Offering a competitive benefits package can bring manychallenges, with increasing costs, changing health careregulations, and an increasingly diverse workforce among them. Moreemployers are turning to voluntary benefits as anoption to meet those challenges, but which benefit should theyoffer?


Evaluating the options


The criteria companies use for choosing voluntary benefits neednot differ much from the criteria used to decide core benefits andcan boil down to three essential questions:


1. What are the employee demographics?


Voluntary benefits and services offerings today tend to begeared toward baby boomers — currently the largest segment of theworkforce. However, as they begin to retire in larger numbersacross the next decade, expect to see voluntary benefits redesignedfor younger generations, who by nature are attracted to morecustomized benefit packages,according to a 2013 Towers Watson survey. When adding benefits,consider the makeup of the entire workforce — age, education,geographic location, marital status, and income.


2. Will the benefit address the majority of ourpopulation?


More than 80 percent of companies have adopted voluntarybenefits to enrich their current programs at a time when they arereconsidering their financial commitment to traditional benefits.As employers consider how to manage increasing health care costsand rethink overall financial commitments to traditional corebenefit programs, most plan to take advantage of voluntary benefitsto enrich existing core benefit plans (83 percent) and augment thetotal rewards package (74 percent).


3. How will new products fit with current total rewardsand wellness strategies?


Voluntary benefits are also added as an option to support largercorporate initiatives such as wellness strategies. Employers areincreasingly drawn to programs that not only affect their abilityto attract and retain top talent, but improve engagement andpromote overall productivity. Voluntary benefits are evolvingbeyond programs that promote physical health to offerings that alsoencourage emotional and financial well-being.


Once a company has decided on the right benefit, it'stime to choose the right partner


Regardless of the benefit offered, employers should considerproviders who offer a robust product and can implement andadminister the plan with minimal impact to their business.


When deciding who to partner with for a benefit, companiesshould consider:

  • How flexible is the product?

  • What service options are available?

  • How broad is the coverage?

  • Is it affordable for employees?

  • How are pre-existing matters addressed?

  • What options are made available for non-covered matters?

  • What options do employees have for accessing services?

  • Can employees take coverage with them if they leave thecompany?

  • Can an employee cover dependents?

  • Are all employees eligible for coverage? Is any coverageavailable for non-covered groups?

The following questions should also be considered to determinehow easy the benefit will be to add and maintain:

  • What will the company's role be in ongoing administration?

  • How seamlessly will the benefit integrate with existingpayroll?

  • Will employees be able to enroll easily?

  • How much time must be commited toimplementation/administration?

  • Who's available for client support?

  • How are complaints handled?

  • What can employees expect when they call customer service?

  • What support is available for after-hours emergencies?

  • What reporting is available?

By answering these questions, employers can determine if thebenefit is not only right for their current and prospectiveemployees, but for the administrators and company as well.

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