Small businesses accounted for 40 percent of new jobs over the past two decades1. Now more than ever, small business owners face the challenge of competing with larger companies to attract and retain employees. Employees expect their employer to offer a variety of benefits that range from health insurance to the flexibility to work from home occasionally.
If a small business can't provide the same perks as a larger company, offering voluntary insurance benefits can provide a competitive edge to attract and retain current and potential employees. Voluntary insurance is optional insurance offered in addition to medical coverage that can help fill the gaps in an employees' coverage, providing greater protection for their health and income.
More than 70 percent of employers believe voluntary benefits improve worker morale and job satisfaction2. And contrary to popular belief, voluntary benefits can be offered by small businesses at little to no direct costs to them with convenient payroll deductions for employees.
By working with an experienced employee benefits broker and insurance company, small business owners can determine the best voluntary benefits package to offer their employees and get them enrolled. Here are a few key considerations for small businesses to ensure a successful benefits offering:
1. Determining What Benefits to Offer Employees
Speaking directly with employees about their benefit concerns and desires is a great first step in determining what types of benefits to offer. Additionally, small businesses should consult an employee benefits broker who can help educate them and recommend products to best meet employee needs.
Life, Dental, and Vision are some of the most popular voluntary products with employees. Other important coverages to consider are Disability Income and Supplemental Health insurance. Supplemental Health insurance products such as Accident, Critical Illness, and Hospital Indemnity are quickly growing in popularity.
In Guardian's fourth annual Workplace Benefits Study 3 in 5 workers with medical coverage report their deductible is over $1,200, including a quarter who say it's $3,000 or more. Supplemental Health insurance benefits can really help make the transition to a High Deductible Health Plan smoother as they can help pay for expenses that their health plan or other insurance may not cover.
2. Informing and Educating Employees About Their Benefits
Benefits education is increasingly important as employees have such a strong desire for benefits, but often feel they don't fully understand the options being offered to make good informed choices. Guardian's fourth annual Workplace Benefits Study revealed 80 percent of working Americans say they understand their benefits well, but the average score of an employee benefits quiz was 72, with 51 percent earning a grade of C or lower.
Brokers and insurance companies can offer a variety of educational material to better inform employees about their benefits options and packages. These tools are great for assisting small business owners with limited resources or for those who don't have an HR or benefits enrollment manager.
3. Using Online Benefits Portals
Another convenient tool employers and employees can utilize is an online benefits portal for accessing and managing benefits. This makes it easier for small businesses with limited resources to offer their employees voluntary benefits. Online benefits portals reduce the need for employers to assist employees with benefits enrollment.
People now prefer the option of enrolling for benefits online rather than having to deal with a stack of paperwork. Employees can enroll and make changes to their benefit elections at any time during open enrollment.
Many online registration forms now allow for information to be auto-filled and signed electronically, making enrollment a much simpler and convenient process. Online portals also make it easier for the employer to administer their benefits program.
Through the portal, employers can access billing, manage enrollment and eligibility, make plan changes, check claim statuses, and print and download reports, forms, plan materials and more. Introducing or improving benefits offerings with voluntary insurance products can help employers attract and retain talent, without straining benefits budgets.
That's especially valuable for small businesses. Key considerations when designing a voluntary insurance benefits offering are the product offering, benefits communications (focusing on education and engagement), enrollment, and administration. Because every company is different, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Working with an experienced employee benefits broker and insurance company can make it easier for small business owners to offer voluntary insurance benefits that meet their needs.
Photo - Copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo
About the Author
Michael Estep is Head of Life, Disability and Supplemental Health Products for The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, NY 10004
2 LIMRA, 2016