Both benefits managers and the big bosses think highly of their benefits packages and believe they’re instrumental in creating a happy, productive work environment.
But plan managers are more concerned about diluting their packages to save money than their counterparts in the C-suite.
That’s the word from a Wells Fargo Insurance survey of nearly 1,000 executives and benefits professionals. The survey solicited a range of feedback from respondents, but questions about the effect on business of the benefits package revealed widespread confidence that they’re accomplishing what they were designed to do.
When asked to mark the little box beside an array of beneficial outcomes of the benefits package, here’s how they ranked them, with managers’ responses in parenthesis:
Improved employee loyalty: 88 percent (85 percent)
Improved employee engagement: 83 percent (82 percent)
Lowered company medical costs: 81 percent (78 percent)'
Lowered employees’ medical costs: 80 percent (80 percent)
Reduced absenteeism: 77 percent (74 percent)
Those interviewed for this survey also strongly believe in measuring the return on investment of their benefits offerings, with more than eight of 10 of all surveyed saying that their measurement method was effective.
However, the survey did reveal a disconnect between the C-suite and benefits managers on two key issues: the overall goal of their human capital strategy, and concern about the impact on the workforce of benefits package redesigns that would make the package less desirable.
On the matter of human capital strategy, a third of C-suite respondents said the primary objective of the strategy was to improve productivity, while just a quarter of benefits managers cited that as their top goal. Instead, the latter group chose employee retention as the main goal of the benefits program — not surprisingly, given their jobs. To be fair, improved productivity ranked only slightly lower as an HR goal, while the gap between productivity and retention was far greater for the big bosses (33 percent vs. 25 percent).
Wells Fargo posed questions in the context of the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and any ongoing package redesigns companies were planning. What came back was that executives and benefits managers are still fairly concerned about how PPACA will shape their plans.
However, some of the responses to the law could be beneficial in the long run, for it appears to be the catalyst for greater adoption of wellness programs.
“The focus on wellness is very strong, with 93 percent of C-suite executives surveyed anticipating an increase or improvement in the importance of wellness offerings,” the survey said. “Half of the companies that have considered or are considering a change in wellness offerings said they’re doing so as a result of [PPACA]. Finally, 55 percent of employers will have implemented incentives and/or penalties in 2015 for wellness compliance.”
About 70 percent said they’ll make plan design changes in 2015, primarily to save money by eliminating certain types of offerings, such as spousal coverage.
This trend, the survey showed, concerns a majority of benefits managers, who expect negative feedback from employees when the changes are announced.
“Not surprisingly, given their stated importance on maintaining current program levels, less than six in 10 benefit managers felt employees had reacted positively to benefit changes, compared with nearly seven in 10 C-suite executives,” Wells Fargo said.