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“If we build it, they will come” doesn’t just apply to fictional baseball fields. It also applies to building better benefits plans in an effort to keep and retain better construction workers. Looking back on 2016, it’s no question that the construction industry is making big changes to employee benefits. Like most industries, construction is facing rising health care costs—all while balancing the demands of attracting and retaining skilled workers.

Rising costs lead to shifting health care expenses

According to results from the 2016 Aflac WorkForces Report, employers and benefits decision-makers in the construction industry took steps last year to reduce costs, while still offering competitive benefits options.

In fact, 35 percent of construction employers—a percentage greater than the national average for other business types—expected to implement high-deductible health plans with individual deductibles of more than $1,000 in 2016, according to the report. Many also either increased or planned to increase copayments and/or premiums. Costs are expected to continue to rise in 2017, affecting both employers and their employees, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. However, rising health care costs is just one pain point that the industry faces; another is retaining skilled talent.

[caption id="attachment_7631" align="alignnone" width="631"]aflac-table 2016 Aflac WorkForces Report[/caption]

find and keep qualified talent

As the construction industry grows, decision-makers in the sector say finding and keeping qualified workers is a top challenge. In 2016, 37 percent of employers in the construction industry said a lack of qualified talent resulted in most of the productivity lost within their organizations, according to the Aflac Report.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that construction employees are more likely than those in other industries to look for jobs in the next 12 months (67 percent versus 47 percent nationally). Difficulty finding and keeping construction industry talent can be attributed to many factors, including the recession and the lack of training programs to generate interest in the industry—but strengthening benefits programs could help draw workers.

How to strengthen benefits to attract skilled workers

Employers in the construction industry can leverage their benefits programs to attract and keep employees in their jobs. The Aflac report states that’s because:

  • 83 percent of industry employees say benefits packages are extremely or very important to their job satisfaction;
  • 78 percent are likely to accept jobs with slightly lower pay but better benefits; and
  • 49 percent say improving their benefits packages is one thing their employers could do to keep them in their jobs.
So, how can employers improve their benefits, while competing with rising health care costs? The answer is with an innovative and holistic approach that includes the following.

Wellness programs and technology
Whether it means offering paid time off for employees’ wellness checkups or introducing telemedicine to reduce costs, making employees’ health a priority can help boost morale and help workers stay healthy, keeping them on the job.

Voluntary benefits
Offering voluntary insurance options is one way to help offset rising out-of-pocket costs for employees. These products give employees extra protection with no direct effect on an employer’s bottom line because premiums are often 100 percent employee-paid. What’s more, 88 percent of employees in the construction industry are likely to purchase voluntary insurance if their employers offer the benefits, according to the report.

Education and communication
A little more than half (51 percent) of employees enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) say they don’t understand how their plan really works, according to 2016 Aflac Open Enrollment Study. As more employers move to HDHPs and lower-value plans, benefits education will be especially important for workforces.

Strike the right benefits balance for your business

The construction industry isn’t alone in the struggle to offer competitive benefits. Many studies continue to reveal a trend toward high-deductible health plans and lower-valued plans, with higher out-of-pocket costs for employees. When faced with rising costs, striking the right balance for your business and your workforce will require an innovative approach to benefits options, wellness and communications.

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