For this open enrollment season, one benefit adviser is fine-tuning its voluntary benefit offerings to include new services with a sharp focus on individual employees.
YouDecide, a voluntary benefits brokerage and consultancy that delivers benefits to employers ranging from 5,000 to 18,000 lives, believes that benefit executives want more offerings for their employees that go beyond what CEO Peter Marcia calls the “traditional demographics.”
Along with new student loan programs for millennials and group legal insurance plans for older employees who may need a lawyer when buying a new home or adopting a child, YouDecide is offering employee purchasing programs. This “paycheck extension plan” allows cash-strapped employees to pay for items that they may need, such as a new refrigerator or a new computer for a child who is heading off to college.
According to Marcia’s data, most of YouDecide’s employee clients who have expressed interest in this program are not low wage workers. Instead, they are workers who have become overextended on their credit cards and their bills. “Most participants interested this program earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year,” he says.
Marcia says employers are asking for customized benefits that target the specific needs of employees. This can range from extended medical coverage for older workers to pet insurance to student loans and elder care. He says that brokers often look at demographics and make assumptions about their needs based on the age or how they look.
This targeted benefit approach has been a complete flip from Marcia’s early days as a benefit adviser. “When I started, I would find the most appropriate healthcare options and alternatives for 80 to 90% of people. In this world, we flipped it on its head and we're trying to provide micro-strategy strength, so we're providing solutions to 10%, 15% or 20% of employees” who fall outside the traditional plans, he says.
“We are able to design micro strategies so that all these different groups of employees depending on their wants and needs,” he says.
YouDecide advisers rely on an employer’s data of its workforce, looking for key attributes that will help them create a plan for the open enrollment. “If the employer has the data, we are able to aggregate different types of benefits and services to different groups of employees depending on their needs,” he says.
For example, if YouDecide were formulating a plan for an employer with 5,000 employees, Marcia and his team would start off with four or five different insurance and financial service products, “so everyone is not overwhelmed,” he says. He adds that after a few months of implementing a plan, “we allow the employer to focus on the benefits they want and every six months, we add additional benefits as we move along.”
Marcia estimates that his team has thousands of different offerings that it negotiates with different third-party benefit service providers. It looks for “vendors large and small, national and local, to be able to add extra value to things that employees are buying every day,” he says.
Is this overwhelming for the benefit administrator who has to oversee these multiple variations of benefits? Not especially, says Marcia.
“It was overwhelming until we came in and consolidated both the consumer side and all the insurance and financial services. We've completely taken that off their plate so they can focus on the strategy and we come in right after we've done that initial rollout, and talk about what's working and what's not working,” he says. “We talked about engaging the workers about their benefits. Is it paper, is it e-mail, texting? Is it mobile or desktop?”
In the end, Marcia says it comes down to looking at the group and their specific needs.
“We look at trend demographics … but the real key is to be able to provide all these different employees with access to all these different benefits so they can choose when it is time for them, when it is relevant for them,” he says.
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