What to consider? Key factors in building a flexible group benefits plan

We’ve discussed how flexibility in employee benefit plans can address the cost pressures of running a successful business while meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce.

Flexibility can allow members to redirect their benefit dollars to what they need and what they most value. However, deciding on what flexibility means to your company and what direction to go, isn’t a simple task. An experienced consultant can help navigate this world. 

Below are key factors to be considered:

Factors to consider before introducing a flexible benefits plan

Benefits budget

Plans should estimate the overall expected cost of a new plan plus additional administrative costs where applicable. 

Size of workforce 

As workforce size increases, more flexibility can be offered. A larger workforce will likely have a greater diversity of needs and can take advantage of economies of scale in their benefit offerings. 


Knowing the makeup of your workforce and plan members will help guide organizations to determine the types of benefits that will be most valued.

Data-driven insights and analytics

As an example, are additional options required in paramedical services? If only a select group of members are high claimants for paramedical practitioners, it may make sense to offer lower maximums as core coverage with a buy-up option requiring additional contributions to increase maximums. 

Employee feedback 

This can include surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.

Administrative capabilities

This can be measured either by the budget toward an administrator or the experience and resources of internal staff. Adding a flexible benefits plan to an existing admin/HRIS platform would require specific expertise, while some independent benefit provider or available technology can help alleviate administrative burdens. 

Key stakeholder buy-in 

The more engaged key stakeholders are, the more impactful the changes that can be introduced. 

Workplace culture & Communication

When a workforce is more knowledgeable about its benefits plan, it becomes easier to introduce more options. Do you have a communication channel? How simple is it to educate staff about changes?

Total rewards strategy 

Flexibility will impact the overall benefits offering. This is another key point that should be clearly defined at the onset of the project to ensure that any potential changes to benefits align with a cohesive strategy that supports attracting, retaining and engaging employees. 

Ideally, employers should have a well thought out feasibility study that outlines how all of these factors could impact their flexible benefit decisions. Key stakeholders (senior management, finance, unions, human resources, etc.) should also be included from the very beginning to ensure proper alignment, support and follow-through. 

As many Canadian employers understand, the costs are not insignificant; however, the benefits of a flexible and creative plan design can be even greater! In our final post, we’ll share tips on how to manage the change towards a modern, flexible group benefit plan. 

People Corporation is pleased to work with the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. You can find an expanded version of this blog post and more in their May/June 2020 issue of Plans & Trust magazine.
Colleen Baker is the Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at People Corporation.