“THE TRADITIONAL ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’
BENEFITS PLANS DO NOT MEET THE MAJORITY
OF EMPLOYEES’ NEEDS JUST GIVEN THE
DIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACE.”
– GREG CAINES, PARTNER, BENEFITS AND HEALTH MANAGEMENT PRACTICE, MORNEAU SHEPELL
plans to address issues of coping, but also issues surrounding em-ployee
morale, happiness and needs for the future.
DOLLARS AND CENTS
Prior to the financial crisis in 2008, companies were thinking less
about costs and needs and more about volume.
“When benefits programs started, it was ‘the more the better,’”
said Marie-Josée Le Blanc, health benefits consultant and partner
with Mercer. “The more I can provide, whatever is new on the mar-ket,
I will add that to my plan – and for 30, 40 years, it has been
happening this way.”
Now, says Le Blanc, companies are more cost conscious and are
thinking about return on investment. She says companies are look-ing
at it by asking, “Is my investment in benefits worth it and do I
get the most out of my plan?” More and more, companies are look-ing
for that balance between cost and good employee engagement/
Greg Caines, partner, Benefits and Health Management Practice
with Morneau Shepell in Halifax, agrees. He says employers and
HR practitioners have to look at their workforces in general.
“It starts with a conversation about the client’s needs and prior-ities
from an overall organizational perspective as well as an HR
perspective,” he said. “That conversation tends to inform decisions
that they make around the benefit plan design, how it is commu-nicated
and how they want to engage employees in their ‘benefits
He says that HR practitioners have a voice at the finance table
and are better able to show the cost benefit to good benefits plans’
ability to increase productivity, employee satisfaction and overall
GETTING IT RIGHT
Much of what companies are doing now to engage their work-force
and provide appropriate benefits is looking at demographics.
Cardwell says some of the results coming from its focus groups
allow it to provide better benefits for part-time workers under-standing
the transient nature of retail. Also, providing employee
assistance plans (EAPs) to aid with daycare research, for example,
has been implemented throughout the country, giving young fami-lies
the ability to maintain their jobs and have their EAP provider
do the legwork.
“We were able to address a wide variety of needs from some of
the programs that we did put in place,” she said.
Cardwell further explains that, within retail, employees jump
from company to company solely based on hourly wages and their
ability to increase salaries.
“But we were looking to say, ‘How do we really bring and tie em-ployees
into the organization, how do we help them in their daily
lives and how can we compete better than just getting into a bid-ding
war for their hourly rates?’” Answering those questions were
the impetus behind Best Buy’s research and changes in benefits.
Expanding on that topic further, Caines says the demographic
diversity in the workplace resulting in the need to provide greater
choice is driving HR professionals to change the makeup of their
“The traditional ‘one size fits all’ benefits plans do not meet the
majority of employees’ needs just given the diversity in the work-place,”
he said. Providing choice and giving employees the ability
to shape the plans and “benefits experience” through flex-plans and
health spending accounts are a few examples of greater inclusion
in the decision making process. He says employees show more sat-isfaction
when given plans they can tailor and have more say in.
Don Cornack, consultant with Investors Group Financial
Services Inc., says when putting together a to-do list for plan de-sign,
HR professionals would want to put together a statement
such as, “What is it that our plan is supposed to be accomplish-ing,
and let’s take an inventory to see if the plan is meeting those
objectives.” As part of that analysis, he said, “I think you would
want input from owners and senior management, but you abso-lutely
want input from senior employees.”
Finally, he says, talk to the broker or advisor about changing ar-eas
that don’t work but also see what is happening in the benefits
landscape in the market – what is available now that perhaps was
not available when the plan was designed.
“We want to turn retail into a career and not just a temporary stop-over
to your real career,” said Cardwell on Best Buy’s reasoning for
taking action on its benefits plans. But, as HR professionals consid-er
their benefits plans and how they can engage employees, they must
consult with them, see what their needs are, what the demographics
are and allow them the opportunity to participate in the decision-making
process. The result will likely be a more engaged and satisfied
workforce that appreciates the benefits being provided. n
40 ❚ JULY/AUGUST 2014 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL