A new year will bring new trends to the benefits industry. “In the case of employee benefits, (predicting trends is) about understanding the industry and what the players in the industry — including the workforce, employers, brokers and providers — are saying and doing,” Elizabeth Halkos wrote for Employee Benefit News. Read on for topics you’re likely to hear about in 2017.

 

Tailored benefits

As recruiting and retaining qualified employees becomes more difficult for your clients, offering the right benefits to the right people can make a huge difference. “A tighter job market requires that an organization present itself as an employer of choice, a situation that is leading HR to offer benefit options that appeal to a wide range of employee demographics,” wrote Stephen Miller for the Society for Human Resource Management.

 

Help your clients think holistically about what they’re offering. “About three-fifths of respondents indicated that benefits for professional and career development, flexible work, health care and retirement savings and planning will increase in importance to retain employees in the next three to five years,” Miller wrote, citing the society’s 2016 Strategic Benefits survey findings. “More than one-half expect that wellness and preventive health benefits will increase in importance to retain employees over the same period.”

 

More sophisticated wellness programs

“Fifty-four percent of employers have company-sponsored wellness programs, up from 30 percent in 2012,” wrote Drew Niziak for Benefits Pro, citing research from Aflac. “Of those offering new or emerging wellness options — such as telemedicine, on-site medical clinics, wearable devices or on-site pharmacies — more than half said the service had reduced overall employee health costs. Additionally, employees participating in wellness programs had higher levels of job satisfaction.”

 

A focus on transparency

The Department of Labor’s impending fiduciary rule may seem focused on financial vehicles, but it will affect benefits brokers, too. Despite some uncertainty about whether the fiduciary rule will take effect under the Trump administration, transparency is the new normal. “Awareness will help you to protect yourself and ultimately better serve your clients,” stated Shelby George for Employee Benefit News.

 

“It is important to understand that group health plans, including high-deductible health plans, are generally ERISA plans,” wrote George. “If you provide participants with investment advice regarding their HSAs, you may be subject to ERISA-like fiduciary requirements.” According to Employee Benefit News, this is also true for “ERISA health or welfare plans with an investment component, such as universal or whole life insurance policies.”