Even in a rapidly changing environment, health benefits remain a fundamental expectation of employees at most organizations. Benefits executives are expected to account for risk and rising costs, balancing those with the need to introduce change incrementally, all while offering health plan offerings that apply to employees' needs and interests.

Retention and Engagement Are at Stake

Creating new health benefit offerings that employees perceive to be markedly more expensive, impractical or insensitive to their situation can break trust, send high potentials to the job boards and disengage the workforce in ways that go far beyond a simple slate of health plan options.

Annual, Careful Review of Health Benefits Is Essential

For this reason, finance leaders should be more careful than ever to scrutinize health plan offerings annually to know where business benefits are being utilized. Among those health benefits that are languishing, they'll also need to assess which might be increased through higher awareness and a focus on training (perhaps Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Accounts), and which should be eliminated to save money.

Transparency Preserves Trust in an Environment of High Change

As rising costs force decision-makers to make changes to benefits, there's often a temptation to minimize the impact when communicating with employees. Do your best to avoid it. After all, transparency is essential in preserving trust.

Almost all organizations increasingly expect employees to bear a larger portion of benefit costs. Share this context and the cost the organization bears in providing health benefits. Then enlist employees for feedback and insights on how to balance their needs with proper stewardship of business resources.

Organizations Still Control Their Fate Despite Uncertain Times

Although the future of health care is unknown, organizations are still in control of the benefits offered. EY lists five guiding principles to help health benefit leaders navigate through a disrupted business landscape:

1. Understand your customers and engage them in dialogue to reduce costs while continuing to meet their needs.

2. Use digital to increase efficiencies and change behaviors.

3. Partner with allies that have the specialized skills you need to meet current challenges.

4. Use the future-focused metrics and leading indicators to shape decisions.

5. Act now — in an environment that's always changing, you're not likely to gain much by delaying decisions, and you risk much in missing opportunities to innovate proactively.

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Tags: innovation Change Management medical & dental insurance