Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Voluntary Benefit Trends and Utilizing Employee Focus Groups (Spring 2012)

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As benefit costs are shifted to employees, voluntary benefits can be a source of additional coverage for employees.  The following is a summary of key trends in 2012 in the voluntary benefits industry:

  • Increase in voluntary benefits sales.  As employees are bearing more of the burden of health care costs voluntary benefit sales are increasing.  In addition, there has been an increase in the use of third-party benefit providers handling enrollment and administration. 

  • Increase in electronic communication of benefits.  How well you communicate voluntary benefit offerings to your employees will determine how they participate in the plan.  Electronic communications allow more efficient and timely delivery of information to employees and also provides flexibility for addressing needs of a multicultural and multilingual workforce. 

  • Increasing popularity in specialty products.  Products that have traditionally not garnered much attention are now becoming more popular.  These include products such as critical illness, accident insurance, and hospital indemnity insurance.  Bundling these products and including them in a voluntary benefits package helps supplement some of the changes in traditional plans.

To learn more about voluntary benefits and third-party benefits enrollment and administration, please contact your Leavitt Group consultant.



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Many employers may be reluctant to ask for feedback from their employees because they don’t want to receive negative comments or suggestions that are unreasonable or difficult to implement. By using focus groups with employees, however, employers can uncover potential problems,  get exposure to another point of view that might not have been otherwise considered, and discover ways to improve their benefits plan and employee communications.

Here are a few ideas for conducting a successful focus group.  These ideas can be utilized for a variety of situations, including assessing employees’ preparedness for change, implementing a new benefits plan, or making simple changes to an existing plan.
  • Choose an appropriate number of employees to participate in the focus group.  Generally 15 to 20 people in the group is enough to generate effective feedback while involving all participants.
     
  • Select participants wisely.  Consider what the goal is of your focus group and choose participants who will yield helpful information based on their demographics, business unit, geographic location, ethnicity, or employee level.  For example, if you are trying to improve your wellness program and you have noticed employees within a certain demographic are not participating in the program, build your focus group with employees that fit that demographic to learn more about their point of view. 

  • Ensure confidentiality.  Consider asking a third-party facilitator to conduct the focus group.  This will help ensure confidentiality and anonymity and help employees be more candid and feel confident that there will not be retribution for what they share in the group.

  • Establish ground rules at the beginning.  Make sure participants understand the objectives of the focus group.  If they know right from the beginning what you are trying to accomplish, this will help alleviate the tendency for participants to get sidetracked on irrelevant issues.

  • Choose an effective and experienced facilitator.  Without the help of a skillful facilitator, it might be easy for one or two focus group participants to take over and have his/her views mistaken as the opinion of the entire group.  Make sure your facilitator is able to manage the group well enough that all participants are able to clearly communicate their own perspectives to the group.

  • Capture initial opinions with mini-surveys.  Consider asking all participants to complete a brief survey before the focus group begins.  This will allow you to find out what the participants really think before they have been exposed to the opinions of others in the group.

  • Follow up afterwards and let the rest of your organization know you have conducted a focus group.  Communicate to the group your intentions of what will happen next and follow through.  Failure to follow through will lessen people’s interest in participating in future focus groups because they won’t feel they have made a difference by sharing their opinions.  Let your entire organization know you have conducted a focus group and share a summary of the results and what you intend to do going forward.
Reference:  ebn.benefitnews.com

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