Key Insights for Building Flexible Employee Benefits Plans
by JOHN MACOUN
Developing a firm understanding of your client’s unique needs is key to any effective business conversation, regardless of the industry you work in.
As an employee benefits consultant, my role is to support business owners and plan administrators in building customizable benefit plans that reflect the makeup of their employee group, while also being competitive for attracting prospective talent.
In a one-size-fits-all world, any company willing to deliver personalization in their benefits plan will stand out from the pack.
What follows are professional insights I bring to my role that better equip me to deliver uniquely tailored benefit plans to business owners and plan administrators alike:
Prior to joining Peak Benefits as an Employee Benefits Consultant, I spent 10+ years in the digital marketing industry. Developing an effective marketing strategy meant understanding not only the objectives and needs of the client I was working with, but also identifying the ideal consumer that the client was hoping to reach. This involved building personas or profiles of target consumers. Age, gender, occupation, income, interests and buying behaviour were all important considerations when building a target ‘avatar’ and executing a successful marketing strategy.
Now that I’m working in the Employee Benefits industry, the products and services may have changed but the process of understanding clients’ needs remains the same. When I sit down with a prospective client to design an employee benefits plan, the conversation and questions put forward are similar:
What is the objective for putting a plan in place: Is it to support the health and wellness of your employees? What about attracting and retaining key talent?
What is the size, makeup and shared characteristics of the employee group?
Undertaking a thorough needs assessment is a critical step in the plan design stage for any benefits program. In fact it’s pivotal in developing that understanding I spoke of your client’s goals and priorities.
Understanding Your Audience
When it comes to employee benefits, the makeup of the prospective customer group will determine what type of plan they choose to put in place. The needs of a mostly young, university-educated team at a tech company will be decidedly different than that of a manufacturing company with employees in their 40s and 50s.
To further illustrate this point, consider the differences between the below demographics:
These are individuals who are early in their careers: typically single, healthy and not generally using their benefits to the same degree as their more senior colleagues. That doesn’t make their needs any less important. This age group places a high priority on flexibility and choice in their benefits plan. Health and wellness spending accounts are an effective way to provide employees with the flexibility of dedicating dollars towards items like prescription glasses, massages and gym memberships. A health and wellness spending account can be set up as stand-alone account or as a top up to a base benefits plan.
Individuals at this stage are typically further entrenched in their career and their life priorities have begun to shift. Family planning is a focus and employees are seeking to understand what type of health coverage is in place for dependents such as spouses and young children at home. Increased responsibilities at work and the household can also sometimes lead to a heightened level of personal stress and mental health-related concerns. Virtual health and employee assistance programs provide individuals with convenient access to therapists, counsellors and a wealth of digital wellness resources that can serve as a saving grace during challenging times.
Employees at this stage are well established in senior positions and are in the midst of the peak earnings period of their careers. That said, individuals during this age are also at a greater risk of encountering medical issues that may force them to be off work for an extended period of time. Having a disability plan in place provides an income replacement source that can cover expenses such as mortgages, salaries and daycare if an employee is off due to sickness or injury.
Once individuals reach 50+, they start encountering medical conditions that require high-cost prescription drugs. Plan sponsors should consult with their benefits advisor to ensure that proper cost containment measures are in plan to avoid escalating premium costs.
Employees at this stage are nearing the end of their working career. Many benefit plans will terminate at 65 or retirement age, so it’s important that plan sponsors communicate the conversion privileges to employees who may be looking to convert group coverage into individual coverage upon leaving their organization.
Let’s face it: the older we get, the more our lives and priorities change. When I was working in my 20s, I was only concerned about benefits like dental and massages. Now that I am older and have a family of my own, I think closely about the people I have to support and what would happen if I needed to be away from work for an extended period.
Building a Benefits Plan That is Tailored and Flexible
The great thing about a benefits plan is that this level of flexibility exists. It can be customized to fit the specific needs and priorities of an employee group. At Peak Benefit Solutions, we take the time to understand the unique needs and characteristics of an organization in order design a plan that both organization and employees will see value in.
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS CONSULTANT
GREATER TORONTO AREA
John Macoun brings more than a decade of exceptional client services to the position of Employee Benefits Consultant. He will be providing Peak Benefit clients with audits of their current employee benefit plans, including recommendations on plan optimizations to meet the evolving needs of staff and the employer, tax saving strategies and education on value added services.
During the course of the 10+ years he spent at Yellow Pages Canada, John consistently exceeded sales targets by managing strategic digital marketing campaigns that delivered above projected ROI for his clients. Servicing small to medium sized businesses across Canada, John created multi-pronged marketing strategies to help companies grow revenues and increase their digital presence.
Having studied Communications at Wilfrid Laurier, and post graduate studies in Marketing at Humber College, John is keenly aware of the importance of creating unique strategies to address client needs. John believes that the foundation of delivering excellence to clients lies in one’s ability to listen. By discerning information to help identify objectives one can then create a comprehensive approach to meet each individual clients needs.
“Hearing is listening to what is said. Listening is hearing what isn’t said.”
– Simon Sinek
John and his wife live in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood in Toronto with their two young children.
Peak Benefit Solutions Inc. was established in 2008 and have helped more than 400 clients from entrepreneurs, manufacturing, professional services and public organizations with their comprehensive benefits planning. Every step of the way, we are with you.