By RD Whitney
This spring, it’s more important than ever for employers to get a head start on benefits season. Given the current health care concerns facing our nation and its workforce, focusing on health value training now and advancing health benefits management skills will mean entering the benefits renewal season with stronger knowledge and help you be in a better position to tackle this big expense. Luckily, quarter two is a perfect time to assess how realistic the goals you carefully set a few months ago are and to reconfigure your course to ensure success. To help, we’ve put together a short list of must-dos for every benefits professional:
Focus on employee engagement
Have a telemedicine app or transparency tool no one’s logged onto yet? Is your wellness program or gym reimbursement incentive lagging in sign-ups or enthusiasm? Don’t let all that hard work you put into crafting the perfect health benefits package fall to the wayside. Instead, roll out a plan to increase employee engagement. Start with “Lunch and Learn” sessions where vendors and healthcare partners can demo tools and walk employees through the benefits of the services available to them. Be sure to follow up with regular communications from the HR team to reiterate the perks.
Spot-check health care vendor performance
You’re a couple months into the new year, so many employees have likely already sought out some version of care offered under your plan. Give your health benefits management style a proactive boost and start checking out whether or not your health care providers and point-solution vendors are living up to their performance and savings promises. While you might not be able to complete the full picture of ROI, early spot-checking will help you uncover potential red flags and address them before they snowball into massive (and expensive) obstacles.
Gather employee feedback now
Are your employees having issues? Are they encountering apps full of bugs or sub-par care experiences? Similar to tip #2, there’s no bad time to gather employee feedback – and it’s an essential component for effective health benefits management. Health care benefits have been shown to be a top concern for recruitment candidates and plays a big part in existing employees’ decisions to stay with the organization or move on. Listening to employees’ needs and wants now when it comes to health care can also help you prioritize spending, as well as vendor management and internal communication efforts. If things are really bad, this early identification gives you time to start looking for new, better (and hopefully validated) vendors so you can make the best decisions for your workforce when the time comes.
Need help gathering feedback? Try our free Benefits Engagement Survey Tool (BEST). Easily create a survey about vendors and satisfaction to see how your benefits are performing – straight from your employees’ mouths.
Turn employees into knowledgeable health care consumers
There’s a lot of misinformation out there that makes it difficult for employees to make good health care decisions. Maybe they’re paying too much for a service. Sometimes there’s confusion about in-network and out-of-network providers or when to go to urgent care versus the emergency room. All these decisions add up for both the employer and the employee. Employees aren’t health care or benefits experts. They need your help. So, help them out.
Hold sessions about price comparison shopping, what to look for when finding a new provider, or maximizing HSA contributions. Create a calendar of monthly health care topics to communicate out to employees. (Think: allergy season, summer safety, what to do when traveling, etc.) Employees love empowerment and feeling more in control of their health care dollars. Plus, taking the time to educate them on matters they really care about shows that you do care about their health goals and that you’re doing everything you can to help them achieve them.
Fit in some training hours
Benefits management is complicated and constantly evolving, as is the healthcare marketplace that you and your employees navigate. There’s always more to learn to help everyone achieve better outcomes. Whether you’re interested in career-advancement training, looking for tips to help your employees reach their health care goals, or just interested in implementing specific changes to your organization’s health benefits plan, making time for training is always a good idea.
Don’t have the time for a conference? There’s a whole world of online training available. Like Validation Institute’s Certified Health Value Professional (CHVP) program, for example, where you learn how to make data-driven purchasing and management decisions across a wide range of specialized health care topics. The courses are self-paced so you can work training around your schedule. Or, check out a free webinar. We hosted one on Surprise Medical Billing featuring a panel of cost-saving experts, including Marilyn Bartlett who has revolutionized benefits management in Montana and Dr. Marty Makary, author of the best-selling book The Price We Pay. Benefits managers could watch the webinar and then host a brief training session on the topics or produce a flyer to spread the word to employees.
There’s never a slow season for benefits professionals, but there are times when certain actions like training and refining vendor management should take precedence to optimize management of your health benefits plan. The things benefits teams focus on now greatly impact their success during the purchasing cycle and open enrollment, which will both be here before you know it.
RD Whitney is Chief Executive Officer of Validation Institute. For the past 30 years, RD has focused on developing business communities that bring buyer and seller together through the gravity of professional training, education, peer learning, and data.