Tom Gaynor: Employers need to demonstrate true value of employee benefits

The evolving nature of employee benefits means that there are always new problems to tackle.

Tom Gayor, MetLife

So it is important for employers to take a long-term and holistic view of the group risk market and the issues it faces. 

It was evident that there is a need for insurers to explain the relevance and value of group risk benefits and demonstrate their value to both employers and their staff.The Employee Benefits Group risk roundtable, sponsored by MetLife, addressed diverse topics and demonstrated a shared view and desire by all guests to embrace these issues head on. They agreed that group risk benefits need to be explained in the context of real life in order for employees to understand their true value. 

Procurement teams are increasingly playing a wider role in validating benefits choice, which is worrying because they are usually more interested in driving down price rather than ensuring product suitability for their workforce. This can drive commoditisation and eliminate value, so the engagement of all stakeholders involved in the decision-making around group risk benefits implementation is vital. They need to understand the intangible value of benefits that far outweigh the cost, even though they may be hard to quantify.

There is limited data with which to demonstrate group risk benefits value

The roundtable addressed the limited data available with which insurers can demonstrate the value of group risk benefits to employers, and why the role of benefits consultants is becoming increasingly important. Consultants can help employers to identify the group risk provider that best meets their needs, both now and in the future.

Guests went on to discuss the UK’s ageing population, its huge implications for workplace dynamics and the benefits required to support employers and their employees. To demonstrate true value, benefits must be relevant to staff of all ages. Employers will soon be catering for five generations in their workplace, each with very different healthcare needs. This evolution will pose significant challenges for the HR and benefits professionals whose job it is to choose and communicate benefits to their workforce.

Employers need to tailor their communications, and even their benefits, to different age groups to optimise engagement. 

Employers should carefully consider their benefits selection

One of the most interesting points to come out of the roundtable was a call for employers to focus on demonstrating group risk benefits value, rather than being tempted to introduce new products to their provision. 

Employers need to identify how they can help their staff to understand what the benefits that they already have in place are and maximise their usage. For example, at MetLife this includes value-added services such as bereavement, probate and wellbeing services. Group risk benefits are now about far more than just financial security for employees and their families. 

Employees have many life dynamics at play at any given time

With an increasing number of employees having to juggle full-time employment with care duties for a loved one, there are often many dynamics at play. Caring creates stress and often financial worries – all key areas an employee assistance programme is designed to help address as part of an employer’s group risk cover.

Line managers have a big role to play in identifying the root causes of issues impacting their team. The positive impact they can bring through the right coaching and support cannot be underestimated.

The roundtable also highlighted the need for employers to calculate their return on investment on group risk spend. But they advised employers to use a different way of thinking, focusing not just on the premium versus cost, but also on the soft benefits of staff engagement and loyalty and the importance of employees feeling that they are being cared for. Whilst harder to quantify, it is clear that these benefits amplify group risk benefits’ value significantly, so much so that it is hard to ignore.

 Tom Gaynor is employee benefits director at MetLife UK