Tag Archives: benefits

Benefits: One Size No Longer Fits All


Across the developed world, leading businesses are facing new workforce productivity challenges. Many recent graduates lack the skills necessary to succeed in today’s quickly changing workplace, while economic uncertainty has forced many experienced workers to delay their retirement. Companies need to consider the impact of these trends and the ways they can differentiate themselves as they wage the battle to find and retain top talent. 

Winning the battle for talent is about more than compensation. To remain attractive to multiple generations of current and future employees, businesses are shifting their focus to a broader array of benefits. A healthy person at the beginning of a career, for example, is more likely to want flexible benefits that support an independent lifestyle. In contrast, a long-time employee who is nearing retirement is more likely to favor a more predictable structure weighted toward retirement savings.

The reality is that there will be five generations of employees sharing the workplace by 2020, and the best places to work will be defined by their ability to meet the increasingly diverse needs of their entire workforce.

So what can employers do to ensure they are offering a competitive range of benefits that attract and retain the best talent?


Workplaces are evolving — and not always in ways that support business goals. Employee trust in employers is at an all-time low, according to the Aon Workforce Mindset Study, and one-third of employees are seeking to change jobs in the next year.

With populations aging and the pool of local, fresh talent stagnant, businesses can’t afford to ignore these realities. They need to develop innovative ways to attract and retain talent, including workplace flexibility, according to the Workforce Mindset Study.

Benefits packages, in particular, stand out as one area that can be made more appealing.

Craig Dolezal, senior vice president of Aon, believes offering a wider range of benefit choices tailored to each generation’s needs can become an important differentiator for attracting and retaining this talent.

One model that could become a powerful vehicle for achieving both of these aims is through what Dolezal calls “a total rewards exchange,” where an employee gets to create a benefits package, prioritizing compensation, bonuses, time off, medical, dental, wellness and child care (among other rewards).

Essentially, it’s like creating “a marketplace where people can make their own decisions about how they want to be compensated,” he says, “whether they want life insurance at this level or they’d rather have it in a sabbatical. It’s up to them to decide.”

Learning From Health Exchanges

Such an arrangement can appeal to prospective employees who desire greater individual control over their benefit options and care choices. But, according to the Workforce Mindset Study, employees also want to see more honesty and transparency from their leaders, which ranks as their top suggestion. Further, consistent with other aspects of their life, they expect to be able to access information on their benefits when and where they want.

Mike Christie, senior vice president, Exchange Market Strategy at Aon, says health exchanges, which are becoming popular in the U.S., represent a significant step in this direction. Private health exchanges are competitive marketplaces where consumers can shop across multiple products — often from multiple providers in an efficient manner. Their purpose is to combine cost-accountability with meaningful control over health benefits for individual employees. They also arm employees with information to make smart choices based on their health needs and tools to evaluate their options.

“What the health exchange does is in a very overt way show employees what the employer contribution allows you to purchase,” Christie says, so it brings more cost transparency about what the company’s contribution provides them.

New thinking about benefits

The high cost of health care in the U.S. is one of the key drivers of the private health care exchange market. But the U.S. experience with private health exchanges does have potential applications in other countries.

Today’s workforce is more global and diverse than ever before. In almost every country in the world, there is a greater range of age groups, ethnicities and nationalities, as well as more women, more people working remotely and more hiring in other countries and time zones.

“Private exchanges give employees a wide range of options so they can decide which plan is best suited for them,” Christie says, and this has broad appeal in markets around the world.

In the competition for talent, businesses offering benefits that employees crave is only part of the challenge. Businesses should consider using a more consumer-driven benefits approach to create incentives for healthy behaviors and encourage people to make smarter choices about the health insurance, supplemental benefits and retirement products they need to prepare and protect themselves and their families for the future.

For example, strong retirement packages might have greater appeal to people in their 60s than to people in their teens — and a working parent might prioritize child care, while someone just beginning a career could be interested in tuition reimbursement. For many, a balance of reward options is a precondition for employment, and as the battle for talent becomes more competitive, perks such as travel vouchers and free lunches could become differentiators.

The Future of Employee Rewards?

At a time when skills shortages are on the increase globally and workforce demographics are changing, 70% of employers say they are going to be revising their total rewards strategy to accommodate the changing needs and demographics of their workforces in the next five years, according to the Aon 2015 Health Care Survey.

Applying the health exchange approach to employee benefits could prove a valuable model for rethinking how to administer these benefits. It can “take away a lot of the corporate decision making employers have to do when trying to choose the right plans,” Dolezal says, allowing organizations to focus their energies on value creation rather than administrative functions. Employers can also find significant cost savings through this model because of the reduced in-house administrative burden.

By giving employees more choice, an exchange-style approach answers the increasing demand for benefits flexibility from employees. By expanding this approach beyond healthcare to a fully flexible benefits offering, organizations can offer a rewards package that meets the needs of employees as individuals, rather than attempting a one-size-fits-all approach.

“We actually think that will be the next wave of innovation,” Dolezal says. “Moving beyond healthcare exchanges to total rewards marketplaces.”

Talking Points

“By shifting the role of the employer to that of financier/facilitator and empowering employers with a true consumerism model — one that brings together competition and consumerism, a private health exchange brings a host of incentives to bear to exert positive influence on the market, including reduced costs and higher consumer satisfaction.” – Private Health Exchanges and the Consumerism Movement, Aon Hewitt (White Paper)

“We’ve seen individuals move to plans that are close to what they’ve had in the year prior, however, there are individuals who increase coverage or try to secure lower premiums. The exchange model lets people decide which plans and which insurance companies are best suited for them and their situation.” – Mike Christie, senior vice president, Exchange Market Strategy, Aon

“We believe this new approach to medical coverage better meets the needs of our diverse workforce and provides our company with increased efficiencies in our health careofferings.” – Dean Carter, chief human resources officer of Sears Holdings

Further Reading

How to Set Benefits in Different Nations

With a growing recognition that employees are a company’s greatest asset, it is increasingly important to consider how to keep staff in different countries happy and engaged.

According to some studies, happy, comfortable employees are 12% more productive. Further studies suggest that benefits such as health insurance can reduce employee turnover by up to 25%. There is also increasing evidence that ensuring employees get enough time off and don’t work too many hours can boost productivity — as well as your workforce’s long-term health.

A recent Aon survey of multinational companies found that 56% don’t have a global benefits database, despite global benefit reviews being a top priority. For companies operating in more than one country, setting benefits centrally can cut administrative costs, while simplifying reporting and reducing resentment between cross-border teams who may perceive the perks their colleagues receive to be unfair.

Understanding what is normal in different countries is the best starting point to work out how to develop appropriate packages, from local working cultures — such as working hours, vacation time, salaries, levels of tax on earnings — to indirect benefits like the availability of state healthcare, statutory sick days and age of retirement.

But when considering a working location, remember that simple top-level overviews like those shown below are never sufficient to make a decision — the devil is in the details, so seek out expert advice.

In Depth

Most in-demand employee benefits

Universal health care

Paid sick day entitlement

Retirement and savings planning

State retirement ages

Leave benefits

Flexible schedules

Average wages

Other benefits that employees love

Talking Points

“There is a clear trend of centralization at multinationals, yet it isn’t flowing through to the way that employee benefits are managed…. The vast majority of decisions are still being taken by local stakeholders. [Effectiveness of global planning] is generally being restricted by a lack of up-to-date information and administration activities.” – Carl Redondo, Aon Global Benefits

“When considering the impact of local laws, care should be taken to note cultural differences and issues of discrimination. Employers should question whether or not a particular benefit will integrate with cultural norms.” – Personnel Today

“You need to understand what impact [benefit schemes] are having on behavior… a big alarm bell should be ringing if they perceive it to be unfair” – Jonny Gifford, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

This article originally appeared on TheOneBrief.com, Aon’s weekly guide to the most important issues affecting business, the economy and people’s lives in the world today.”

Further Reading

Waiting for Your Disability Benefits?

If you are suffering from an injury or illness that is preventing you from working, it’s likely you have lost a livable income, and you may be facing the threat of economic hardship. Many people, who are unable to work due to a serious illness or injury, are able to receive Social Security benefits as compensation. But, according to John C. Shea, a disability lawyer in Richmond, VA, applying for Social Security benefits is often a long and arduous process, whether because you are gathering all of your medical documents, making sure you ask all the right questions or patiently waiting to hear if you qualify,.

The Waiting Period and Financial Help

Once you have applied and are waiting for a response as to whether you qualify for benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that the decision process can take anywhere from three to five months (keep in mind that the process can take even longer if you’re initially denied and file an appeal). Waiting nearly half a year is not “financially doable” for most individuals. Here are some helpful tips for getting financial help while waiting for SSA’s answer:

  • Are You Able to Work?: In some cases, individuals seeking SSDI benefits may be able to work, but there limitations on how much you can earn. Chances are, your illness or injury may limit your ability/length of time to work, anyway. If you’re interested in working, even very part-time while applying for SSDI benefits, it’s a good idea to talk to SSA; to avoid any extra issues or confusion, consult with a disability lawyer.
  • Apply for Supplemental Programs: If your life is put on hold due to a life-changing illness or injury, unfortunately, your needs and expenses won’t take a break. Groceries and other utilities are life essentials but are often big financial expenses. If you’re running into financial problems, rather than skipping bills and risking having your heat or electricity shut off, consider applying for energy assistance and take a look at programs like SNAP for food assistance.
  • Creating a Budget and Cutting Expenses: Downsizing on your monthly budget may be one of the easiest ways to save you some money while waiting for SSDI benefits. Although you may not want to give up certain “luxuries” like cable television or your costly cell phone plan, making some budget cuts here and there may save you hundreds of dollars a month. It’s also a good idea, while planning out your budget, to look ahead as much as a year. While SSA’s decision may take a few months, you may encounter some discrepancies that lengthen the process.

Accept Assistance

Asking for and accepting help can be difficult, especially if you’re struggling to come to terms with a lengthy illness or injury. If a friend or family offers to help you, strongly consider accepting the offer. Whether you insist on treating the help as a loan or a gift, the offer can help keep you financially afloat while you wait for your benefits.

5 Limitations to CMS 5-STAR Ratings

When it comes to general liability insurance for long-term care facilities, ratings are often based on the CMS 5 STAR rating system. This is data that consumers view as the holy grail of quality metrics for skilled nursing facilities. It essentially says a facility rated 5 STAR is well above average, and a facility rated 1 STAR is much below average. This provides a good overview for nursing home quality, but there are flaws inherent to this system, whether it is inaccurately reported data, variation in quality standards between states and survey districts or facilities that specialize in higher acuity and have sicker patients in-house.

Here are some of the variables that I have noticed not only as an insurance underwriter but also as a licensed nursing home administrator for more than 20 years.

1. Health Inspections STARS – This is a three-year average of annual surveys and complaints surveys and is calculated based on the number of citations and their severity compared with the state averages. The average is not as important as knowing the facility is improving with survey compliance or getting worse.

2. Staffing STARS – This is based not only on the number of hours of care provided to each patient per day by nurses and nursing assistants but is also heavily weighted to the number of RN hours. What you need to know is that the staffing data used is only for a two-week period that is self-reported by the facility during the annual survey. This is a limited snapshot and may not be indicative of normal staffing patterns or could be inaccurately reported.

3. Quality Measures STARS – This is based on 18 quality measures (QMs) for short-stay and long-stay residents. Some of the more scrutinized are for the prevalence of pressure ulcers, falls and antipsychotic medication. What you need to know is, if the facility has a focus in caring for these types of high-acuity patients, the star ratings may be lower in comparison with state averages, and this is not necessarily an indication that the facility is deficient.

4. Overall Rating STARS – A rating of 1 to 5 stars is based on health inspections, staffing and quality measures ratings combined into one. The more stars the better. What you need to know about this is that the facility is being compared in relationship to other facilities in a geographic area. Why this is relevant is, if all the facilities around you are excellent operators, a low star rating may not be a good indication of that facility’s overall operation.

5. Trends – A facility that is improving or declining cannot be detected with just an overall 5 STAR score. The CMS 5 STAR system has many good points and provides a consistent rating for all 16,000 nursing home in the U.S. but should not be used without interpretation for insurance purposes. We need to first validate that the self-reported data used for each facility is accurate and also consider the types of residents the facility has chosen to admit and care for. Higher-acuity residents will have an effect on the three categories that drive the overall rating and could make the facility appear as an underperformer. Lastly, both the quality performance and performance improvement of a facility are becoming a heightened area of focus for centers. Effective quality improvement programs play a role in assessing risk that is easily overlooked.

Here’s a link the CMS website: CMS 5 STAR Ratings

How to Choose the Right CRM Package

Perhaps the most important thing an insurer can do to keep clients and brokers happy is to implement the right kind of customer relationship management system and process. CRM lets the insurer anticipate needs and communicate effectively. The most obvious benefits of a good CRM system are:

  • Accessible client information, with the ability to view it in multiple dimensions
  • An automated tool for reminders
  • The ability to document prospect and broker files

But those are just the baseline benefits. With a more comprehensive system, you get usability that exceeds these minimal expectations. It can bring an insurer to a whole new technological landscape that improves retention levels and increases efficiency.

Choosing the Right CRM

Before selecting CRM software, determine who’s considered a customer, because that will dictate the features the CRM software must have. Prospects and policyholders are certainly customers, but many insurers miss out when they neglect to recognize that brokers are customers, too. The CRM software chosen needs to serve them, as well.

For maximum efficiency, choose a CRM that has certain integration functions. It should connect with other sales technology systems that you and your brokers use often, because service is the key differentiator.

To take sales and service to the next level, the CRM system should allow for data to be entered once and then pushed out to other systems, including quoting and underwriting. Distribution channel and prospect information can then be populated into a sales and underwriting system. Not only is this a more streamlined way to conduct business, it also helps the process feel more personal and customized for each user. Every sales representative can have all her information immediately. It also provides for more effective self-service on the web.

One-time entry also makes selling much easier for brokers and sales offices of the insurance company, which will always have access to updated information. This, in turn, makes your products more accessible and appealing. An advanced CRM system will also make reporting and reviewing analytics easier, allowing insurers to identify issues more easily and respond to them more quickly.

Activity tracking is also an important feature. Having an accurate record of changes and updates is important in both relationship management and regulatory compliance. Regulators increasingly demand insurers be able to document compliance.

Finally, you want to make sure your CRM software has configuration options that will maximize its utility for your company and brokers. Every company is unique, and CRM software that forces you into its box isn’t useful. You should be able to tailor a CRM system to make it work more efficiently for you, not have to work around it.

CRM software isn’t just about tracking and storing information—it’s about creating a collaborative environment among product managers, brokers, carriers and clients. Let the data flow—in a well-organized, transparent way that treats every person as a distinct individual with her own needs and expectations.