What is the state of benefits in 2024?

MBWL's report highlight friction in the benefits system along with limited resources for employers makes an uncertain future for benefits

What is the state of benefits in 2024?
Daniel Drolet, senior partner at Normandin Beaudry; Jean Paul Augeri, managing director of global employee consulting business at MBWL

It’s no surprise that part of the responsibilities employers face is providing their employees with the best benefits possible. So, what do global organisations have in mind for their benefits in 2024? What are their priorities and what challenges do they face?  ‚Äč

MBWL has released results and answers to these questions in their recent 2024 Global Benefits Forecast report. Daniel Drolet, senior partner at Normandin Beaudry and Jean Paul Augeri, managing director of global employee consulting business at MBWL highlighted some of the main findings. Essentially, the key takeaways consist of benefits costs increasing across the board (mental health, dental, and drugs). Additionally, salary increasing for employees is starting to slow down as is inflation.

All of this, mixed with friction in the benefits system, political and economic uncertainty, limited resources for employers, emerging opportunities for AI, global wellbeing and DE&I plans as well as employees continue to have high expectations, creates additional challenges for employers. One of those challenges, Drolet says, is due to the fact that data is not readily available.

“A lot of it is paper based from the insurer, there's a real lag on it,” he says. “We can't get the right data. We ask for analysis, we get poor analysis, and we end up doing it ourselves. I think there's a call out for us from the survey is to do more and it's that easy to say but I think it really is a challenge for leading employers. Challenge your brokers and insurers for better information. Without analyzing the data, we can’t understand the cause of cost drivers through healthcare [for example]. It’s hard to get in front of those issues.”

One of the other challenges facing employers, Augeri says, is organizations are having a hard time understanding where they are today but also thinking of what the next several years could look like and plan accordingly. One of the questions they’re asking, he noted is whether investments are having the desired impacts or results.

“Over the past couple of years, employers wanted to do what they thought made sense, like increasing the yearly maximums for mental health support, adding tools and other ways to access services because accessibility in diversity, equity and inclusion is a big thing,” he explained. “It's interesting to put all of this in the hands of the employees and that was the right thing to do. Now they want to know, ‘Does the money I'm investing really have an impact? Could I use the same money invest elsewhere to have more impact on employee health and well being, reduced absenteeism to support employees? This also becomes a concern they have and having data will help analyze that.”

“Ultimately it has to have a return on investment. As much as you want employees to feel good and have a good experience, if you don't have some type of return on investment, there's waste of money,” he added.

So, what are some of the best solutions to move forward? The main objective, MBWL highlights, is seamless data process optimization which allows for disciplined data collection with rigorous governance that is readily available and focused along with additional partner and provider buy-ins aligned with the strategic objectives, improved and concise communication to increase engagement and cost management from both a ROI and predictive perspective.

The industry continues to evolve on multiple levels but there remains a need for improvement when it comes to several areas. Employers can ensure governance is fit for purpose and is aligned to organisational structure and priorities. For benefit offerings, having an expanded list of specialists and increased value, could go a long way. Implementing more technology, like internet-based therapies and virtual consultation data in addition to a better streamline of communication is needed to direct employees to the appropriate services and the correct time.

“One thing that the providers and the insurance companies have done better is bringing digital solutions together like virtual care and employee family assistance programs and Inference-based Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (I-CBT),” Augeri said. “Ideally, it's better to concentrate as much as possible to facilitate the access and the uptake on using those solutions that contribute to the employee experience.”

At the end of the day, as both Augeri and Drolet noted, without reliable and timely data, organizations are operating in a void that can be a costly one.