Employee Benefits

Who’s at the Table for Your Benefits Discussions?

Jen Kivlin
Jen Kivlin
Vice President, Employee Benefits Strategic Leadership

It’s likely your company has an overall strategic plan. What’s even more likely is your leadership team is involved in that planning. Think about it — whether it’s focused around the direction of the company, gaining market share, innovation, revenue targets, recruiting and retention, or a number of other metrics — every member of your leadership team has a vested interest in the strategy and success of your company. It makes perfect sense.

Now, let me ask you this…how aware is your leadership team of the strategic direction of your employee benefits plan? Did you scratch your head for a minute? You’re not alone.

Quite often, when we talk with employers about the benefits they offer their employees, we find they’re not aware at all of the innerworkings of how they got to where they are with benefits. Decisions are made by a few individuals who have to deal with increasing pressure on the budget, which in turn, requires them to often make unpopular decisions. Employees end up feeling the company is “forcing” changes on them, and department leaders often have to defend the actions or feel the same frustration as other employees.

I bring this up because it’s been top of mind for me lately, as I’ve had this very conversation during several strategy planning meetings with customers. During an exercise called “Core Beliefs,” we meet with our clients’ leadership teams to facilitate a conversation around the company culture and their beliefs around their employee benefits strategy. Quite often, it’s interpreted that “leadership” invited to the session should be limited to those in charge of making the benefits decisions. Why take up the time of our Director of IT or the VP of Operations to discuss healthcare? It’s a good question with an even better answer. The most successful healthcare strategies are developed and executed when a broader group is involved in the cultural discussion. This is because they’re able to more clearly understand the WHY when tough decisions need to be made. Additionally, they have direct contact with employees and a closer pulse on reactions from those employees on change.

As one of my most recent examples, I facilitated a Core Beliefs session and was thankfully able to get the full leadership team together. At the end of the session, I went around the room asking for feedback. When I came to the VP of Marketing, she paused, had a confused look on her face, and finally said, “Wow. I had absolutely no idea of the challenges we face in making healthcare decisions for the company. This was very eye-opening for me.” Guess what? We just made another step towards employee satisfaction and consistent leadership communication.

I hear many of our clients talk about recruiting and retention challenges. Benefits is a big part of that. Those very benefits that impact your employees also impact their families, so it’s important to get buy-in from the people who matter. That’s why including the broader leadership group in the “WHY” discussions can pay dividends when trying to engage employees and implement change. So, next time you have an employee benefits strategy meeting, take a quick look around and see who’s at the table. Adding a few faces may be just what you need.

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