalemated plan. Employers have to consider that a simplified review of their benefits plan is just not good enough anymore. But a group benefits audit just might be.
Renewal time may be the worst moment to consider making changes to a benefits plan. Typically the agenda is heavily focused on re-pricing, claims experience reviews and insurer updates, with little time for other meaningful discussions. Performing a successful audit of the group benefits plan requires a thoughtful approach, and the restricted time frame inherent in the renewal process can undermine its impact.
Appropriately timing the audit allows for more significant collaboration with key stakeholders. Whether it is involving staff through feedback surveys or panelling the executive team, input from multiple parties is essential to lay the groundwork for effective planning. It is recommended that employers consider performing an audit during periods of lighter workloads where these stakeholders are able to contribute in a more profound way. Other companies may benefit from having an audit align one month after their fiscal year end or annual board meetings.
Perhaps the most fundamental exercise to consider when executing a group benefits audit is to establish the goals of the plan. The 2019 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey states that 65% of participating employers have a specific objective for their health benefit plan in the coming year. While it is encouraging that this figure has increased from 56% in 2018, it can be argued that still too few employers are evaluating their benefits plan with a clear direction in mind. This trend also seems to be more pronounced in companies with fewer than 50 employees.