Ah…the New Year. Clean slate.  We can start over. We can do better. This year will be different. This year I will most certainly lose weight. 2014 will be the year I actually take my vacation days. And yes, I will finally paint the dining room. These are my resolutions.  I know I had the same resolutions last year, but again, last year … was different.

Sound familiar?

Now think of your business goals. You may have put forth a bit more effort than your personal goals, but like most businesses, there were probably a few objectives you weren't able to get to or simply didn’t focus on enough to make a positive difference. And let’s face it, every business has its room to paint and every year that passes without action can make the job more difficult. That's why it’s best to get started right away. So with the New Year upon us, here are a few ideas for resolutions related to managing your employee benefits.

1. I will ensure my organization is fully compliant with the Affordable Care Act. This may be a no-brainer, but consider that most organizations are not compliant with general regulations related to group employee benefits, let alone the additional requirements of the ACA. Where you may have been able to get by with noncompliance in the past, the future will be different. The government has increased the number of auditors to support its goal of ensuring compliance. Now is the right time to ensure you are ready.


2. I will use data to drive specific strategies that improve benefits behavior. We live in a world of big data. More information is available to us than ever before.  It seems every interaction is captured and stored in a database. But not many people know how to access the information, let alone what to do with it. The key is to consult with your employee benefits broker and design a plan based on all the data points you can uncover. This includes claims, call center trends, health screening results and more. By analyzing your specific data, you can build a strategy that has a laser focus on the specific issues your organization is dealing with.

 
3. I will consider new approaches to managing my benefits plan. There continues to be advancements in plan designs, benefits administration technology and education that can help drastically improve the management and effectiveness of your employee benefits. From private exchanges/marketplaces to gamification, there are a host of new and improved approaches to group employee benefits. Keep in mind that these tools are not created equal and not all are right for you. The only way to get the most out of these innovative solutions is to be educated. During your quarterly business review with your broker, carve out time to discuss emerging trends and what might be available.


4. I will better communicate the value of our benefit plans to employees. A recent study by economist George Loewenstein, published in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Health Economics, indicated that 40% of employees get their benefit information from co-workers. That same study finds that only 14% of employees truly understand basic elements of benefit plans. You can see why employee education and communications would be a key objective to realizing more efficient plan use.  

These are just a few ideas to consider when putting together your employee benefits resolutions. Taking the time to identify your needs and then addressing them can help you achieve your overall company goals and objectives. Don’t let too many months pass before taking the appropriate action. For me, I’m off to the hardware store to purchase paint and brushes. The dining room is finally getting painted.

Brian Feeley is senior vice president at Corporate Synergies.

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