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Building a Sustainable People-First Benefits Package: Balancing Employee Benefits and Admin Lift

Jessica Pfisterer · August 31, 2023 · 5 min read

Sustainable best-in-class employee benefits

Providing a competitive benefits package can be a tall order for many employers. While “competitive benefits” has become somewhat of an industry buzzword, in my experience as a people leader, what it really comes down to is offering benefits that make life easier for your employees—and communicating that you value them and have their backs. At Lively, that mindset is at the heart of all we do. The question then comes down to the nuts and bolts of building that kind of benefits package. The administrative lift can vary based on your company’s size and budget. This may mean shopping around for benefits solutions providers or working with your benefits broker to find the providers that are the best fit for your employees’ needs. Overall, in all my years as a people leader, I’ve found what matters and has the most impact over all most is taking a people-first approach.

Why it matters

Whether we’re talking about a lean startup, a mid-sized growing business, or a large, established company, employees need and deserve strong benefits. The truth is that benefits make up a big part of the employee experience. If someone is experiencing an issue with their benefits, it’s usually because something significant is going on in their life. There’s a diagnosis or an upcoming surgery, for example, and that’s when they figure out there’s a hiccup with their provider or they don’t have an easy-to-use HSA.

You want everything related to benefits to be as smooth as possible in those trying times so that your employees feel cared for by the company—like their experience matters, because it does. I think every type of company can benefit from taking that view, regardless of size or industry. Benefits that work for your employees help build employee morale, loyalty, and ultimately a strong company culture.

Putting employees first while balancing logistics

There’s more than one way to build a robust benefits package. One option is to go with an all-in-one package, for example using the same provider for your insurance and your HSA. That can certainly make things simpler on the admin side, but it isn’t necessarily what’s best for your team. Some parts might be great, but flaws in other areas can lead to major headaches.

For example, let’s say you launch an education campaign to build awareness around high-deductible health plans and HSAs. Helping employees get enrolled is a win-win for everyone. It saves the company money and helps your employees save for the future. If the campaign goes well, it could get a lot more people on board.

But what do you do if the HSA that came with your health insurance plan isn’t working well? Maybe it’s difficult for folks to access or manage their account, or the provider is using outdated, glitchy tech. This is a bad experience for your employees, who don’t want to be distracted by issues with their HSA. It can also lead to more administrative work for your team answering employee questions and working on solutions, instead of focusing on other important goals.

What it means on the admin side

Choosing a best-in-class tool for each type of benefit makes sense if:

  • You want your employees to have the best possible experience using their benefits

  • You want to avoid your team being inundated with issues or questions from employees on benefits that should be easy to use

  • You don’t want to have to re-evaluate these benefits often, because you know you have the best option available

It may require some upfront work on the back end to get things integrated, but it could set the stage for a much smoother experience. Often, the setup is something your customer success manager or broker will be able to take on or help you with, lightening the load for your team. Let’s say you have two different benefits systems that frequently send information back and forth. Your benefits broker can be the person who sets this up or sends that report across for you. In that way, it may not actually be a huge lift—and it gives employees the best tools for each benefit they're using.

Choosing best in class benefits is something I’m seeing more and more among younger companies. That’s because their people teams are advocating for their employees and working to find the solution that is right for them, not only a solution that makes the people team’s life easier. This is important for employee happiness and, ultimately, retention of the team you’ve worked hard to build.

How it affects recruitment and retention

I will say that it’s more common among traditional industries and larger companies to go with an all-in-one package for benefits, even if it isn’t the best choice for employees. Some companies just want to set it and forget it. That means one provider for all benefits, which may mean that the HSA, or other savings and spending accounts, such as Lifestyle Spending or Medical Travel, might not be so great.

But more businesses are beginning to focus on employees. That’s a good thing because employees are getting used to having tools and systems that work for them, instead of solutions that just work for the admins. Ideally, you find solutions that provide both a great employee experience and an easy admin experience. That’s becoming the expectation now as people transition to new employers. At Lively, we want to provide resources that best serve our employees. That might mean more work behind the scenes for benefits brokers—or maybe it’s just a one-time setup or integration, and then you don’t have to worry about it again. Either way, it’s worth it to give employees the best tools.

Ready to learn more? See how Lively can help your business provide the benefits your team needs.

Jessica Pfisterer

Jessica Pfisterer

As Vice President, People at Lively, Jessica leads the recruiting, HR, people operations, and employee experience functions. She brings an innovative approach to people teams and company culture based on her experience leading people teams at fast-growing startups. Her expertise in total rewards, engagement, and leadership allows her to partner with senior leaders on strategic people initiatives to drive the business forward. Jessica was the first people operations hire at MuleSoft, where she built and managed the function during international hypergrowth. At Greenhouse, she again started and grew the people operations function, along with the employee experience function, during a period of sustained growth. Jessica is a Senior Certified Professional by the Society for Human Resource Management. She holds a JD from Georgetown University and is an inactive member of the California Bar Association.

piggy bank on pink background

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Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.

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