HR Benefit Ideal – Time For Change

Tom Emerick

Posted 2/14 on Cracking Health Costs

The Human Resources notional view of health care benefits needs to change and do so quickly.

At one time the view of health benefits was one of satisfying/motivating employees, closely coupled with a notion that health benefits were a great way to attract and retain top talent.  Truthfully, that was never really the correct notion of health care reimbursement models.

Early in my benefit career, I was moved into a HR generalist role in a division of British Petroleum.  In that job I interviewed candidates for managerial and executive positions. In a short time something became very clear.  Triple “A” candidates rarely asked questions about the health plan.  They just wanted to know that there was one.  Rather, they asked questions to ensure they would be a good fit, also questions about growth opportunities, and so on.  When we hired people like that they tended to be successful.

“C” candidates often asked detailed questions about the health plan, time off programs, and disability benefits.  The benefit questions were often highly detailed questions about how many chiropractic visits they were allowed each year, minute details about how the deductibles and out-of-pocket limits worked, plus lots of “what if” questions, etc.  Once in a while there were good reasons for those questions, but usually not. When we hired such folks, they tended to do poorly in the company and were often the first to go in the next staff reduction.

My first point is if you use health benefits as a “critical” competitive advantage tool in recruiting, you may very well be most appealing to the wrong people.

My second point is that while companies need to offer a well-rounded package of  benefits, health costs are a major risk that needs to be managed.  Successful benefit executives going forward will understand this critical difference.

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