With the cost of benefits quickly rising and lean HR departments becoming the norm, my benefits broker partnership is more important than ever to save me time and effort. How do I find the right benefits broker to meet and exceed my needs? What are some of the best practices I should look for?
This complex question will require some reflection on the part of leadership of the organization and the HR team in order to achieve a successful partnership selection. Defining the strategy and desired outcomes up front will save many headaches on the back end. Gather feedback from your leadership team and key stakeholders to ensure diverse points of view for evaluation. Consider the priorities of your organization and then build interview questions and research data to corroborate the responses received in any request for proposal process or during conversations. What is your primary goal?
- To save money.
- To get better customer service than you’re currently receiving.
- To focus on wellness initiative resources.
- To apply new technology.
- Or do you prefer a large vs smaller private brokerage firm?
Most organizations likely want all of these things, but they all have unique needs and priorities to be ranked by importance when evaluating the brokerage firm capabilities that impact the desired deliverables.
Benefits broker firms are different sizes and have a variety of capabilities. Most have the benefits expertise, skills, and abilities needed to support their clients regarding the complex nuances of benefits. Since most of them have the expertise available, the key is how they apply it when you need it most!
Much like hiring for a senior leader in an organization, identifying key competencies and characteristics are essential. Some of the exhibited behavioral considerations to find the right benefits broker include:
- Trust/Character – Do you completely trust this individual(s)? Are they honest, forthright and operate with integrity in everything they do? How strong is their work ethic?
- Organization Knowledge/Curiosity – Does your broker completely know and understand you and your business needs? Have they asked enough questions about you and your organization and your leadership team to truly understand what’s most important? Do they ask questions and anticipate what is best for your organization? Have they spent too much time trying to sell you products or plans that you haven’t asked for?
- Customer Service – Do they provide you with same day responses to your questions? Are they responsible in solving problems for you? Do they follow through with reactive issues in a timely manner? Are they proactive with you in planning future work?
- Strategic – Is your broker thinking strategically and helping you plan out designs, options, and resources several years in advance? Are they meeting your needs in the day to day requirements AND providing the resources needed to help your organization plan for the future? Do they explain how they apply resources available for your complex compliance, legal and reporting needs?
- Relationship – Will you have a consistent go to person from the benefits firm? Do you enjoy working with this individual and do they fit your culture and your work style?
- Functional Expertise – Is your broker a generalist? Are they a master problem solver? Are they highly skilled project managers? Are they leaders and managers of people?
- Value Added Services – What services beyond your insurance does the broker provide? Are they willing and able to provide education for your employees? Do they offer partnership discounts with complimentary services? Will they be a resource for you as you administer your benefits?
According to Stu Scheller from The Scheller Bradford Group, “It is more important that your broker is an expert project manager and manager of people. He/she will need to manage the carriers that have the specific functional expertise to get things done, solve problems, implement new plans and products, and execute with timely and accurate follow through. Conducting a thorough interview process that determines the desired attributes, skills and competencies is essential. Although you can change your broker at any time, it can be disruptive and again cost you money if you don’t make the right partnering decision. Don’t forget to check references and ask many questions to determine who will be answering all your business planning and questions throughout the year.”
Lastly, once you’ve found the right benefits firm for you, it’s important to evaluate your benefits broker firm on the delivered results as well as how these results were accomplished. Be sure to continuously provide feedback and seek feedback to grow the relationship and effectiveness. Schedule meetings to connect on the results on a regular basis and discuss ongoing strategy. Once you’ve selected the benefits broker partnership that best fits your needs, the investment in these activities that foster growth will take your partnership to the next level of effectiveness – SAVING you dollars, time, and effort.
Providing adequate employee Benefits and Compensation are key to recruitment and retention of employees and having the right polices can make or break a company. strategic HR inc. understands this critical need and can help you with any of your tough benefit and compensation questions. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on how we can assist you with creating a strong Benefits or Compensation package.