Rethinking Your Employee Benefits Strategy Can Help You Fight the Sansdemic

Jul 7, 2023

What’s a sansdemic, you ask?

It means without people, or in this case, without enough people.

At McGohan Brabender, our clients shared that they were affected well before the pandemic. However, the mandated shutdown drove the point home. It created a situation where many baby boomers realized how much they loved working from home. Others realized they could afford to retire early due to the additional savings achieved by having a two-income household compared to prior generations where one spouse often stayed at home. Additionally, at a time when there are record numbers of open job positions, government subsidies have caused many people to delay engaging in long-term careers.

The current shortage of people actively looking for employment is creating greater challenges for employers everywhere, as evidenced by statistics from payroll providers:

Prior to the pandemic, there were:

  • 7,000,000 job postings
  • Record unemployment

Today, there are:

  • 10,000,000 job postings
  • Of those job vacancies, 6,000,000 do not require a college education
  • Yet only 3,400,000 people without college degrees are actively seeking out employment.

Employers Rethinking Employee Benefits

As the competition to attract and retain employees intensifies, employers are rethinking their employee benefit strategies post-COVID.

According to a September 2021 Willis Towers Watson Employer Survey:

More than two-thirds of respondents (69%) say integrating employee wellbeing into the benefit package will be the top strategic benefit objective over the next two years.

Less than three in ten employers (28%) believe their benefit programs enhance employee appreciation, and many employers are planning to take steps to boost support and communication.

Over one-third (34%) of employers are planning or considering using digital tools and technology to help employees feel connected.

Over one-half (52%) are planning or considering the use of personalized communication to specific segments of their workforce. 

Three Things to Consider Right Now

As the struggle to find and retain employees rages on, we have seen the cost of employee benefits rise, creating a perfect storm for employers. We would like to recommend three things to consider right now for next year:

  1. Save 9% to 11% through steerage to high-quality providers or a narrow network strategy. Consider taking the savings and improving benefits as either an incentive or exchange for a smaller network of providers. Doing so could be a total replacement or an option for your employees. There are also third-party options that use additional Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) dollars to offset deductibles when employees choose higher-quality providers. These options can be paired with your current carrier options.

Employers could also offer a narrow network co-pay plan next to their current HDHP/Health Savings Account plan. High-utilizing employees may be willing to change providers in exchange for better benefits, especially if your communication strategy explains the value of high quality and better outcomes in lowering the overall episodic cost of care. Younger employees likely do not have established provider relationships so, you can steer them to higher-quality providers (lower cost) from the start. These employees will appreciate the lower co-pays and deductibles when accessing care, and since they do not have an existing provider relationship, this won’t be a negative. Some options can match employees through artificial intelligence and claims data to steer employees to the best provider upon the initial provider selection or point of access to care. This kind of change requires planning and analysis, and you need to start discussions early in your plan year to implement effectively. Your MB account team is ready and eager to help you get that ball rolling.

  1. Save 13.9% by focusing on employee wellbeing. The numbers don’t lie – Health Management and wellness works. According to McGohan Brabender’s data analytics, employers engaged in outcomes-based health management strategies save on average $4,158 per employee per year when compared to non-engaged employers. That’s 53% better than the national average cost per employee per year! We recommend taking some of these savings and investing in employee assistance programs, enhanced mental health benefits, telehealth offerings, and financial wellbeing tools.
  2. Improve your communication and employee engagement. A misunderstood benefit is no benefit at all. Consider using some of the savings from the two options above and revamping your employee communication using technology. Invest in a one-stop virtual hub to house all of your benefit offerings enabling easy access from a phone. Here at MB, we can suggest methods to target your message using automation to deliver via text messaging, email, and voicemail. Or perhaps a video to personalize information to specific employee populations—track employee engagement based on clicks and use that data to refine your messaging. Rinse and repeat.


Written By: Erick Schmidt serves as Vice President and Managing Shareholder of McGohan Brabender’s Cincinnati region