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Three Emerging Employee Benefits Trends to Watch in 2014

Are you concerned about your company's ability to offer a comprehensive employee benefits program? You are not alone. The uncertain impact of health care reform makes long-term planning more challenging.

You have probably implemented different tactics to create a benefits package both you and your employees can afford. Perhaps you introduced a high-deductible health plan or added incentives for participation in a wellness program.

To assist you in your planning, HUB International offers three emerging employee benefits trends that are likely to impact your planning process now and in the years ahead:

  1. Expansion of voluntary benefits
  2. Strategic shift to defined contribution plans
  3. Changes in retirement planning

Voluntary Benefits

Voluntary benefits are certainly not new. You may already offer various voluntary benefits products. What is new is the way employers are viewing these employee-pay-all products.

If you are like most employers, you had to make some tough cost-cutting decisions. As a result, you may not offer as comprehensive of a benefits package as you once did. Offering a wider range of voluntary benefits enables you to achieve the following:

  • Expand benefit options for employees
  • Engage employees in customizing benefits to their needs
  • Help fill coverage gaps created by high deductible health plans

Non-traditional voluntary products are gaining popularity

In addition to traditional voluntary products like dental, disability, critical illness, and life insurance, there has been a growing interest in non-traditional voluntary products, such as the following:

  • Employee purchasing programs
  • Legal plans
  • Identity theft protection
  • Pet insurance
  • Vacation programs

The combination of traditional and non-traditional voluntary benefits offers your employees the flexibility to select the benefits they value most. That translates into major points in employee satisfaction.

Simplified technology eases voluntary benefits administration

Do you remember when voluntary benefits enrollment and communication was primarily left to human resources? The added responsibility did not appeal to a stretched-thin staff.

A lot has changed since the early days of voluntary benefits. The right vendor partner has simplified technology for integrated enrollment and plan information, which helps your employees manage their benefits portfolio on their own.

According to the 2013 Aflac WorkForce Report, employers who offer voluntary benefits score higher in the following categories:

  • Great place to work
  • Takes care of employees
  • Employee job satisfaction
  • Likelihood to recommend the workplace

For more information on voluntary benefits read:

Defined Contribution

This second emerging benefits trend borrows a page from defined contribution retirement plans. The hope for defined contribution in health benefits is that it will help employers set cost-effective, predictable budgets while enabling employees to personalize their benefits package based on their needs and budget.

Combining defined contribution with private health exchanges is an increasingly popular approach

Private exchanges, such as HUB International's Bright Choices platform, offer the following benefits:

  • Flexibility in plan options for your employee population
  • A full suite of insurance products such as medical, dental and life insurance
  • Ability to control your company's annual health benefits spend

You want your employees to have more involvement and choice in the selection of their benefits plan. Defined contribution offers that opportunity without abandoning your support:

  • You provide the benefits framework and contribution amount
  • You select the insurance carriers
  • You offer decision support tools to help your employees make good decisions

Many employers view defined contribution as an effective solution for regaining control and managing the volatility of health care costs.

Retirement Planning

If you offer retirement benefits or you are reviewing your own individual plan, you know how much retirement planning has changed. The following factors are changing the way your employees think about their own retirement:

  • The recession and extended unemployment hit retirement savings hard
  • Retirement age is extending past age 65 as more people decide to keep on working
  • Concerns about the future availability of Social Security and retirement benefits have become the new reality for younger workers

Employers have responded to these fiscal challenges with various tactics including:

  • Phased retirement that adjusts to new definitions of retirement age
  • Education and training programs with investment and financial counseling
  • Automated plan features such as automatic enrollment, rebalancing and reallocation of funds

As our concept of retirement changes, so must retirement planning for both you and your employees.

Benefits Partnership

As a plan sponsor of employee benefits, you are accustomed to adjusting benefits strategy. An added challenge is engaging employees to be active participants in all of their personal benefits decisions.

As your benefits partner, HUB International continues to monitor and provide information on emerging benefits trends as well as products and services to make plan administration and compliance easier. Talk to your HUB employee benefits consultant to determine the best benefits strategy for your business needs.