Costs and Productivity Are Top Benefits Program Priorities

It's “a balancing act” for many employers

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Feb 6, 2015

Companies are focused on the sometimes conflicting goals of maintaining employee productivity and controlling costs when designing their benefits programs, according to the latest Employee Benefits Trends Survey report by Wells Fargo Insurance, released in January 2015.

C-suite executives and benefits managers from companies across the U.S. with more than 50 employees were surveyed in the second half of 2014. Both cited managing costs and maintaining employee productivity as the most important goals over both the short term (12 to 18 months) and long term (five years). Additionally, C-suite executives (88 percent) and benefits managers (85 percent) agreed that benefits programs have the most impact on improving employee loyalty as well as on increasing employee engagement and lowering company medical costs.

“As the benefits landscape continues to evolve, employers face challenges and opportunities as they adapt to new requirements,” Dan Gowen, national practice leader with Wells Fargo Insurance’s employee benefits national practice, said in a news release. “It’s a balancing act for many companies as they look to maximize employee productivity, retention and morale while also controlling cost—a factor we expect to become even more important as companies prepare for the Affordable Care Act excise tax in 2018.”

For instance, while recognizing the importance of benefits in promoting employee engagement:

7 in 10 companies have changed their benefits programs, or are in the process of making changes, to limit spousal health coverage and to increase the percentage that employees must contribute to premiums.

6 in 10 have changed or are in the process of changing options for the type of health insurance plan offered, such as emphasizing high-deductible plans.

At the same time, employers are adding to their wellness benefits, both to better control health spending and to promote engagement. For instance:

An overwhelming 93 percent of C-suite executives surveyed anticipated an increase or improvement in their wellness offerings.

Over half (55 percent) of employers will have implemented incentives and/or penalties in 2015 for wellness compliance.

“We keep our employees well-informed in all aspects of where we are headed as a company, and offer incentives for them to continue to be part of our company,” noted a survey respondent. “Benefits are the number one issue when it comes to employment with our company.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

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