An effective employee benefits broker is an extremely useful ally in your HR efforts. Employees fuel business growth and success, so it’s important for growing businesses to take care of their employees’ needs in order to attract, retain, and engage the best possible talent. Employee benefits are not just one of your largest expenses, they are also one of your biggest tools in maximizing the human potential of your business. And benefits brokers can bring much-needed experience, expertise, and connections to your efforts to craft and maintain an effective employment brand.
However, not all benefits brokers or insurance brokers are created equal and many effective collaborations can become neglected over time. So how can you tell if your benefits broker is still the right partner for your business or if you need to start taking them to task or finding an alternative? Let’s walk through five questions that will help you clarify matters:
- Is your employee benefits broker maximizing impact as well as minimizing cost?
- Are they reviewing and updating your benefits?
- Does your benefits broker operate on the employee level?
- Is your broker streamlining enrollment?
- Do they offer the latest technology?
Is Your Employee Benefits Broker Maximizing Impact as Well as Minimizing Cost?
A good employee benefits broker will not only minimize your benefits expenses but also make sure that the money that you do spend is well spent. While brokers can reduce your costs significantly, benefits remain 25-40% of most companies’ payroll. Instead of treating this expense as a necessary evil, an effective benefits broker will help you maximize your return-on-investment.
Benefits brokers can reduce your benefits expenses by negotiating better rates with carriers and providers as well as helping you identify waste and develop more effective processes. For instance, they can cut down on your prescription drug costs by implementing a telemedicine solution, exploring level or self-funding options, or creating a custom mix of plan designs. And they can save on overall healthcare expenses by working with you to develop an effective tiered insurance structure that allows employees to opt into low-cost plans or comprehensive plans at their own expense. If your broker is working hard to reduce your costs, then that is a very good sign.
But, as we’ve said, minimizing costs is only part of the picture. The best benefits brokers will also serve as employee benefits consultants and advise you on how to strategically invest in your employee benefits. It is just as important for your benefits to have the greatest possible impact for your employees for the given cost as it is to keep that cost in control. So, a good broker won’t just talk about your bottom line, they will also keep the focus on employee health, wellbeing, and happiness.
And there’s plenty of reason to maximize your impact beyond wanting the best for your employees. According to Aflac surveys, 80% of employees believe that their benefits package influences their engagement in their jobs. Plus, most employees surveyed said they were likely to accept a job with lower compensation and better benefits. So, benefits are crucial to any efforts to attract top talent as well as maximize employee productivity and retention.
Are They Reviewing and Updating Your Benefits?
The best employee benefits brokers don’t just help you craft a benefits package and then call it a day. Instead, they serve as employee benefits advisors or benefits consultants, guiding you through your employee benefits journey year after year and constantly working to keep your benefits offerings up-to-date. Your benefits needs will inevitably change as the market shifts, your company grows, and your employee demographics change. New benefits will become available, existing benefits will become outdated, and structures that worked for your startup won’t do as well for your larger, established company. Not to mention, your employees will get older, or you will welcome a new cohort of younger talent, and their needs will change.
Which is all to say that it is highly unlikely that the same benefits package or strategy will be the right choice for your business for years on end. So, it’s not a great sign if you haven’t seen a noticeable difference in your package for 3-5 years, or your broker hasn’t been communicating new options. If you find yourself in this situation, then odds are you’ve become a “safe” account for your broker and they have started taking you for granted. In which case it is probably time to prompt them to reexamine your benefits strategy or start looking for a more proactive partner.
But if your broker regularly notifies you of new options and consistently works with you to review your benefits package to see if it is performing well and still meets your needs, then they may be a keeper.
Does Your Benefits Broker Operate on the Employee Level?
All too many benefits brokers are happy to help their clients set up employee benefits packages and then walk away, leaving the employer to manage the roll-out and maintenance of the package as well as convince its employees of the package’s merits. A good benefits broker will see each and every one of your employees as their clients, rather than appealing to just your company’s C-Suite or board.
Your broker should be a benefits advisor, evangelist, and educator for your employees at every level of the company. First, they should teach your HR professionals and managers how to work the benefits systems, communicate plan details and advantages to the rest of the team, and how to field employee questions. This training should be accompanied by educational materials and resources to give them the tools they need to guide the rest of the employees. Their goal should be to create the best possible experience for your employees and help everyone on the team become a better consumer of healthcare.
Next, your benefits broker should work on the individual employee level through educational seminars, Q&A sessions, and other forms of direct communication. These programs should serve two different purposes. First, they should help employees understand how to navigate the benefits package and make the most of the benefits offered. Second, they should impress upon employees the value of the benefits in order to maximize the impact that your benefits have on employee retention and engagement.
Be on the lookout to avoid a broker that just wants to deal with you and does not want to work directly with your HR team, operational managers, and/or front-line employees. And if your broker takes this approach and is unwilling to change course, then perhaps it’s time to start shopping around.
Is Your Benefits Broker Streamlining Enrollment?
Enrolling employees in benefits and health insurance can become the bane of an HR professional’s existence. Since a large part of your benefits broker’s responsibilities involves serving as your insurance broker, they should be an integral part of enrollment as well. An effective, proactive broker will work with you to streamline enrollment and avoid HR headaches.
The first thing that a great benefits broker will do is help you establish effective enrollment processes. This includes enrollment tracking and compliance record-keeping in addition to the systems used to actually enroll employees in health insurance. Ideally, they will provide or support existing enrollment software solutions that centralize your data and make enrollment easy for employees and HR teams alike.
The next thing that employee benefits brokers should do is prepare employees for enrollment by providing educational resources. They should create easy to digest reference materials explaining plan structure and enrollment processes and hold open meetings explaining your benefits package year-round. They can also help you create a benefits newsletter to regularly update employees on your benefits package and keep your HR team apprised of any changes in benefits or procedures. And when open enrollment time comes around again, your broker should be available to answer any questions that employees, managers, and HR professionals might have.
Do they Offer the Latest Technology?
Technology is changing rapidly in today’s market. New tools are constantly being developed to make things easier for your HR team and for your employees, and to provide added benefits to employees. Innovation fuels industry in today’s economy and that is just as true in benefits and HR. New benefits technology will help you stand out from the crowd to attract the best possible talent and keep your employees satisfied with their benefits.
And if the only reason you know about new benefits technology is because of your own research or conversations you’ve had with your peers, then your employee benefits broker isn’t doing their job. An effective benefits broker will stay on top of the newest technology and help their clients figure out what is useful and what is just trendy. And ideally, benefits brokers will have established relationships with the companies that are developing benefits technology so that you get access to truly innovative solutions.
It’s generally worth your while to find out if your benefits broker provides enrollment software, telemedicine options, HR and benefits automation platforms, and other benefits technology. If you have to go digging for these solutions, then they may not be the broker for you.
Many companies work with the same employee benefits broker for years. Sometimes that is because they are collaborating closely on an ongoing benefits strategy that keeps employer costs low, maximizes employee wellbeing, and makes the HR team’s life easier. Other times, it is because of inertia and lack of comparison. Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea of how to tell which one you are and how to make the most of your benefits broker relationship. Just remember to:
- Think about what is best for your employees as well as your budget – and make sure your broker takes the same approach.
- Make sure that your broker is regularly updating your benefits package and working with you to meet your changing benefits needs.
- Partner with a broker who operates on the employee level instead of just working with your leadership.
- Enlist your broker in making open enrollment an easier and more effective process.
- Work with a broker who provides innovative benefits technology.
Are you looking for a benefits broker who will be your partner in every aspect of your benefits strategy and implementation? Launchways can help you navigate the complicated world of employees benefits to create the most value for your employees and make the most of every dollar spent. Find out more.