Special Report on our 2021 Benefits and Wellness Superhero Symposium

On April 7th and 8th, Thorpe Benefits held the 2021 Benefits and Wellness Superhero Symposium, supported by human resources publication HR Gazette. This inaugural two-day event was a tremendous success, well-attended by HR professionals and industry consultants who were able to pick-up valuable information and insights on current hot topics delivered by captivating industry experts.

We at Thorpe Benefits have pulled together highlights for those who were unable to attend.

What are the Fundamentals of an Effective Mental Health Strategy?

How can organizations prepare and execute an effective mental health strategy? It’s an important question many companies need to ask themselves given the recent rise in mental health issues.

At this session, Nicole Cairns, the Wellness Director at Thorpe Benefits and Dr. Ryan Todd, a psychiatrist from Headversity tackled this subject. Workplaces in Canada were ill-prepared for the digital transformation brought on by Covid-19, resulting in all kinds of mental health issues being experienced by both employers and employees. Nicole and Dr. Todd introduced digital tools that provide immediate help, and anonymous access to treatment, and discussed the various concerns people have surrounding these revolutionary tools – such as continuity of care and privacy. They identified the need for organizations to use awareness building measures  – and promote stigma-reducing conversations – to ensure the positive well-being of their employees in the workplace. Dr. Todd summed it up stating, “Workplace mental health is a culture change and needs full commitment from a company’s leadership for strategies to succeed. There is a need to move support away from illness, upstream toward prevention.”

What is happening on the Drug Landscape?

The cost of rare disease and specialty medications is incredibly high, with many employers wondering how, in the future, they will be able to sustain their benefits plans. This was just one of the many subjects discussed at this session, featuring Helen Stevenson from Reformulary and Minh-Tam Tran, a pharmacy advocate.

Helen discussed how plan sponsors need to apply formulary controls in order to make sure benefits plans are sustainable. She emphasized that employers need to appreciate that some drugs deliver better healthcare value than others – and she pointed out that is particularly important today, given the landscape of new expensive drugs and the high percentage of employees requiring some form of medication.

Minh-Tam talked about the increased role pharmacists are playing in patient care – a role that can involve directing people to appropriate health professionals such as dieticians and psychologists.  He emphasized that pharmacists are “great allies when it comes to reducing pill burden” and increasing the effectiveness of medication treatments. He also shared his insights on telepharmacies and the increased availability of health data through wearable devices.

How do you Sell the Value of Benefits?

How do you build an understanding and appreciation of benefits in your organization?

Roger Thorpe, President of Thorpe Benefits, provided helpful tips in this informative session.

He presented a strategy that involves establishing with your leadership team what your philosophy is on the treatment of employees. He talked about the need to sell the value of the plan to management and staff and the importance of getting feedback on it. Finally, he discussed the importance of setting a schedule – on a variety of communications platforms – to present the benefits of the plan, sharing strategies and tools that can help make a huge difference to the overall success of it.

What are the New Factors in Employee Compensation?

Employee compensation was another area that was discussed during the two-day symposium. Steven Osiel from 3rd Quartile and Suzanne Harrison of Benchmarket, discussed an important issue of the day, “Should we be paying employees based on where they live or based on the job they are doing?”.  It was a timely discussion, given that many companies were required to make the move to a remote working model due to the pandemic.

Steve was of the mind that compensation levels should not only be based on the job, but also on where you are located with cost of living factored in accordingly. However, he did mention  that a new model of pay now exists in many companies that is based on performance-based outcomes rather than on straight salary. He also advised companies not to make long-term salary commitments during the pandemic because there will be no going back when things return to “normal”.

Suzanne’s point of view was somewhat different. Using deep survey data, she identified the impact the pandemic-inspired work-from-home-working-model has had in the area of compensation. She talked about the need for flexibility to be provided to employees and the need to change core budgets to retain employees. She mentioned that employees are cognizant that the mobile working model has led to companies reducing expenses for items such as travel and rent – and they may believe that organizations now have more funds to allocate for compensation. She believes that companies need to recognize that the move to remote working also means that there is increased competition for good employees who can be located anywhere. Meaning that, organizations must be prepared to pay a premium for talent and provide other advantages such as childcare benefits and more flexibility with respect to working hours.

How are Rates Calculated?

How are rates calculated and negotiated with carriers?

At this session, Roger Thorpe discussed the key cost drivers and how to properly negotiate a fair renewal. He provided the mechanics on how best rates are calculated using logic, math and consistency and illustrated how disclosure and transparency can help clients feel confident that they are paying what is fair and logical. Roger provided participants with valuable tips and tools on rate negotiation that they will be able to apply to their own plans.

How Responsible are Employers for their Employees’ Well-Being?

Using a debate-style format, Roger Thorpe and Nicole Cairns addressed this subject by providing opposite points of view. Ultimately, it was determined that there are far more reasons for employers to take the initiative and responsibility for employee well-being. However, it was clearly demonstrated that there is a need to understand that many organizations feel powerless in this area and have a lack of a faith that they are going to get tangible, quantifiable results from such a move. Roger and Nicole encouraged participants to debate this very topic themselves within their organizations to develop a consensus on what they are prepared to do involving their employees’ benefits and wellness investments.

Want To Hear More About Any of the Symposium Topics?

Big news: based on success of the 2021 Benefits and Wellness Superhero Symposium, Thorpe Benefits has decided to host the event again next year in April 2022. We will let you know the minute that registration is open.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about any of the topics discussed at this year’s event please contact Roger Thorpe, President, Thorpe Benefits. He can provide you with full details on what you missed along with videos of the various sessions.