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Small Business Focus: How a Virginia Church Keeps Employees Happy through Health Benefits

Finding a health plan that fits a workforce of varying ages and family situations sounds complicated, but a church in Virginia found a solution that worked for everyone. Their secret? Focusing on strong relationships. Bonsack Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia, is a lot like other non-profit organizations and small businesses. Their employees span generations. Their employees have different family situations – some are single, some have expanding families. Regardless of their individual situation, though, they all have to think about their health. “We don’t want our employees to have to worry about how their families are going to get healthcare,” says Jill Winston, Bonsack’s Baptist’s head of Human Resources, “we value taking that concern away from them.”

Bonsack Baptist prides themselves on offering a great health benefits plan. “As far back as I can remember, we have offered above average benefits. Both from the benefits standpoint and from what contributions are required on behalf of employees,” Winston told us, “You see the value of offering good benefits to our employees.” This sentiment is common – according to the Harvard Business Review, 80% of workers would pick additional benefits over a raise. When employees trust that their organization is looking out for their best interests, they’re going to grow more attached to their workplace. Building that trust is a key component of Bonsack Baptist’s relationships with their employees.

There’s a give and take between employer and employee when it comes to offering a benefits plan. As health care costs continue to rise, workers have to be willing to become smart consumers of care. That’s where education comes in, according to Jill Winston, “I stress employee education. We’ve tried to change feelings about insurance companies by educating them on how to buy drugs wisely and even why we have insurance. You do have some choices to make, and our employees are doing well with that.” Bringing attention to important health decision points, whether it’s finding an in-network doctor who’s accountable for your care or asking about generic drug alternatives to brand name pharmaceuticals, is an important milestone in creating a health-conscious culture at work.

Another important relationship that Bonsack Baptist church built is with their insurance broker. Susan Smith has represented the church for the past 5 years. “She’s an A Plus broker,” says Jill Winston, “If I can’t find the answer, I email her and there’s a nearly immediate response. Just the value of knowing she’s got our back. I wish everyone could have a broker like we do, and I mean that.” Susan, like many brokers who represent small business and small organizations, feels a responsibility to her client not only to offer a good financial deal but to help out with plan administration as well.

“I particularly really like to know everything that’s out there (in the insurance world),” Susan Smith told us, “Trying to experience things on our own personal level so that we can impart that to our customers has been a big objective of mine.” She takes the time to investigate each of her clients’ cases and tackles the problem of finding health care together with her customers. “It’s really a matter of learning as a group and then finding out where the technical difficulty is,” Susan added, “And then going from there to figure out exactly which plans are best for the group.”

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Partnership and relationship-building has been the key to success between Bonsack Baptist and their broker and between the church and their employees. We found a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan that works, using research and collaboration, and it has served the organization well. The church enjoys low turnover and the benefits of many long and successful careers within the church. “In today’s world with the cost of health insurance, (health benefits) are a big piece of an employee’s decision on where they work,” explained Susan Smith, “That can be the deciding factor if a person is deciding between two jobs.” Using strong relationships to build a benefits plan can sow the seeds of strong and durable relationships with your employees down the road, whether you’re a church in Virginia or a small business anywhere in the country.

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