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Modernizing Benefit Plans to Reflect Today’s Workplace Realities

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Alaina MacKenzie

Regional Vice President of Business Development, Medavie Blue Cross

Recruiting and retaining skilled talent is more challenging than ever, but having a flexible and progressive benefit plan can set employers apart.


Over the past three years a lot has changed, including how people access and receive health care. We’ve seen significant shifts from in-person care to virtual diagnosis and treatment, and to people receiving health care in their communities rather than visiting an emergency department or other health care setting. This has allowed Canadians to take a more proactive approach to their health care, which supports broader system benefits overall.

In the workplace, employers are focused on ways to support the health care needs and expectations of multi-generations of employees. For example, millennials and Gen Xs have been turning to massage as their top extended health care benefit, while Gen Zs are accessing mental health practitioners as their top extended health benefit. i Different generations are utilizing their benefits differently. Ensuring employees have access to benefit plans to support them at any stage of life plays an important part in their overall health and well-being.

Inclusive benefit offerings

Social change is the driver behind meaningful conversations and change around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This is pushing employers to take action to ensure advancement is made in their workplaces. In fact, according to a recent Mercer study, 70 percent of Canadian employers are focused on making their workplaces more inclusive, while 30 percent have a multi-year DEI strategy. ii

Total Rewards - Medavie Blue Cross - group benefit

As a health solutions partner committed to DEI, Medavie Blue Cross is constantly evolving its business and benefit plan offerings to be as inclusive and accessible as possible, including recently adding a Gender Affirmation Benefit. This benefit allows plan sponsors to increase access and provide financial support to plan members throughout their transitioning journey.

“Our Gender Affirmation Benefit builds on our efforts to develop a culture that embeds DEI into everything we do — whether that’s offering inclusive benefit options to plan sponsors and plan members, investing in community-based initiatives that improve well-being, or treating all employees fairly and with respect,” says Alaina MacKenzie, Regional Vice President of Business Development at Medavie Blue Cross.

Prioritizing flexibility and choice

Personalization of benefits and advancement in technology are two other trends that are fuelling transformative change in health care and insurance.

Take, for instance, Optional Benefits, as a way to help people prepare for the unexpected by complementing base coverage. Optional Benefits is a digital solution, available at no cost to the employer, which allows employees to add life and health coverage to their existing benefit plan, based on their needs and lifestyle. This optional coverage includes things such as critical illness and life insurance.

From a virtual care perspective, people are now looking for non-traditional ways to support their health. Medavie Blue Cross members have access to Connected Care, a digital health platform that allows greater flexibility and access to innovative offerings, virtual health care services, and additional self-service options to help them get more from their benefit plan. The added flexibility of virtual care gives individuals greater access to health care supports when they need them.

“Benefit plans should look to make it easier for people to research and book appointments with practitioners such as counselling therapists, along with services like internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy and other digital therapy resources,” says MacKenzie. “These supports should be accessible alongside other health services, removing any silos or barriers to services such as mental health care.”

Providing greater flexibility in benefits, more service options, and integrated digital solutions will continue to be the way forward. This will protect and promote employee health and wellness as employees begin to return to the office and face the new realities of work in 2022 and beyond.

Rethinking recruitment

When it comes to the future of work, employees are looking for greater flexibility and choice, a better work-life balance, and to work for an organization that has values that align with their own. Organizations that evolve to support these social changes and expectations will set themselves up for continued success. “Given the fierce competition for new hires, increasing the value proposition in these ways is an important consideration for organizations,” says MacKenzie. “As our world and workplaces recover from the pandemic and the competition for skilled employees intensifies, businesses have the opportunity to recalibrate their recruitment strategies to retain and attract new talent.”

This is an extraordinary time in our history, and shifting with the times instead of continuing with the status quo will create an environment that’s conducive to attracting and retaining employees. Benefit plans and other total rewards that reflect today’s workforce and workplace realities provide a great way to support the unique needs of cross-generational employees while creating differentiators when vying for new skilled talent.


i Medavie Blue Cross, data on file.

ii Mercer study: Addressing workforce diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). https://www.mercer.ca/en/our-thinking/career/workplace-diversity-equity-inclusion.html. Accessed May 2022.

Total Rewards - Medavie Blue Cross - group benefit
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