Employee benefits are vital in attracting and retaining talent in any organization. However, selecting the right employee benefits package for your business can be daunting. That’s where employee benefits broker come in. Employee benefits broker can help you design and implement the best benefits packages for your employees while staying within your budget. The following are the most critical factors to consider when choosing the right employee benefits broker for your business.
Determine Your Needs and Budget
Determining your needs and budget is essential before choosing an employee benefits broker. Figure out which benefits you need to offer, like health insurance, dental, life, disability, retirement plans, and more, based on your company’s requirements. You’ll want a broker with experience providing the specific benefits you need, especially if options are complex.
Consider whether optional or voluntary benefits make sense for your employees as well. These additional benefits require analysis but can help attract and retain good staff. Also, think about the number of employees you have, as more staff means finding more affordable and comprehensive coverage.
Set a budget for the total cost of benefits and any consulting or administrative fees if working with a broker. Get estimates from brokers on costs and compare to ensure recommendations stay within your financial targets. Determine desired coverage levels for health insurance, life insurance, retirement plan matches, and other benefits. Benefits Broker can provide options at various price points for your coverage needs.
Indicate any preferred optional features upfront, such as flexible spending accounts, wellness programs, indexed Universal Life insurance, etc. Brokers can suggest recommendations incorporating the options you and your employees most value. Review additional factors impacting your decisions, such as unions, multiple locations, seasonal employees, part-time staff, obligations to former retirees, and more.
Benefits Broker need a complete understanding of their employee demographic and benefit priorities to craft the most strategic and budget-friendly solutions. Determining your exact needs, options, number of qualified staff, available funds, and additional considerations will help ensure you choose an employee benefits broker partner that can support both the legal requirements and preferences of you and your personnel. A clear set of needs and a realistic budget will lead to the best possible recommendations and value.
Ask for recommendations from your banker, accountant, lawyers or other business networks. See who they use and why they’re satisfied. Word-of-mouth recommendations are one of the best ways to find reputable benefits brokers. Your existing trusted advisors and business partners often work with brokers to provide their employees with group benefits. Ask them who they recommend and why they feel the broker provides good value and service.
Get recommendations from local chambers of commerce, industry organizations, and networking groups. Many members will be familiar with brokers serving businesses similar to yours. See who gets the most recommendations and highest praise from peers.
Check online reviews from the broker’s Google reviews, Yelp profile or Facebook reviews. Look for brokers with a high overall star rating and primarily positive reviews mentioning things like:
- Expert knowledge and excellent recommendations
- Personalized, dedicated service
- Ability to simplify a complex process
- History of success in providing affordable, comprehensive solutions
- Responsiveness and availability
Some online review sites allow you to see reviews only from businesses or companies, which can be particularly helpful. But also consider reviews from individuals as employees providing their perspectives on working with the broker. Compare the recommendations and reviews you gather from different sources. Look for brokers consistently receiving praise for benefits like:
- Deep industry experience and expertise
- Competitive rates and strong negotiation skills
- High-touch service and personal partnership approach
- Well-designed, cost-effective plans meeting companies’ key goals
- Responsiveness, reliability and follow-through
Checking recommendations from all these sources will give you a well-rounded sense of the best employee benefits brokers to consider for your needs. Comparing reviews and the specific qualities lauded about top recommendations will narrow the field to the most reputable, experienced and valued partners to evaluate further.
Check The Licensing and Certifications of Employee Benefits Brokers
Ensure the brokers you consider are appropriately licensed in your state. Certifications in areas like benefits law or employee benefits also demonstrate competence.
All brokers selling insurance products like health, life or disability insurance must be licensed in the states where they conduct business. Verify the broker’s license on your state’s insurance regulator website to ensure it is current and in good standing before working with them.
Some brokers pursue additional professional certifications to highlight their specialized expertise. Reputable certifying organizations for employee benefits brokers include:
- The American Association for Health Education (AAHE) – Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) designation
- The Wharton Business School – Professional Compensation Accreditation (PCA) credential
- The Willis Towers Watson College of Professional Development – Various employee benefits certifications and designations
A CEBS, PCA, or other employee benefits certification shows a broker has met specific education, experience, and ethics standards established by professional associations. These credentials can indicate an experienced, knowledgeable benefits professional but are not always required.
Consider both licenses and certifications but do not assume a credential alone proves a broker’s competence or trustworthiness. Check recommendations, reviews, and your instincts in addition to professional paperwork.
Assess The Experience of the Benefits Broker
More experienced brokers will better understand policies, options and regulations. See the longevity of their practice and the types of clients they serve.
Consider the total number of years the broker has worked with employee benefit plans. While a few years of experience is good, brokers with 10-25 years or more experience in the field generally have more profound knowledge and a more robust network. They’ve likely seen many situations before and know how to navigate complex issues.
See the types of companies the broker typically works with, including size, industry and location. Brokers extensively serving companies similar to yours regarding staff count, business sector, and region will understand your unique needs and challenges. They have a proven track record of success supporting clients comparable to your organization.
Discuss some of the broker’s most notable past successes, complex client situations they have handled and key accounts they currently work with. Look for examples relevant to benefits, companies and industries comparable to yours. References from other similar clients can also provide insight into their capabilities.
Experience should not be judged by years alone but also by the level of responsibility, quality of work, and growth of the broker’s business over their career. Stay away from brokers with a high turnover of support staff, which could indicate instability or difficulty retaining top talent.
Consider awards, honours or rankings the broker has received from industry organizations or publications. While not required, these can signify a superior broker, team and services. Compare the experience and qualifications of different benefits brokers you evaluate to choose partners with the strongest, most relevant experience supporting clients with needs closest to yours.
Beyond the basics, look for benefits brokers with experience in areas specifically crucial to you, like wellness program implementation, retirement plan design, compliance issues, merger and acquisition guidance, and more. Hands-on experience managing issues similar to what you face will lead to better solutions and fewer surprises down the road.
With extensive experience comes wisdom, foresight and confidence in navigating the complex employee benefits landscape. Ensure any broker under consideration has the experience and proven success you need to feel fully supported. Deep experience and a dedication to continuous learning are hallmarks of the most capable, trusted benefits advisors.
Evaluate Their Service and Resources
Determine what level of service you need, from quick quotes to complete plan administration. Make sure any broker you consider offers the services and technology you require.
Employee benefits brokers offer various services at varying levels of hands-on support. On the lower end are brokers simply providing quotes and recommendations for your selection. On the higher end are brokers who take over most administrative responsibilities for your benefit plans.
Consider your financial and human resources to determine how much day-to-day management you want from a broker. Also, consider issues like the complexity of plans, number of employees, union involvement or compliance responsibilities that may require additional service.
Typical services include:
- Recommendations and quotation – Options, advice and quotes, but you handle enrollment, administration, etc. Suitable for simple plans.
- Account management – Dedicated account manager provides ongoing recommendations, assistance and administration guidance, but you retain primary responsibility for moderately complex benefit programs.
- Third-party administration – Broker outsources essential administrative functions to their affiliated TPA but still provides oversight and strategic direction. Appropriate for larger, more complex benefits needs.
- Fully insured or self-funded options – Determine if fully insured (paid premiums) or self-funded (share of costs) approaches better suit your needs and risk tolerance. Brokers should be able to evaluate options objectively.
Resources to consider are technology, educational resources, compliance assistance and networking. Look for brokers that utilize benefits administration software, online enrollment tools, compliance checkers, and the like to reduce errors and streamline processes.
Evaluate the resources each broker can bring to support their service level. Discuss education and compliance partnerships, as many reputable brokers have relationships with leading providers to enjoy preferred access, discounts and expertise. Strong local and national networking connections can also provide mentorship and problem-solving support.
The service and resources you need from an employee benefits broker depend entirely on your company’s priorities, size, the complexity of benefit programs, needs, and budget. Meet with top prospects to discuss options, clarify needs, ask questions and determine the right level of support to feel fully supported in plan selection, implementation and ongoing management.
Meet With Potential Candidates
Meeting with potential employee benefits brokers is one of the essential steps in choosing a partner. Phone calls and emails can only reveal so much about chemistry, trust, recommendations and the ability to work closely together. Face-to-face discussions are essential for evaluating partnership potential.
When meeting brokers, be open and honest and ask tough questions. Include details about your business, number of employees, budget, priorities, and benefit programs, including complexity. Discuss needs thoroughly so brokers understand the unique situation they would support if selected as your partner. See how they propose solutions that balance what’s important to you with available resources. Evaluate recommendations based on logic and rationale, not just proposals for particular products or services.
Determine the level of accountability and hands-on management that feels right. Discuss providing only recommendations and quotes versus full administration responsibility. Make sure a broker’s offered involvement suits what you envision needing for your plans and potential changes ahead. Transition responsibility in a way that feels like building a trusted partnership rather than simply handing off tasks.
Inquire about the experience, approach, available resources, responsiveness, ethics, fees, innovation, etc. Get thorough, confident answers to even challenging queries. Satisfied, reputable brokers will welcome the opportunity to discuss how they work, the resources in their arsenal and key philosophies to put their clients at ease. Discuss the next steps in the process, any additional information needed and availability/responsiveness. Understand availability for questions and issues, not just officially “on the books” time. Look for a hands-on partner, not just another vendor.
While qualifications, experience, quality of service, and resources matter, trust your instincts. Comfort and confidence in the broker’s recommendations and partnership potential will determine success. Take time to find an advisor you feel good about rather than one that seems suitable. The strongest, longest-lasting working relationships are built on mutual understanding, trust and “just knowing” rather than a laundry list of qualifications.
Review The Proposals and Costs of Benefits Broker
Compare your top prospects’ recommendations, suggestions and potential costs to determine the best value and balance of benefits, service and price.
Evaluating proposals objectively based on meeting key goals rather than any single product or fee structure leads to a partnership that will serve you well for years. Look at the pros and cons of different options to feel fully confident in the right choice rather than simply suitable.
Consider recommendations for:
- Health insurance plans – Review coverage levels, provider networks, premium costs, limits, copays, and overall plan designs. Choose options that meet minimum legal requirements and your ideal balance of comprehensive care and affordability.
- Additional benefits – Discuss life, disability, dental, vision, retirement plans, voluntary benefits, wellness programs, paid time off policies and more based on needs and budget. Compare recommended strategies for a benefits package that meets and exceeds expectations.
- Third-party administration – For complete administration services, evaluate the recommended TPA based on resources, technology, expertise, fees and reputation. The broker-TPA partnership will likely handle critical responsibilities, so choose options where you feel fully confident.
- Transition planning – Discuss how recommendations can seamlessly be assimilated into your programs. Look for brokers with experience transitioning complex benefit plans rather than enrolling new groups.
- Service and fees – Compare additional service-based, consulting or administrative fees based on handling all or part of ongoing responsibilities. Look for the right balance of support and affordability as your needs evolve.
Discuss the total cost of ownership, including premiums, fees, expenses, taxes and any charges passed through to you. Also, look at additional savings potential through innovative strategies, discounts, rebates and flexible funding options. Ensure costs provide a comprehensive, compliant solution without overspending or fees out of line with crucial benefits.
Chosen based on trust and confidence, the broker and options you select can provide strategic support and savings for years. Take the time needed to find partners focused on benefits rather than just sales and solutions rather than quick fixes. The right benefits broker fit leads to peace of mind through careful management rather than constant worry or reaction.
Check The References of Employee Benefits Broker
Speaking to other clients provides invaluable insight into a broker’s capabilities, work style, responsiveness, reliability and character. Prospective partners should be willing and eager to provide contact information for companies like yours for reference checks.
See who the brokers currently work with or have provided service to in the recent past. Then contact some references to discuss their experience with the advisors under consideration as partners. Explain you’re evaluating new brokers and want an honest assessment of working with them.
Some key things to discuss with references include:
- How long have you been a client, and what services do/did they provide? Ensure current or recent experience with similar responsibility levels as you would provide.
- What is your overall impression of their expertise, experience, resources and recommendations? Look for very positively framed, detailed responses highlighting strengths that match what you want in a partner.
- How responsive, proactive and available are/were they? Discuss any situations where they went above and beyond in support of solutions. Strong references will discuss their accessibility and follow-through.
- What is the quality of their work and service? Ask for examples of complex issues handled exceedingly well, time or money saved, hassles alleviated or other critical measures of high performance.
- How would you describe their communication style, approachability, and ability to explain complex topics? References should express only positive, enthusiastic feedback regarding these relationship-focused qualities.
- Would you work with them again? An unequivocal “yes” provides the strongest recommendation. Any hesitation should raise concerns.
- Is there any other feedback or information that would be helpful for my decision? Seek open-ended advice on any factors that could impact your selection. References with nothing good or bad to report may lack perspective.
Checking references is one of the best ways to determine if business values, work style, reliability, responsiveness and partnership potential meet impressive qualifications, experience and sales pitches. Speaking to existing, successful clients leads to greater confidence in the advisory ability, follow-through and value a broker can provide your organization. With honest, insightful references, you choose partners rather than simply products. The right fit feels like an easy choice rather than a close call.
Make Your Final Decision about choosing the employee benefits broker
Weigh all evaluation factors, including experience, credentials, recommendations, proposals, costs, references and chemistry, to determine which brokers merit final consideration. Then choose partners that stand out as the best fit and value beyond just qualifications.
Some things to keep in mind as you evaluate and make a choice include:
- Trust your instincts. While experience, expertise, resources, and responsibilities matter, confidence and comfort should feel right at every step. The partnerships that seem intuitive tend to work out best.
- Determine how needs may evolve and if there are options to accommodate changes. Flexibility and options for transitioning responsibilities up, down or around keep the final decision adaptable for whatever may come.
- Consider the potential cost/benefit and ROI of search fees versus switching costs of current vendors. Ensure options evaluated provide enough added value through superior service, savings, insights or resources to justify recruitment expenses.
- Discuss growth potential and opportunities if you scale up in the future. Partners focused on the long-term, not just initial enrollment, seem safest for potentially expanded responsibility later.
- Get any commitments or guarantees in writing to feel entirely at ease with the choice. While references provide insight, contracts, SLAs or other agreements reinforce accountability. Negotiate as needed to achieve optimal partnership terms.
- Prepare staff and the following steps to announce and begin working with the new broker teams. Include training or education, policy/procedure updates, benefit materials revisions and employee communication planning.
- Keep good relationships in case future needs or options change.
With easy confidence in the broker partnership choice coming together, implementing that decision will feel seamless rather than saddled with doubt or worry.
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In conclusion, choosing the right employee benefits broker for your business can be a game-changer for your organization. With the right broker, you can design and implement a comprehensive benefits package that meets your employees’ needs and your budget. Remember to research and ask the right questions when choosing a benefits broker. Look for a broker with experience working with companies in your industry and a proven track record of success. By following the factors outlined in this blog, you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect employee benefits broker for your business.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What benefit can employees give to the company?
Here are some of the critical benefits employees provide for a company:
- Skills and expertise: Employees bring specialized knowledge, skills and expertise that enable companies to deliver products and services. The skills and talents of employees are arguably a business’s most valuable assets.
- Productivity: Motivated, dedicated employees tend to be more productive members of a team. Higher productivity leads to greater output, sales, profitability and business success.
- Innovation: Employees on the front lines often have innovative ideas for improving processes, serving customers better and increasing efficiency. Tapping into this innovation supports a company’s ability to evolve and thrive.
- Loyalty: Long-term employees develop institutional knowledge and a vested interest in the company’s success and reputation. They act as brand ambassadors, provide stability and continuity, and are less likely to require expensive retraining.
- Cost avoidance: High turnover is costly in recruiting, hiring, and training and causes lost productivity. Retaining good employees avoids these costs and maintains a productive workforce.
- Customer service focus: Employees interact most directly with customers and influence their experience and perception of a brand. A service-focused team helps build loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.
What value do employee benefits brokers add to your business?
Employee benefits brokers add tremendous value to businesses by saving time, reducing complexity and risk, controlling costs and enabling smarter decision-making. Benefits brokers have the experience, expertise, and resources to stay up-to-date with laws, regulations, trends, and best practices across all areas of employee benefits. They can objectively evaluate options and negotiate the best terms, costs, and service levels on your behalf.
Rather than time-pressed business leaders and managers having to research every detail of benefits choices themselves, brokers handle the intensive work required to determine optimal solutions. They ease the hassle of managing plans, processing claims, handling renewals, and resolving issues. Using a broker also mitigates the risks of non-compliance, uncovered liabilities or employee dissatisfaction that could damage a company’s productivity, reputation or bottom line.
Employee benefits brokers add substantial value by enabling you to provide comprehensive, low-cost benefits that meet both legal requirements and employee expectations so you can focus on running the core business. With expert guidance and support, benefits become a strategic advantage rather than an administrative annoyance, cost centre or compliance headache.
What is the difference between a broker and a consultant?
Benefits brokers typically focus on providing insurance and financial products and services like health plans, life insurance, retirement options, etc. Benefits consultants have more of a general advisory role providing recommendations and guidance on broader topics such as wellness programs, cafeteria plans, compliance issues, mergers & acquisitions and HR strategies. Brokers execute and service, while consultants strategize and consult.
What are the top 5 types of employee benefits?
- Health insurance – Covers medical costs for employees and dependents
- Retirement plans – Provides income after employment such as 401(k)s, pensions, IRAs
- Life insurance – Provides financial support for dependents upon an employee’s death
- Disability insurance – Replaces lost income if an employee becomes ill or injured
- Voluntary benefits – Additional benefits purchased and paid for by employees such as accident, dental, vision, legal, pet insurance, etc.
What are the top 3 most sought-after employee benefits?
- Health insurance – Consistently ranked as the top benefit priority. It covers essential medical needs.
- Retirement plans – This benefit is valued by employees investing in their long-term future financial security. Allows employer matching contributions in 401(k)s and similar plans.
- Paid time off – Comprised of benefits like vacation, sick, personal and holiday pay. It provides opportunities for rest, relaxation and maintaining a work-life balance. Essential for work-based well-being and productivity.
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