The start of a New Year brings with it new beginnings and new possibilities. As a result, many of us choose to make resolutions to aid us in becoming better versions of ourselves. This attitude of introspection and renewal can be extended a little further afield – at a time of year when many of us are setting goals to be more active, quit smoking or call our mother more often, it also presents a good opportunity to make some resolutions for your benefits program.

1. Get fit

Take a critical look at the “fitness” of your plan design. Do you have cost controls in place that don’t alter patient outcomes or create obstacles to accessing care, but promote and reward smart consumer behaviours? Will your drug plan provide safeguards that test the appropriateness of new drugs entering the market against the staging of a patient’s condition or response to older but still effective therapies? Do your employees have skin in the game through cost-sharing levers like co-insurances, dispensing fee caps or incentives to use preferred provider arrangements? Do your health and dental plans include limitations in order to protect your plan against abuse?

The New Year presents an opportunity to make proactive changes that will protect your plan while continuing to protect your employees and their families.

2. Communicate value more effectively

Make this the year you make communicating the true cost of your program to your employees a priority. Surveys such as the Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey confirm that employees by and large value the benefits provided by their employer, but most still don’t have a true sense of what the provision of these benefits actually costs.

Personalized total rewards statements are probably the single most effective way to communicate the complete picture, from an employee’s compensation to their employer’s contribution toward the cost of benefits and retirement savings, alongside additional company-provided or subsidized benefits, such as parking, paid time off, public transit subsidies, cafeteria subsidies or gym memberships, for example.

3. Be supportive

A good proportion of your employee population has very likely made some personal development goals for the New Year that involve improving their health.

Make sure that your benefits program provides proper and appropriate support for employees, so that it incentivizes healthy behaviours, such as adhering to medication, preventative vaccines, smoking cessation benefits that allow people a few tries to quit, help for becoming more active through onsite fitness classes or the availability of health coaching or stress management programs.

Additionally, communicate about the availability of these supports, and be clear about how employees can access what you have to offer or get more information.

4. Take stock

Your organization might offer employees a number of fitness classes and education through lunch and learns, but since these programs and initiatives are often “owned” or arranged by more than one person or area in your organization, do you really have a handle on how broad your wellness offering is?  Do your employees?

While you and your organization review the effectiveness of your wellness offering and make decisions about new elements to add, begin by taking inventory of all the things you already offer. Include programs such as the employee and family assistance program (EFAP), fitness classes and employee education, as well as hearing testing, flu clinics, health or mindfulness coaching, and healthy weight programs or walking clubs.

Make it easy for your employees to access and share information on these programs and what is available to them by creating a “wellness hub.” Also, take stock of your health claims, disability claims, EFAP and absence management information, and ensure you’ve got preventive programs in place that address the modifiable health issues that impact your employees the most.

5. Get on the same page

Check the design of your benefits program for alignment with your organization’s business goals and any human resources initiatives you have in play.

Have regular conversations with your advisors and insurance carriers about what your goals, strategies and philosophies are so they can better support you in things like managing disabilities and intervening early with disabled employees, but also so they can better understand what’s important to you and how they can best support you.

Measure the performance of your plan against your goals regularly and adjust your strategy or plan as necessary.

Kim Siddall is an associate vice-president with Aon. She has more than 20 years of experience in the health and benefits industry. These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.

Kim Siddall is a vice-president and local practice leader at Aon. She has more than 20 years of experience in the health and benefits industry. These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.
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