Business and Operations
It can feel like your job constantly revolves around cutting costs and balancing budgets. An area where many Business Managers focus their attention is employee benefits, especially since it's often one of the biggest line items in the budget.
For instance, you might wonder if you could save money by cutting benefits that employees don't use—if only you knew which those were. You might even consider surveying your employees about which benefits plans they would prefer to keep.
We would caution against this from a school culture and morale standpoint. If not placed in the appropriate context, a survey can easily be viewed as a "vote" on which benefits to keep or discard. If that is truly the school's intent, then this works.
If, however, the survey is intended as a quick point of reference— and the results may or may not be acted on—you could set expectations that you have no intention or ability to meet. It could also cause unnecessary panic about the financial security of employees’ jobs and your school as a whole.
Before conducting an employee survey, speak with your benefits broker. Ask your broker if there are ways to reconfigure your benefits programs to save the school money with relatively minor or indirect impact on employees.
A few examples may include moving to a high-deductible, consumer-driven healthcare plan or modifying waiting periods or copays. Your broker will be able to give you options that make sense for your community.
If you decide to survey employees about benefits, we recommend the following steps.
- Provide education before conducting a survey. Employees may not use a particular benefit because they aren’t aware it exists or aren’t sure how to use it. Consider a campaign to educate employees about your current benefits offerings so they can make informed decisions about what they want to use. You might send memos or emails, or redistribute printed benefits brochures or packets. These efforts could be supplemented by providing an individual "benefits statement" to each employee. In addition, draw on the expertise of your broker or insurance carrier. Representatives are often available to come speak to groups of employees or meet one-on-one to answer employee questions or concerns about the specifics of their benefits plans.
- Be clear about your purpose. Once you feel confident that all employees understand the benefits you offer, move forward with gathering their opinions. But in any communications, you must clearly explain whether employee contributions are being sought as general information (input) or if the school is committing itself to acting directly on the results (a vote).
Surveys can help your school better understand where your employees stand as you make decisions to reduce overall operating costs.
Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for School Heads Vol. 16 No. 5 How to Announce a New Strategic Financial Plan
The Source for Trustees Vol. 17 No. 3 The Consequences of Operating Without a Strategic Financial Plan
Additional ISM resources for members:
I&P Vol. 37 No. 8 Strategic Financial Planning and Your School’s Budget: Companion Documents
I&P Vol. 38 No. 9 Reduce Budget Compromises: Strategies for Maximizing Income
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