The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Three Lessons in Benefits Consolidation

benefitsCan less really be more when it comes to employee benefits? Sometimes, yes – when we’re talking number of providers and plans offered.

This was a lesson recently learned by the University System of Georgia. After reviewing its core voluntary benefits offerings last year and finding that employees on its 33 campuses could choose from a staggering 177 different plans administered by 62 different vendors, the System HR office set out to do some downsizing. Because of the sheer number of plans and providers, oversight of benefits administration was time consuming, labor intensive and difficult to maneuver. And employees weren’t getting the most bang for their buck.

The solution? A system-wide benefits consolidation effort. The result? The number of core voluntary benefits plans was reduced to eight and the number of providers was reduced to five, while overall offerings were vastly improved. Each plan type saw enrollment increases of anywhere from 3% to 52%. And the projected savings for this year across all institutions and employees? $3.8 million!

Lessons Learned
According to Lydia Lanier, director of system benefits for the University System of Georgia, the voluntary benefits consolidation effort yielded a few very important lessons.

1)    Change management is a real thing. “This process was an enormous change to the status quo, and we encountered significant pushback along the way,” says Lanier. “Without a solid change management plan in place, including branding, marketing and non-stop communication, we never would have been successful.”

2)    There’s power in numbers. “Backed by the buying power of the employer base represented by our consolidation consultant, vendors responded with not only aggressive pricing, but coverage levels that often well exceeded industry norms,” says Lanier. “Additionally, consolidating the employees of all our system institutions gave us great market power to drive down costs and increase benefits.”

3)    Flexibility is key. “Consultant and vendor flexibility cannot be overemphasized enough in this process,” says Lanier. “With data, input, suggestions, concerns and roadblocks coming at us from 33 different institutions, we were constantly making adjustments to policy design and plan administration. It was critically important that our consultant and vendors had the mechanisms in place to evaluate, track and implement these changes in a timely fashion, with cost always top of mind.”

For its voluntary benefits consolidation effort, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia Office of Human Resources received CUPA-HR’s 2014 HR Innovation Award. The team will be formally recognized at the association’s annual conference in San Antonio this fall.

Looking to revisit your institution’s benefits offerings? Curious as to what types of benefits your peer institutions are offering? Order results for CUPA-HR’s 2014 Employee Healthcare and Other Benefits Survey. If you’d like to provide data (and receive a discount on the purchase of results), there’s still time – data collection ends June 30.