Let the benefits renewal process begin


With the unanticipated challenges facing HR professionals today, starting the employee benefits renewal process is probably not at the top of the to do list. But the reality is, deciding what benefits you will offer employees for the 2021 plan year is perhaps more critical than ever. So even though Open Enrollment is still a couple of month away, there are steps you can take now to make your renewal easier while also ensuring the plans and programs you select meet the needs of your employees, their families and your company. Here are a few key benefits renewal steps to keep in mind as you start this journey.

Evaluate your current benefits package

One key step in the benefits renewal process is to take a close look at your current employee benefits program. Start by looking at bottom-line factors like cost and scope of coverage. Are you paying too much for what your plans offer employees? Do the benefits you have cover them adequately – particularly in light of recent events and the uncertain future?

Funding is another key component to consider. How much of the cost can your company cover? In some cases, it might not be the plan that needs to change, but the funding style, such as a switch from a traditional model to the salary banding method, where some employees pay more than others in reverse correlation to their salaries.

Consult your broker

This period of preliminary evaluation is also good for looking back on how the renewal process and open enrollment went last year. What many of us don’t realize is that how the open enrollment process itself can impact an employee’s use of his/her benefits. Look at metrics like enrollment percentage, average time taken for employees to accept or waive benefits, staff participation in benefit-related informational sessions and so on. This is great data to have available when meeting with your broker to discuss plans for this year’s enrollment period.

Actually, your broker should be checking in with you regularly, not just when it is time to start discussing your renewal. The COVID-19 pandemic raised many benefits-related questions regarding coverage for testing, COBRA, special enrollment periods, claims status and more. If your broker wasn’t readily available or proactively reaching out to help you navigate all of the changes, it may be time to start looking for another broker.

When it comes time to start looking at healthcare providers, your broker should be your trusted advisor and guide. Brokers should have established relationships with several different insurance carriers and present multiple options to meet your goals and objectives.

Your broker offers advice from an outside perspective that can be invaluable to benefits renewal.

Consider just one example: Your benefits broker is most likely responsible for initiating your company’s current relationship with its insurance vendor, and certainly wouldn’t have recommended them to you without believing that provider and selection of plans were right for you at the time. But things change quickly – and some times in ways we never could have predicted. The pandemic aside, over the past year, your company may have grown, shrunk or otherwise changed in ways that make your current benefit offerings no longer a good fit. Maybe the average age of your workforce has changed and you have more younger employees with different benefit priorities. This is where you really want to rely on your broker to help you figure out what needs to be added, removed or altered to keep your benefits package in sync with your business.

Negotiating rates 

This is another critical area in which your broker should be your number one asset, serving as a go-between for your company and various insurers you’re considering. You might not know about obscure terms, conditions and clauses that could qualify you for better rates on certain plans, but your broker will, so they should always be by your side in all discussions with insurance providers. In some cases, rates are non-negotiable, but there are other ways in which your company can lower its overall costs and that is what your broker should bring to the table. Your broker’s advice should be invaluable for helping you choose a blend of benefit offerings that’s both competitive for your industry and realistic for your company’s budget.

Leveraging technology for seamless benefits renewal

Open enrollment and benefits administration is much more efficient and effective when handled electronically. If your company still uses paper enrollment or your benefits administration platform is not integrated with your payroll or HRIS, now is the time to consider a switch. Chances are the number of remote employees you have this year will be significantly higher than in previous years. Trying to manage open enrollment with paper or an unreliable, standalone benefits administration platform will cause many headaches you don’t need.

PeopleStrategy Insurance Services is a full-service employee benefits broker that offers a comprehensive, end-to-end HR platform to help you manage benefits administration, payroll, employee data, hiring and recruiting, onboarding, compliance, time and attendance, performance, compensation and much more. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you attract, manage and retain great people.