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New study provides insight into benefits challenges facing HR professionals

Insurance Forums Staff

Managing employee benefit costs is the runaway top priority of 2017 while compliance with federal, state and local regulations has fallen down the list of top priorities, according to results from Hub International’s second annual Benefits Barometer Study, released July 26.

When asked to select their top three employee benefits priorities in 2017, 81% of respondents chose managing employee benefit costs while 50% said helping employees make more informed benefits decisions and 44% chose improving employee wellness and productivity.

HUB surveyed more than 300 employee benefits professionals from organizations with 50 to 1,000 employees. The study, Employee Benefits Barometer 2017: Why Human Resources Must Take a Long-Term View, explores the complexity of managing benefits and the value of multi-year planning to better position human resources as business strategists to the executive suite.

For employee benefits specialists, the findings also provide insight into pressures facing HR executives – which the study says often lead to short-term planning cycles and reactive approaches instead of longer-term, strategic approaches that give them the best opportunity to guide and contribute to their organization’s success.

“Unfortunately, the limited commitment to planning and implementing strategies for cost management identified in the study – as well as the lack of focus on addressing what employees want – is troubling,” said Linda Keller, National Chief Operating Officer of Employee Benefits, Hub International.

“As benefits are a major operating expense, HR leaders need to take a long term view of their benefits plans to really demonstrate the value they contribute in talent acquisition, retention, attraction, productivity and ultimately company performance,” said Mike Barone, president of Hub International’s Employee Benefits practice.

Other key insights from the study:

• 73% of respondents said their benefits broker or consultant “makes open enrollment easier for us.” Meanwhile, 37% said their employees do not understand their benefits.

• Multi-year benefits planning is lacking: 65% of respondents say they spend less than a year developing their annual benefit plan changes.

• New cost management strategies, while top of mind, may not be on the docket: While 4 out of 5 companies say one of their goals is to manage health benefits costs better, 40% do not plan to implement any new cost management programs in the next 12 to 18 months and 50% believe that they’ve done all they can reasonably do to manage costs.

• Investments in benefits administration technology can be difficult to secure: 53% say they need a better technology solution to reduce their workload but 36% of respondents report that they struggle the most to convince their CEOs/CFOs to make technology investments.

• Meeting the needs of a multi-generational workforce is not always a prime focus: Only 28% of respondents identified this objective as a top-3 priority, despite the growing presence of Millennials in today’s workforce.

• Wellness can provide a morale boost: 54% cite employee morale as their most improved metric from implementing wellness programs.

• When asked which cost management strategies they plan to implement for the first time in the next 12-18 months, respondents ranked their top 5 as: Multiple plan options offering a choice of basic, good, better, best (20%); telehealth benefit (18%); high-deductible health plan (18%); voluntary benefits (13%); changing to self-funding (8%). “None/not applicable” was selected by 43% of respondents.

About Hub International: Headquartered in Chicago, Hub International Limited is a leading global insurance brokerage that provides property and casualty, life and health, employee benefits, investment and risk management products and services from offices located throughout North America. For more information, please visit hubinternational.com.



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