American-based companies are facing two significant issues that are changing how they approach recruitment, retention, and benefits management: Baby boomers are transitioning into retirement and millennial employees are becoming the predominant workforce demographic group at the same time as healthcare, health insurance, and associated benefits continue to undergo change.
In an effort to address both waves at once, Jamie Mauer, senior director of total rewards at Bemis Company, helped lead a comprehensive review of the company’s overall total rewards and benefits strategy in the United States that began in early 2016. The initiative closely examined specific challenges that leaders across the company were facing and dived into detailed demographic data analysis to effectively redesign Bemis’s benefits strategy and offerings.
“In 2015, baby boomers made up more than 40 percent of our workforce, but as they retire, we find many of our hires are millennials,” Mauer says. “The two groups have very different needs and preferences. We wanted to ensure that our total rewards package appropriately addresses them both.”
The assessment was guided by three basic principles: ensure employees perceive compensation and benefits as competitive with the rest of the market, support a high-performance culture by fostering ownership and aligning rewards to performance, and manage cost through efficient processes and experiences that are viewed positively by employees.
After comparing to industry benchmarks, Mauer and her team made several changes. The most significant was switching health insurance carriers and providing employees with two different health plan options. Beginning in 2017, employees could choose either a high-deductible plan or a PPO plan, which had previously been the only option.
One of the main reasons behind the change was that many millennials felt the PPO plans were too expensive and offered more coverage than they needed. The current plans are offered through United Healthcare for Wisconsin residents and through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield for all other states.
Bemis is also working with CVS Health and its pharmacy benefits plan. With the change to CVS Health, Bemis implemented mandatory mail-order prescriptions for maintenance medications, adopted a strategic approach to formulary management that contains certain exclusions, and incorporated programs that focus on generic medications.
“Our carrier selection process focused on providing employees with a provider network with top-level providers who offer great quality with the best possible pricing,” Mauer says. “Better reporting and analytics will also enable us to strategically customize the plans over the long-term.”
Many different forms of communication and tools were provided to employees to help them make the most appropriate choices when the new healthcare package became available. Benefit counselors were trained to provide one-on-one sessions to explain the options. Postcards were sent to employees’ homes to direct them to a web-based application that compares the plan options. In addition, benefits booklets, videos, and printed worksheets were provided to employees who preferred a more traditional, less technology-based process.
The results have been very successful. The number of employees who migrated to high-deductible plans has been within the range that Mauer’s team projected and premiums did not increase for the 2018 plan year.
Moving forward, analytics will play an important role in how the company’s benefits develop. Mauer expects to use aggregate claims data to help identify opportunities for improvement and for carriers to offer clinical programs that will help address them. For example, as is common in manufacturing, a key medical cost driver for the Bemis workforce is spine and back issues. The company is looking into how to prevent and mitigate those types of injuries.
Mauer is also conducting a well-being analysis as part of a plan to expand the company’s wellness offerings. In addition to its existing focus on physical wellness, she believes behavioral health and financial education represent important elements of a more holistic approach. She expects debt management, budgeting tools, strategies for increasing both emergency and retirement savings, and other topics will all be part of what will become a multiyear roadmap for expansion.
As they work to accommodate both older and younger generations in Bemis’s workforce, the total rewards team has introduced changes to programs impacting retirement and employees’ work/life balance. For example, Bemis can now rehire retirees on a short-term basis to pass on knowledge to existing workers. The team has also been educating leaders on how to implement a variety of flexible work schedules—compressed work weeks, telecommuting, and core hours, to name just a few—that are customized to the unique demands of each department.
“Not all leaders are comfortable with flexible schedules,” Mauer points out. “But as more of their peers introduce it and increasing numbers of employees want it as an option, we’re seeing more and more accommodations being made for things such as appointments, adjusted schedules, and working from home.”
Successful implementation of changes to Bemis’s benefits packages can be attributed, in part, to the several different roles Mauer has held during her fifteen years with the company. Her experiences cover a broad range of HR specialty areas, including benefits, compensation, payroll, HR systems, and HR shared services. As a result, she has gained tremendous insight into the downstream work that’s required to execute any given project or strategy.
“When we switched our healthcare carriers, we started getting everyone aligned six months before the change happened,” she says. “My previous roles helped me understand who all the stakeholders were and what each of them needed to know and when.”