Can small employers offer benefits like large employers?

For employers, and particularly small to mid-size companies, the pandemic has brought a host of shifts, pivots, and new challenges. While coping with the rising medical claims and drug prices, benefits managers had to make significant changes to their plans over the past 3 years. Now new realities face small and mid-size employers. Attracting and retaining top talent is now an urgent issue, and building great benefits packages is key to employee attraction.

The Times They Are AChangin’!

A 2021 survey found that 78% of Canadian employers indicate that they provide a traditional benefits plan, while the remaining 22% offer a flexible plan which allows employees to choose levels of coverage.

Also in 2021, 39% of employers provide a health-care spending account, which is an increase of 16% from 2020.

However, a ManpowerGroup Canada survey taken later in 2021 found that employers are taking significant steps to expand their ability to attract and retain employees:

  • 41% are adopting more flexible work schedules
  • 40% are increasing training, skills development, or mentoring
  • 32% are increasing wages
  • 32% are allowing more flexible work locations
  • 20% are providing more non-financial benefits such as vacation
  • 19% are using incentives such as signing bonuses, and
  • 19% are lowering required job skills or experience

Can smaller employers compete with big ones on benefits? Yes!

Fewer employees are returning to the workforce than left it during the pandemic. The ones who are returning have higher expectations of their job situations.

Employees are looking for higher wages, great benefits, and the new mantra of the workplace, “FLEXIBILITY.”  Small business owners are competing with large companies for talent, and they want and need to craft robust benefits packages with simple, innovative, and sustainable benefits that will attract employees. “Basic” benefits packages are a thing of the past as new expectations and opportunities change the benefits landscape. Overall, employees are more conscious of work-life balance, mental health, and stress management as a result of the pandemic.

From that 2021 survey, smaller employers (65%) were less likely than larger employers (79%) to describe their benefits plan as excellent or very good.

However, among employee respondents, those working in a smaller company of less than 50 staff were more likely, (87%) to indicate that they have a workplace wellness culture.

The good news for smaller companies is that there are options available to enable them to provide strong benefits plans and stay competitive in the marketplace. For one thing, smaller to medium-sized companies are nimbler and can make changes more rapidly than big companies with large administrative management layers.

For example, during the pandemic, one smaller company recognized that their vacation fund was moot since travel had ground to a halt. So, it gave its employees two options, to put that money into a health spending account or an RRSP savings plan with an employer match.

Further, smaller companies can pursue multi-employer benefits solutions and “Pooled Employer Plans” (PEPs) to have plans with a drug cap or a flat-rate amount. This helps smaller companies to avoid the burden of high claims and provides more predictable renewal fees.

One of the fundamental changes for benefits plan managers is the opportunity (and the need) to provide flexibility to employees to personalize their benefits. One employee may want online cognitive behavioural therapy while another wants pharmacogenetics to map out their medications.

With five generations in some workforces, the “one-size-fits-all” benefits plans are no longer, and perhaps never were, the best option for employers or employees. Smaller and mid-size companies are just as capable as larger ones of crafting plans that help them attract and retain employees in this highly competitive market.

Surveys and stats can be both educational and overwhelming, causing employers to scratch their heads as to where to turn for assistance.  Health Risk Services understands the current benefits plans environment and empathizes with employers! HRS recognizes the necessity of acting upon the steps necessary to assist smaller & mid-size companies to craft “big” plans that attract prospective employees while serving their existing ones well by meeting benefit plan expectations. Our customized benefits solutions can provide you and your company with desirable plans that provide comprehensive and flexible coverage.

To schedule your Complimentary Consultation with Health Risk Services, please call 403-236-9430 OR email: info@healthrisk.ca

Stay tuned for the introduction of our TOTALHealth™ program! To be launched in 2023.