Employee Benefits Consulting: A Complete Guide to Building a Competitive Package

Oct 28, 2019

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What’s the secret to a fulfilled and engaged workforce in the modern age?


Three words: employee benefits consulting. For today’s workforce, employee benefits are the key to remaining competitive, attracting the best talent, and ensuring organizational success. 

According to a study by Justworks, 88% of employees said the quality and options of health benefits were important when accepting a job offer, and 41% of employers offer health insurance as part of their benefits package. In the war for talent, health benefits have become one of the most important battles to win. The secret to success? Employers who think of employee benefits as tax-free compensation (rather than a pesky expense) are better at building competitive employee benefits packages. 

No matter the size of your organization or the types of employees you have, employee benefits can be a vital way to keep your people, your most valuable asset, healthy and happy. But more than that, there are also key benefits to your organization when your offering stands out against your competition. 

4 Reasons a Flexible, Competitive Benefits Plan Works 


  1. A great employee benefits offering can help improve health and productivity. When you take care of your employees, they have a reason to remain loyal to your company and work harder in the long run. Plus, according to the AICPA, 80% of workers would keep a job with benefits rather than take one that offered more pay and no benefits
  2. Benefits increase attendance and presenteeism at work. According to the CDC, employees who prioritize their health through preventative care (such as regular check-ups), get more accomplished at work because they remain healthier than their less diligent counterparts. A Metlife study backs that up, too. According to a recent study, 60% of employers say offering healthcare has increased their overall productivity levels. 
  3. A great plan improves employee retention and recruitment. In a survey by Glassdoor, employees said the of all the benefits they receive from an employee, health insurance is the most important. Plus, according to an SHRM study, retention (72%) and recruiting (58%) were the top reasons for increasing the quality of your employee benefits plan
  4. Offering benefits boosts employee morale and loyalty. When you take care of (and address) the needs of your workforce, your employees recognize this. By caring, you can organically increase morale and the overall happiness of your employees.  

With these long-term advantages, your company can guarantee its overall success and provide truly remarkable options with an excellent employee benefits plan. But what does a great plan include? Below we explore some of the components that contribute to a benefits plan that truly works with your company. 

Employee Benefits Consulting: Benefits Administration 

Benefits administration itself is the combination of systems and processes needed to enroll, manage, and support the plans that you choose to offer your employees. An ideal configuration provides for online enrollment with a friendly user experience, seamless transmission of benefit elections and eligibility data, and year-round support for employees by phone and email. The  first step to creating a competitive benefits package that works for you is establishing a solid administrative foundation. 

This can be a significant challenge for HR departments that are already strapped for time due to the wide array of available platforms and stakeholders. When budget and unique circumstances are substantial challenges, one of the first things you should do is talk to the experts who work with these challenges every day. By consulting a trusted advisor, you can learn how to build an administrative platform that most benefits your company and works to provide an exceptional employee experience. 

One solution that is growing in popularity is outsourced benefits administration. While there is a lot of temptation to manage the administration in-house, today’s market offers comprehensive benefits administration services that allow businesses to solve their  administration challenges without the burden of managing the day-to-day tasks. 

Here are a few benefits of outsourcing: 

  • The right benefits administration partner can help you integrate your current software platforms seamlessly, or help you find one that best fits your business. 
  • A partner can help you streamline your process by going digital and including options for your paperless employees. Or they can help you with options tied directly to employee mobile phones for ease of use. 
  • Reporting is crucial to measuring the success of your benefits administration solution. By outsourcing your services, you can hand off the data management, but still manage performance, employee use comparisons, and more.


Employee Benefits Consulting: Engagement + Enrollment 

What’s the benefit of having an employee benefits program that no one uses? 

Employees have a lot on their minds, professionally and personally, so the first thing to focus on when considering how to develop a plan to increase enrollment and engagement of your employees is this: How can we best connect with our employees, wherever they are? 

Often, the most crucial time of year for enrollment also happens to be a stressful time for employees, and benefits might not be on their high priority to-do list. This increases the challenge of HR departments (or business owners) to engage, educate, and then enroll their employees during this busy time of year. 

Also, no company hires only one time a year, so an excellent engagement and enrollment strategy should also reflect that reality. Enrolling and onboarding employees as they become a part of your team throughout the year is a critical piece of your overall plan. Depending on your current solution, you might need more flexible options that provide room for your business to grow and ensures that new hires are not forgotten. 

Here’s a shortlist of checkpoints to consider

  • Enrollment and engagement for Annual Open Enrollment are essential, but year-round support for new hires and qualifying life events is increasingly important, especially for growing companies.  
  • Part of a great engagement strategy will include continuous interactions with your employees, including but not limited to new hire welcome calls and enrollment, outbound calls and targeted message campaigns, and mobile text message campaigns, benefits reminders, and updates. 
  • Concierge-level support for beneficiary updates, claims inquiries, eligibility inquiries, and website navigation support are also good additions. 

In addition, it’s important to find a solution that includes year-round support for employees for questions, comments, and concerns. One of the best benefits of outsourced services is access to support outside of the hours from 9-5. If you’re interested in finding ways to free up your internal resources while also providing your employees options for extended service hours, bilingual support, and more, check out additional services below. 


Employee Benefits Consulting 


Benefits consulting is more than just negotiating with insurance companies, presenting renewals, and tweaking cost-sharing. Today, employers have an opportunity to take a supply chain management approach to their health plan and build a program that’s customized around their unique goals, demographics, geography, financial position, and risk tolerance. By working with a benefits consultant that embraces this approach, you can  increase the quality of care and improve the employee experience, while significantly reducing the annual medical spend of your company. 

To get started, you should look for a benefits consultant that will teach you about the variety of available tools, options, vendors, and resources and then help you design and implement a solution that is built around you and your needs. Then, you’ll have a plan that is compelling for recruiting and retaining employees, maximizes employee health and wellbeing, and is aligned with your financial objectives. 

Here are a few strategies that a benefits consultant can help you explore: 

  • Reference Based Pricing
  • Centers of Excellence programs 
  • Direct Contracting
  • Specialty Drug Programs
  • Direct Primary Care

There are many more things to consider when evaluating a benefits consultant, including ACA strategy, compliance, and reporting, and add-ons such as benchmarking reports, pharmacy consulting, predictive analytics, medical advocacy, and actuarial services. But the most important thing to consider in benefits consulting is being there for everyone. Does your strategy ensure that your employees and their dependents are getting the right care, at the right place, for the right price? 

Whether your employees are blue collar, white collar, old, young, or something in between, a benefits consulting partner can help you customize a plan that meets each of their unique needs.


Employee Benefits Consulting: Wellness Facilitation


Wellness programs have been a huge focus for many companies, as they seek to reign in medical cost inflation. But a program is only successful if employees are aware, educated, engaged, and ultimately compliant with the program’s objectives. 

Often, HR departments struggle to reach employees due to challenges like a geographically dispersed workforce, language barriers, and poor contact information. Once employees are engaged, it’s essential that a wellness program is presented in terms that employees understand, and that motivates them to take action.

Other challenges arise in the communication of data between the array of vendors required to make a program successful: the health plan administrator, biometric screening vendors, wellness platform, incentive management, health coaches, and potentially an on-site clinic. A successful program will ensure alignment of both data and process, maximizing an employer’s return on investment and providing for the best possible employee experience. 

Here are a few additional considerations for developing a  comprehensive wellness program: 

  • Does your strategy include text messaging and outbound phone calls to engage employees better? 
  • How do you measure success, and do you have access to the data to measure it? 
  • Does your data allow you to see drill-down reporting at the individual member level?
  • How does your incentive program integrate with departments like HR and payroll?

Where an in-house HR and benefits department alone may struggle to reach every employee where they are, an outsourced option can help companies be successful in engaging and educating employees without draining company resources.

Employee Benefits Consulting: Leave Administration 


Why is leave administration necessary? Because your people are essential, and showing flexibility throughout their life will help increase loyalty and morale. With a reliable leave management system, you can give your employees what they want: An easy way to request time off and peace of mind during an often difficult time.

In addition to that, you can help maintain compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) that states employees at firms with at least 50 employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave due to an ill family member, personal illness, or to take care of a newborn or adopted child. By having a process in place that manages FMLA requirements, your employees can rest easy (and your managers, too) knowing what to expect as their lives change. 

As part of their leave administration strategy, HR leaders must also consider their employer leave policies, variations in state law, Paid Family Leave, and ADA leaves. Consistent application of policies across a large, multi-state employer can be difficult but is nonetheless required by law. Repercussions for non-compliance can be stiff, and thus, leave administration is increasingly becoming one of the biggest challenges for HR leaders. 

More than half of large employers are now outsourcing leave administration, but they often find that what they’ve gained in compliance, they’ve lost in terms of the employee experience. Whether you decide to outsource or in-source your leave administration, it’s essential to provide your employees with a dedicated point of contact throughout their leave, a user-friendly self-service experience, and concierge-level support for challenging situations. 

An ideal leave management solution will also do these things: 

  • Provide a smooth process for communication between employees and management 
  • Assist with scheduling notifications to help maintain workplace productivity 
  • Offer a sophisticated system that is flexible to your benefit services offerings and unique needs 
  • Maintain compliance with federal and state FMLA and PFL regulations and consistency 
  • Assist in continued training for the HR and benefits teams 

While this is not an exhaustive list, leave administration is a very important aspect of a total employee benefits strategy. From helping your company close compliance gaps to providing an employee with support during a difficult time, a successful leave administration system is a win for both employers and employees. 

Employee Benefits Consulting: Diabetes Management & Reversal


Diabetes has long been a major concern for employers in terms of health and wellbeing, but employers are struggling to combat its prevalence, especially within certain geographic and demographic groups. Today, More than 100 million Americans have either diabetes or prediabetes, according to the CDC, and that’s a problem that directly impacts employers across the country. According to the American Diabetes Association’s Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S., diabetes costs $327 billion per year, and it is 2.3x more expensive to care for an employee with diabetes than one without it. 

As time goes on, prediabetes and diabetes will continue to be a significant health challenge for your employees and a significant factor in your overall healthcare costs. Thus, a successful employee benefits program should place emphasis on type 2 diabetes prevention, management, and, ultimately, on reversal. By offering programs that help your employees to attain and maintain a healthy weight, you can help them clinically reverse type 2 diabetes without medication. This will allow them to be happier, healthier, and more productive at work while significantly reducing their associated healthcare costs. But weight loss is difficult, if not impossible, for many people. New research has shown that intermittent fasting combined with dietary changes is a powerful tool for both sustained weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal

Some things to consider in a diabetes management and reversal program: 

  • A program designed for reversal rather than just management
  • Individual coaching and continuous support
  • Measures success in terms of outcomes – not just compliance

As you continue to support your employees, whether they have diabetes, prediabetes, or not, it’s vital that you make a decision that will consider both your care costs and their health in the long-run. By helping your employees better manage their health, you can improve their lives and also reduce your overall healthcare spend. 

Employee Benefits Consulting: Part-Time Benefits 


One other consideration that we’ve touched on but not fully discussed is part-time benefits — and they are very important. Whether your part-time workforce is made up of Millennials, Boomers, Gen-Xers, you can positively impact recruiting, retention, and morale by offering them a robust employee benefits package. In today’s historically tight labor market, offering benefits to part-time employees will certainly help you stand out amongst your competition.  

So what does a great part-time benefits program look like? Just like a full-time employee benefits program, part-time programs need to include strategic employee engagement, year-round enrollment and support, comprehensive benefits administration, and creatively designed products that match employee needs and budget. Offering a part-time program does come with some unique challenges like managing direct billing instead of payroll deductions and managing changes between full-time and part-time status. 

With good communication and products designed with a part-timer in mind, a strong part-time benefits offering can be rewarding for employees and provide employers with a competitive advantage.

So, what does it take to have great employee benefits consulting


At Totem, we think the key to competitive packages comes down to one thing: being there for everyone. Not all benefits solutions will be a good fit for your organization and your employees. That’s why it’s essential to work with a provider who is flexible enough to cater to the needs that are unique to your company. 

If you’re interested in exploring how we can help you enhance and streamline your HR and benefits programs with any of the services mentioned here, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d be happy to start a conversation about how we can partner with you to help you be there for each of your employees, whether they’re having their first child or going through their second diagnosis.


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