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Inspiration + Insights • Gradifi

Preparing Your HR Team for the Year Ahead

By Stephanie Christensen | 4-min read

You’ve probably already begun your mid-year planning processes to determine how to bring your human resources goals to fruition in the next year.  Use this guide to see what you should have already planned for next year and to ensure you’re on schedule to implement new initiatives or make adjustments to your current strategy, based on your unique goals, HR trends and industry best practices.

What’s working so far?

By mid-year, you have several months’ worth of benefits enrollment and employee engagement data that you can use to analyze the efficacy of your current offering. Analyze the data to measure your current progress relative to goals, and to objectively identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement in your current strategy. If data indicates that employees aren’t attracted to a certain type of benefits you currently offer, for example, plan how you’ll address it. Whether you simplify or streamline enrollment processes, refine communications to drive more interest, or replace the benefit entirely, now’s the time to form your action-plan.

For benefits where the data suggest strong engagement and interest, consider where you can make adjustments to your strategy to expand your program and further satisfy employee demand. For example, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) reports that 80 percent of employees want their employer to offer a financial wellness program through work, but only 20 percent of employers have one in place. If a significant number of your employees take advantage of voluntary benefits related to legal help or pet insurance, for example, you could further strengthen your offering with similar benefits related to student loan refinancing or college savings support.

What policies or benefits do you know will change?

Proactive communication about changes to current policies or benefits is key to minimizing potential backlash from employees, and in driving adoption of new benefits. If you plan on changing benefits providers, adjusting benefits of coverage or costs, plan how to announce changes for the least amount of disruption or surprise for employees.

If you might add new benefits in the coming year, consider various tactics you can leverage to educate employees about the program and what it can bring to their lives early and often. The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) reports that your tactics should be driven by your employee population. Older workers, for example, prefer to receive communications about changes to benefits through tactics like face to face meetings, email and phone assistance. Younger workers, on the other hand, may respond more favorably to text, social media, blog posts and video. The more proactive you can be in educating your employees about what their benefits can bring to their lives in a tactic they’re likely to notice, the more excited they’ll be about the new offering when enrollment season begins.

What employee feedback have you collected, and what does it mean?

SHRM reports that 54 percent of employers who are changing their employee benefits were motivated to do so because of employee feedback. Internal metrics like employee enrollment, program engagement and direct feedback you solicit from employees in the form of a survey or suggestion box can speak volumes about your current offering, and mid-year allows time to incorporate their feedback for next year.

If you received a high volume of inquiries from employees who are confused about how a particular program works during last year’s enrollment, plan how you’ll remove the pain points so the problem doesn’t repeat itself. Haven’t surveyed employees for their feedback? Take advantage of inexpensive surveying tools and simple polls that you conduct via email or your Intranet to let employees know you care about what they think and want.

What gaps do you need to fill to remain competitive or differentiate?

Now’s the time to strategically structure a competitive employee benefits offering that’s on par (or better than) what your competitors currently offer—and to adapt your plans if their benefits plan has changed. In SHRM’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, 34 percent of employers surveyed increased the strength of their benefits offering in the last year, and 72 percent did so to improve retention.

In addition, research current HR trends to see where companies in other industries have chosen to invest their dollars, and how it could aid in your own recruitment and retention strategy. For example, Employee Benefits News reports that “adulting benefits” like on-site errand runners that help employees complete tasks like grocery shopping, wrapping holiday packages or planning family vacations are a new type of voluntary benefit that some companies are using to help alleviate employee stress and support work-life balance. If you identify gaps in your own offering based on your competitive research, conduct employee surveys to validate that your employees would see the value of similar additions to your program. Use their feedback to make any necessary additions or adjustments to your own plans for next year.

What are your goals for next year? Do your current benefits support your ability to meet them?

Has your HR team has been tasked with aggressive recruiting goals next year? Will your company grow or expand? Are you currently struggling to attract the type of talent you want? Your employer benefits package could be one way to alleviate some or all of those challenges. In fact, BenefitsPro reports that nearly half of employees consider whether an employer offers student loan assistance when deciding to take a job. Compare next year’s performance goals as an HR team to your current plans to identify how your employee benefits package can be a tool that supports your ability to attract more top talent, and retain your star performers.

Mid-year is the ideal time to ensure that your current and future benefits offering gives employees access access to the programs they value and reflects the in-demand offerings that contribute to retention and recruitment. Use these simple tips to ensure that the benefits you offer next year will be well-received by employees and will support your broader human resources strategies.