Among the findings:

  • Improving employee wellness. Health and wellness were cited by 38 percent of respondents as the top priority, implemented as a means to boost employee morale (29 percent) and productivity (23 percent) and reduce turnover (22 percent). To meet these goals, HR professionals plan to focus on the following:  Communicating an employee value proposition (39 percent), mental health (32 percent), aligning safety with wellness (26 percent) and enhance financial wellness (25 percent). 
  • The cost management challenge. Managing both sides of the benefits cost equation is worrisome to HR professionals, with 36 percent citing employee costs as a concern and 32 percent, employer costs. Still, 60 percent believe they have done all they reasonably can to control rising medical costs; 22 percent planned no new cost management initiatives for 2019 or 2020 and 24 percent didn’t do so in 2017, either. One of the barriers: Getting buy-in from upper management on these strategies, according to 20 percent of respondents. 
  • How savings stack up with flexible benefits. Flexible benefits allow employees to choose from a pool of benefits, many of which are tax advantaged. They are the most often cited cost management strategy implemented in 2017 (by 19 percent of respondents), and another 24 percent intended to put them in place in the near future. But while they see flexible benefits as an important cost management strategy, only 12 percent who have implemented them have seen them measurably reduce benefits costs. The disconnect might be attributed to flawed design as some aspects of these plans can increase utilization, cost and administrative complexity if not designed optimally.
  • Securing upper-management support. Many respondents indicated their struggle to get upper management to buy in to benefits changes. Convincing senior decision makers on the value of flexible benefits programs was cited by 24 percent of respondents, followed by new wellness initiatives (21 percent), new cost management strategies (20 percent) and retirement plans (20 percent).
  • Forward thinking on benefits strategies. Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents in our employee benefits study have an 18 month window on benefits planning, but that still leaves 48 percent who have a timeline of one year or less. Smaller companies tended to report the shorter time frame, with 13 percent of them admitting that they are not aware of the time that must be dedicated to planning benefits. 

Download our 2018 Canadian Employers Benefits Study to learn what HR benefits leaders consider their top priorities and challenges this year and beyond.