Updated: Feb 4, 2021
I know you've heard it before, but I'll say it again. The benefits broker's role is changing and that is not necessarily bad for either party. In light of the health insurance marketplace and changing mandates, employers are not only seeking benefits administration but also for vital guidance and streamlined solutions.
With all of this change, I see so much opportunity for those who are willing to evolve.
The small & medium-sized businesses (SMB's) we speak with daily concede that they are battling to stay aware of the broadening workload enrollment, administration, payroll, and compliance are creating. So maybe more than ever, brokers can position themselves to impact positive change for their customers, but only if they are willing to change their approach.
How is that possible, you might ask? It requires thinking outside of the box on how to address three key areas for your business clients: controlling expenses, creating operational efficiencies, and minimizing unnecessary risk.
The brokers' role isn't going away any time soon, but it is changing. In fact, your customers need more now than they ever have before. This is your opportunity to help your business by improving their business.
Managing YoY expenses go past watering down the plans, coverage, or networks
Historically, healthcare brokers have basically centered around benefits. They’re conscientious of the plan structure, the plan richness, the cost of that design and most do this very well. Yet, as businesses face pressure from employees to improve benefits, brokers can take advantage of additional opportunities by helping employers discover less traditional options to control costs.
Brokers often recommend short-term fixes to remedy budgets; self-insured, tele-medicine, and narrowed networks surely have their place. However, there's huge opportunity being overlooked that will allow you to go way beyond business-as-usual and consult employers on other more effective ways to reduce overall business expenses.
Payroll is typically the largest expense for employers, so payroll is often a perfect spot to focus on and maximize cost-containment. Improving labor costs with time and labor management solutions while implementing wellness programs could have a much larger impact than on profitability than saving an additional 10% on healthcare premiums.
The secret here is to dive deeper to find more of the less obvious areas for improvement. Such as identifying pre-tax benefits accounts or utilizing flexible spending plans. Are your clients utilizing commuter accounts or anything else that can save them on taxes? Additionally, implementing health reimbursement plans, with higher deductible options can be a great option to control overall costs, without watering down the overall benefit.
Truthfully, there is no barrier of entry to start making these types of recommendations. You must remember, your customers look to you as the authority; it's mutually beneficial for you to act as such. And keeping in mind that although your primary skill set might be benefits, or risk management; don't be hesitant to stretch your search for savings beyond those categories
Implementing technology that improves efficiency
We all remember when Zenefits burst on to scene a few years ago, and how big of a disruption that caused in the industry. Be that as it may, it was a huge jolt that the industry needed, and has actually improved the overall quality of services that agencies are now offering.
Employers are no longer seeking benefits alone, but they are looking for innovative strategies that modernize their Human Resources strategy. This requires easy access to valuable data, and simple interfaces to manage payroll, ACA, time and attendance, leave management, and so much more.
Brokers need to consider some fresh opportunities, outside the benefits, that their agencies can facilitate these solutions to help their clients drive better efficiencies. The great part is that many of the solutions that they are looking for not only exist, but they want to work with agencies to maximize their tool bag of solutions while also providing additional areas for revenue.
An all in one HR & Benefits platform is a great example of how employers can elevate, streamline, and automate necessary, but tactical employee management functions. For instance, given a broker's contribution with new employees and benefits enrollment, this type of software can easily integrate with applicant tracking technology and significantly improve the talent acquisition process. In many cases, the technology can handle the entire employment process, without the need to manage multiple systems or utilize onsite en-rollers. At the point of hire, benefits elections can be automatically integrated into the payroll and human resource platforms. In the event of a termination, all of the necessary steps can be automated for the benefit of the employer, employee, and your agency.
So why does any of this matter? As of late, I talked with a HR supervisor who was new to her organization and auditing the benefits and HR forms for its 100 employees. Her audit discovered more than $25,000 in overpaid insurance premiums! That never would have occurred with an automated Human Resource Information System, on the grounds that the benefits would have been cancelled as soon as the payroll was terminated.
Embracing HR and benefits administration software can save companies upwards of $66.00 per employee, every month. A business' expense for a basic solution could run somewhere in the range of $10 and $20 per employee, every month. While some of the more robust programs can range from $49 to $99 per month. In recent history, many broker firms are adding the value of technology as a part of their standard products simply because it improves the value of the relationship exponentially.
For SMB’s, HR departments are very lean. If you are embracing technology to manage your processes, and that technology is utilized by your clients, it is a huge differentiator and competitive advantage. Brokers can make seasoned shoppers into lifelong customers when they think outside the box, and focus on providing their clients world-class strategies and technology.
Proactively attacking compliance is a game-changer for broker's
Compliance is a continually evolving concern from businesses today. Between ACA, FMLA, ADA, ERISA, HIPAA, DOL, ICE, OSHA, and all of the other laws and regulatory agencies, staying compliant has continued to challenge businesses.
Once more, in spite of the fact that this is outside a broker's typical responsibilities, the opportunity to differentiate only increases. This is where an agency can step in as a compliance department for its clients. I’ve even seen some agencies begin to employ compliance attorneys to manage benefits questions and other complex issues for their clients.
Obviously, many of these solutions come at a cost, and not all agencies are prepared to take on that cost. Yet, consider how to widen your ability to compete on the same level. Maybe consider joining forces with somebody who could fill in the gaps in areas that are lacking, and often at a fraction of losing the business to others that are.
One specific area of concern for companies, is mis-classification. Mistakes in classifying 1099’s and W-2 employees is extremely expensive, particularly during occurrences of workers’ compensation claims. Brokers, with access to employee information and workplace policies, can truly have a significant impact in helping employers recognize and address mistakes.
At last, employers are yearning for good data. Brokers have become the most trusted counselor for important employment issues, regardless of whether they knew it or not. In any case, if a broker will stand firm and tackle compliance head-on, he/she can create a significant amount of buyer loyalty.
Remember, anything is possible for the savvy broker
I know you've heard it before, but I'll say it again. The benefits broker's role is changing. That is valid, yet like never before, the broker is sitting at the focal point of the discussion. That should feel engaging. In the event that you can open your eyes and your mind to the potential outcomes of the new market, you can extend your influence beyond your core service offerings and take your agency to the next level. Furthermore, you can prove your customers right when they see you as a trusted partner.
For a first-class HR experience that will help you find the best solution for your needs, let's schedule some time to talk today.
About The Mission HR
The Mission HR is a leading partner in the PEO, HR, payroll, and benefits outsourcing marketplace. We provide a valuable service for small and medium-sized organizations and government contractors, serving as a trusted partner in integrated human resource (HR) compliance, risk management, employee benefits, employment practices liability insurance (EPLI), and payroll processing.