Employee benefits: an essential component of attracting and retaining the best and brightest. The benefits package your company offers has a direct impact on the lives of your employees and their families, either giving them peace of mind and security or leaving them with much to be desired. If it is the latter, chances are they won’t be around long.
Being able to develop a competitive benefits package that optimizes your employee benefit program’s financial performance while maximizing employee satisfaction starts with your benefits broker. That’s why it’s important to approach the broker selection process with the utmost care and thorough investigation, to ensure you’re making the best choice for your company and your employees.
When evaluating benefits brokers, keep these five questions in mind:
1. Is the broker able – and willing – to advise on how benefits will support your overall HR strategy?
The nuts and bolts of benefits plans are important, but in today’s business landscape, the insurance programs and perks a company offers need to be closely tied to HR strategy and the company’s larger, long-term goals. Ask brokers how they approach the connection between benefits and strategy, and listen closely to their answers. Can they give you specific examples of how the programs they selected for past clients led to stronger business results, improved employee satisfaction levels and other metrics of a successful strategy? As Employee Benefits News states, you want to choose brokers that not only want to get you a good price, but who know that they’re also responsible for consulting on HR strategy.
With companies expanding their workforces around the world, reviewing budgets and competing for top talent in a candidate-driven market, a benefits program with the right price is no longer enough – it also needs to support the larger values and goals of your business, in both HR and beyond.
2. Does the broker deal with multiple plans or one single type?
Customization is key to employee engagement with benefits – your employees want plans that suit their unique needs and lifestyles. At the same time, the plans your company chooses to provide must fit a certain budget as well as the size, demographics and locations of your workforce. Ask your broker whether they deal with plans in a single benefits area (i.e. health insurance) or whether they manage plans in a range of areas (i.e. health, dental, vision and retirement planning). You’ll also want to ask if they specialize in a certain geographic area or company size. This knowledge can help you make the best decision for your organization.
3. How will the broker communicate and engage with your company?
Remember – once you select a broker, the relationship doesn’t end after you have identified your benefits package – brokers should be partners in benefits administration year-round. The level of interaction you want to have will vary based on your organization’s needs, but as a general rule, HR professionals should be engaging with their brokers on a semi-regular basis, as brokers can advise on open enrollment strategies or provide valuable insights on how best to market benefits to prospective employees, for example. Make sure you ask what level of communication you can expect from your broker. The Society for Human Resource Management recommends asking what their go-to channel for communication is, the frequency with which they interact with their clients and how long it typically takes them to respond to questions.
“A productive broker-client relationship depends on whether the broker has a thorough understanding of your workforce.”
4. How does the broker get to know your company and its employees?
A productive broker-client relationship also depends on whether the broker has a thorough understanding of your workforce and its needs and characteristics. You want a broker that treats your organization like the unique case that it is, instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Ask prospective brokers how they get to know a company’s employees and the methods they use for evaluating their needs. As HR Benefits Alert explained, brokers often will look at specific factors of your workforce such as income levels, the languages that are spoken and job descriptions, as well as any specific health or other benefits-related issues for which your employee population is most at-risk. Brokers who take a more personalized approach and who don’t rush the research and evaluation processes are more likely to deliver a satisfactory benefits portfolio for your company.
5. Can the broker help your company navigate regulatory changes?
The world is changing – it seems like almost every day there are new updates or changes to existing insurance regulations and laws. Staying compliant and keeping on top of these developments is getting trickier and trickier, so be sure to ask brokers about their regulatory knowledge as well as the methods they use to stay current on changes.
“A broker that is content to offer only transactional support to employers when they sign up for specific employee benefits plans, during open enrollment and when the plan comes up for renewal might not be the right choice,” SHRM noted.
These five questions can help you choose the benefits broker that’s the best fit for your company.
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