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How rethinking employee benefits gives employers an edge in the war for top talent

Talent attraction
Talent attraction

Amid Ottawa’s persistently tight labour market, a growing number of employers are seeing first-hand how modernizing their employee benefits package strengthens their ability to recruit and retain skilled staff.

The traditional “set it and forget it” approach to employee benefits means that many businesses and organizations are providing the same standard health and dental package that has been offered for decades. What those employers fail to realize, says Michael Horne– a partner and co-founder of Ottawa-based benefits provider Meldrum Horne – is that plans have evolved to offer more flexibility, to create more meaningful packages for employees while taking a more holistic approach to supporting staff wellness.

“A lot of companies are sticking with the plan they set up 10 years ago, but there is an opportunity to start over with something better,” says Horne. “Most companies have modernized many of their internal operations, so why not do that to your benefits plan as well?”

Michael Horne

Flex plans allow individuals to pick and choose which services are covered under their respective plan – such as glasses, dental or massage therapy – as opposed to the employer or provider dictating how benefit dollars are allocated.

By moving away from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach, employers are able to provide their staff with better coverage while simultaneously positioning themselves as a top-tier workplace, says Jamie Meldrum, partner and co-founder of Meldrum Horne.

“People want to work for a company that is progressive and understanding of employee needs,” he says. “Having a little bit of choice and flexibility around how you build your coverage goes a long way in making employees feel heard and respected.”

Giving employees choice

With more than 20 years of experience, the Meldrum Horne team is well-positioned to assist companies looking to modernize their employee benefits programs.

The industry is undergoing a revolution powered by online management tools and apps. By digitizing the management process, employers can now set a price point for each employee, empowering individual staff members to log in and choose their benefits. This removes the need for an employer to actively manage the coverage process, says Horne.

“From an employer standpoint, it allows for a set budget, because they know exactly how much they are allocating to each employee,” he says. “These new digital tools make flexible plans available for companies with five employees or 1,000 employees.”

For companies with traditional plans, a healthcare spending account (HSA) can be a great way to add flexibility and choice, says Meldrum.

Jamie Meldrum

Employers can allocate extra money to each employee through an HSA.  Employees can then use those HSA credits for whatever they want, such as braces, glasses, and additional psychology support.

“Instead of trying to add extra coverage through a traditional benefit plan, employers can take that money and split it among their employees for the same expense,” says Meldrum. “Digital allows for a tailor-made approach.

As more companies embrace a modern approach to benefits coverage, it is also important to work with a trusted provider that will take the time to understand the unique nature of a business and its priorities.

Meldrum Horne has been a staple in the Ottawa community for decades, proudly serving the local businesses and employees within them.

“Over the years many of our peers have been acquired by large multi-national corporations. We are locally owned and operated,” says Horne. “While we have a national footprint, we are proud of and committed to our Ottawa roots.”

The dedication to the local community is a sentiment Meldrum also shares.

“We have the same values as our clients, we bring consistency and dependability to the relationship,” he adds. “If you could tear down the benefits program and rebuild it, would it look the same? I think the answer to that is something very exciting.”