Zain Hasan is the founder and CEO of National Insurance Consulting Group Inc. Prior to NICG, Hasan's unique experience of working as the representative for many of the nation's largest firms, including Cigna, allowed him to see that the market required a new type of consulting firm.
In industries where talent is difficult to recruit, a comprehensive benefits package can be the differentiator in bringing the best on board. However, with endless tasks constantly gnawing at their minds, busy entrepreneurs rarely find time to evaluate their current benefits program. They may focus on other ways to grow their company, such as scaling their team, but when the dust settles they can't seem to figure out why they're having a hard time attracting and retaining top employees.
As the CEO of an insurance agency, I frequently see clients scale back on their benefits program without understanding that it affects their talent retention. That's when I help them build an attractive benefits package. Here are four steps I always take with my clients:
Encourage Transparency and Consumerism
Part of what we do at National Insurance Consulting Group is help businesses educate their employees on best practices for using company benefits. We've learned that it's important that employees look at benefits with the same care they would with any other expense.
For example, try promoting generic medication and using urgent care over the emergency room. We explain to our own employees that our costs stay low when they're mindful of the cost of the care they receive. Simply put, we highlight the fact that our benefits will only be able to remain 100 percent employer-paid if we stay within our budget. Through transparency, we've created a culture where employees feel free to voice their opinions. Our team actually came up with the idea of utilizing telemedicine in order to reduce the costs that would otherwise come from urgent care or physician visits.
Simplify HR Administration
A lot of HR paperwork can be automated these days. If your much of your administration is manual, try launching a new technology platform. It might seem like a daunting and time-consuming task, but when you add up how many hours you spend on an activity that can be easily automated, the return on investment is clear. You will retain employees who feel the professionalism of your company right from the start.
Prior to bringing on our Chief People Officer, we put our HR administration through a professional employer organization (PEO) called CoAdvantage. The experience was seamless and gave each new hire the confidence that our onboarding was no different than a Fortune 500 company. When it came to benefits, we evaluated all of the options through the PEO and traditional private insurers. We decided to carve out the employee benefits package because our team was able to find benefits that were better than what the PEO's offered at roughly 40 percent below the cost. When we were debating on which plans to offer, we actually asked our employees to choose a preferred plan, and we were honest about our budget. Our transparency and team collaboration have even led to employee referrals.
Prepare for the Health Care Reform
Every company with a "Best Place to Work" award knows that you have to educate your employees on the topics they won't stay up-to-date on themselves. For example, prepare them for the fact that they have a $695 penalty (or up to 2.5% of their household income) for not purchasing at least a "MEC" plan (also known as Preventive Health-only, which can range from $45-85 per month).
At our company, it took us nearly eight months before we could afford to offer employer-sponsored coverage. To ensure that no one had penalties in the meantime, we told our employees the effect of not having coverage and assisted them with getting individual health coverage. While many of your employees may not appreciate it at the time -- as many of ours did not -- we were pleasantly surprised with the feedback we got once they truly understood that we educated them solely for their benefit.
Promote Health and Wellness Programs
Give special attention to building a health and wellness program. Not only can it guide employees to utilize the right level of care in the right areas, it can enhance overall culture and send a positive message to your staff. It shows that your organization wants the best for your employees professionally and personally. We offer our employees "wellness" hours and 45 minutes each day for mental breaks if they're running low on energy. This lets our employees know that we care about their happiness and wellness just as much as their performance -- which we know are connected.
If you have a thorough strategy in place to ensure that your employees feel like they are heard, you can immediately differentiate you from your competitors just by offering the coverages they request. Overall, it's a symbol to show the employee you truly care about their health and well-being, and the process alone is one that always creates good vibrations.
To attract and retain the best talent, your benefits plan should be evaluated in the same way as the rest of the decisions you make regarding how to treat your employees. Show them benchmarking data for your industry so they can see the average options. Discuss your budget, and utilize all of the tools you can to educate them on their options. Regardless of what industry you're in, what your budget is or what your options are. If you let the employees see the industry norms and spend the time to solicit employee feedback, you will often be surprised by what your employees are happy with.