HUB International recently undertook an in-depth study of over 400 senior level Human Resource and Finance executives with 50 to 1,000 employees for an in-depth look at pressing issues shaping their employee benefits programs, including cost management pressures, employee health and productivity and ACA compliance. 

The HUB Benefits Barometer: SMB Perspectives and  Priorities study provides a window into the way small to mid-size businesses are coping with rising health care costs and health care reform as well as the growing pressure to align employee wellness with improved business performance.

HR and Finance executives report they are currently adapting their employee benefit programs to meet compliance requirements and manage rising costs, but many respondents said their business will struggle to stay afloat despite their efforts.

Top Benefit Concerns

Four key themes emerged from the study, each touching on a different aspect of employee benefits and the pressure HR and Finance teams are experiencing in today’s turbulent business climate.

  • Employee wellness and productivity is a top priority and two thirds of respondents are already seeing a return on investment from their current programs.
    Wellness and productivity is top concern for 90 percent of organizations with 500-1,000 employees; 81 percent of those with 100-499 employees; and 78 percent of organizations with 50-99 employees. 
  • Respondents are reaping the benefits of existing cost-cutting initiatives, but too many missed opportunities are still leaving significant money on the table. The vast majority of HR and finance leaders have revamped their plan designs, implemented a multi-year planning process and offered voluntary benefits to reduce costs and keep employees happy. But, additional cost management strategies such as referenced-based pricing, self-funding and telehealth have only been adopted by a quarter of the survey respondents. 
  • Employers perceive themselves to be on top of ACA compliance issues, but nearly two-thirds say that their business will struggle to stay afloat despite their efforts to optimize plan designs and operations.
    ACA compliance is a worry for 69 percent of HR leaders in smaller organizations and 51 percent of those in the mid-size business segment
  • Despite a solid working relationship and common ground on major benefits issues, there are some troubling disconnects between HR and Finance. As many as 97 percent of financial executives are concerned about their HR partner’s long-term benefits cost management strategies, while 93 percent worry that potential HR missteps could result in executive liability claims. Similarly, 34 percent of finance executives believe their HR teams are not on top of ACA reporting.

Connecting the Dots

HR and Finance executives at small to mid-size businesses have already taken many critical steps toward preparing their organizations to meet the ever-changing requirements of the evolving corporate health care environment. The goal now must be to connect the dots – from instituting more aggressive  cost management initiatives to meeting ACA compliance requirements and forging stronger partnerships between HR and Finance teams.