When companies ask Jay Quinn about assembling a benefits plan, they tend to focus on the same thing – the optimum coverage for the least cost.

“That’s a challenge,” says Quinn, president of Lane Quinn Benefit Consultants in Calgary. Not just because it’s a tough demand, but because both he and the employer may lack some information to make the right choices. To find the best solutions, answer questions that are often overlooked.

  1. What are your goals?

    That seems obvious, but employers don’t always take that step back, says Mira Jelic, co-founder of Novus Health, a Canadian health and wellness provider based in Toronto. Cost is an important consideration, but Jelic says companies must first consider the strategic objective behind their coverage. Do they want to keep pace with the competition? Be an employer of choice? Address specific issues of recruitment or retention? The answers to those questions can shape the particulars of a plan.

  2. What is the workplace environment?

    “I need to understand their culture,” says Quinn. That includes the organization’s overall health and wellness initiatives (how will benefits fit in?), how the employer offers choice and flexibility in other areas of HR (will benefits reflect that too?), and current and target demographics (what groups should the benefits appeal to?).

  3. What will the employee experience feel like?

    When shopping for benefits, employers understandably focus on their own experience, i.e., the expense, or the time or effort involved in administration. Look at coverage through the eyes of  employees too, says Rebika Shaw, SVP, strategy, sales and operations at Boston-based WorldCare International.

    That means getting a full idea of the depth of services, she says. “Walk through what a benefits claim looks like, how an employee may value that, what holes the benefits fill, and the employee’s experience with the service,” says Shaw.

    Employers need a feel for how the benefits plan meets HR priorities, so they can make comparisons and decisions that go beyond costs.

  4. When should you revisit the plan?

    Employers often have their deepest conversations about what they want from a benefits plan when they’re shopping around and again when it’s  renewal time. Jelic says benefits advisors can maximize their value when  you give them ongoing information, like feedback from employees about the plan, or the growth and changing makeup of the employee base. “Trust your advisor and build that relationship,” says Jelic.

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