Your job as a benefits consultant is to help your clients choose the right benefits and providers that’ll match the needs of their organization.
This can be a tall order since both the benefits market and the talent pool are constantly evolving.
At Securian Financial, we’re invested in your success. Understanding exactly what employers struggle with can be a challenge. That’s why we dove deeper into the world of employee benefits managers this past year to get a better pulse on what they’re saying and thinking.
Fresh, insightful qualitative research
Through in-depth phone interviews and online surveys conducted with Securian Financial’s Employer Advisory Board, a group of benefits professionals and leaders from midsize and large companies in the United States between April and September 2018, we explored environmental pressures that influence employee benefits professionals and their strategies and measures of success. Where possible, we synthesized results with previous Securian Financial research.
Major patterns and themes emerged
The labor market’s current challenges include low unemployment and a shortage of and competition for qualified candidates. To compete for and attract qualified candidates, employers must go beyond offering mainstay benefits.
1. Bring your creative juices
Savvy candidates will shop for the right benefits fit, so it’s important to help your clients be flexible and creative to differentiate mainstay benefits. Today, many traditional benefits are seen as merely table stakes, and potential employees are not shy about asking what other benefits are available.
Providing comprehensive and perhaps non-conventional benefits helps distinguish your clients from other potential employers. For example, some employers are offering a core plan and then giving employees the option to “buy” additional benefits that matter most to them.
As one employee benefits staff member put it, “My goal is to ensure that we’re providing top-notch benefits. I’m responsible not only for our health and life insurance benefits, but also recommendations around vacation and time off, which is a very, very big decision or motivator for people making a decision to join a company. Flexibility, time off, how people can assimilate into the company with a sense of community and relationship, and opportunity for growth [all matter].”
Differentiation is key
Benefits used to acquire and retain employees include bonuses, retirement plans, paid leave, student loan forgiveness/repayment programs, flexible/adaptable benefits, and added or expanded voluntary benefits. Benefits that amplify corporate culture include a flexible work schedule, learning and personal development, opportunities or tools to create a better work/life balance, recognition programs, pet insurance, corporate-sponsored events and activities, and redesigned employee work environments.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match providers
Finally, don’t limit yourself to one provider. Job candidates are choosy. As a result, so are your clients — so bring the best and right benefits to them. Today’s technology can help minimize administrative hurdles. And remember to customize your benefit plans, including group life insurance products, to the demographics of an organization.
2. Back it up with data
Regarding traditional benefits, the process for gaining buy-in from within the organization continues to be complex.
It can take seven months to one year for employers to make decisions on new benefits. It starts with vetting the idea with the powers that be, building a case, building consensus, presenting the idea to leadership, and then addressing any concerns before deciding whether to move forward.
Also, keep in mind that oftentimes discussions involving recruiting and retention strategies occur during the first or second quarter. So plan accordingly.
Benchmarking is a must
Employers crave benchmarking and competitive data to help seal the deal. You can help provide the right data needed at each stage during the buy-in process. For example, employee feedback is needed in the early stages before moving to a cost-benefit analysis in the later stages. You can help arm your clients with answers to anticipated obstacles or objections they might encounter at each stage.
Employers like to benchmark their company against others — and most conclude they are on par or better than their competition. However, some report their competition has better vacation or leave time; richer, more voluntary benefits and retirement plans; and a better employer match.
3. Benefits can help build a culture
The current labor market is challenging. Employers point to a positive corporate culture as a top strategy for attracting and retaining quality employees. Employee benefits are a key tool in supporting and amplifying the corporate culture.
Your clients want you to partner with them to help them stay competitive. Start by gathering industry and market trend data on voluntary benefit trends and forecasts, as well as best practices for acquiring and retaining employees. Financial wellness offerings, tuition assistance and student loan benefits, and lifestyle and life stage offerings all fall under the voluntary benefits category. Also, provide communication tools and resources to help employees know their benefits better.
Help make every moment count
For employers, there’s a great sense of security knowing employees are ready for the future — and workplace benefits are the foundation of that financial future – allowing them to focus on the moments that matter today.