It’s Time to Expect More from Your Broker

For most employers, the story is the same every year. They don’t hear from their benefits broker until renewal starts to appear around the corner, and then it’s spreadsheets, rising premiums, and more spreadsheets. The world of insurance is confusing and frustrating, and for many employers, this leads them to seek out second opinions from multiple brokers. Why wouldn’t you? Even if your goal is just to keep your current broker honest, it’s only common sense to get second opinions on a purchase that large.

But here’s the problem. Almost without fail, the brokers you talk to will get the same numbers from the carriers, bring in the same spreadsheets, and will likely tell you about their services, which are the same as every other broker. Benefits admin support, compliance support, HR services—the list goes on, and it’s almost always the same.

You still have to make that gut-wrenching purchase come renewal time, and you still feel in the dark about your options.

So how do you decide which broker to go with if everything they’re offering is the same? That’s where many brokers and employers alike would point to the “relationship” part of the business. They would say it all comes down to who you like the best.

But we disagree. There is a different kind of broker out there—one that doesn’t look the same as the rest and can offer you something different—something better.

What you really need

While every year you feel the same frustration and anxiety around having to make an extremely (and increasingly) expensive investment in your employees, how much do you really understand about why you’re making that particular purchase?

The reality is most employers simply don’t have enough real experience with the world of insurance other than that dreaded yearly renewal process. This leaves them at the mercy of their broker and relying on others to tell them what’s best for their business.

While this makes sense—the world of insurance is increasingly confusing and constantly changing—it’s simply not sustainable. What employers need is to have the power to make an informed and educated decision when it comes to their benefits plan. They need to have the kind of power only true understanding can bring.

How to differentiate

So it’s time to start looking for something different in your broker. Here’s how to spot it. While the benefits broker you’re used to will:

  • Only get in touch with you when it comes time to renew
  • Offer you the same spreadsheet and the same services every year
  • Assure you their service is the best and that’s what sets them apart
  • Hand you their non-insurance solutions and call it good
  • Completely fall off your radar once you’ve renewed

The benefits broker you want:

  • Shows up well before you have to start thinking about renewals
  • Starts off the conversation by uncovering your goals and challenges
  • Focuses on educating you about your options
  • Isn’t interested in forcing you to buy unless their solution improves your business
  • Continues to provide you with advice and education throughout the year
  • Supports the use of non-insurance solutions via training, communication, and education

The first type of broker wants you to buy from them and pick them out among the rest. While the second type also wants that, their first priority is to help you improve your business and make an impact in the lives of your employees. What you need isn’t a benefits broker—what you need is a benefits advisor.

Why?

So you can make the most informed decision for your business without blindly relying on a handful of brokers at renewal telling you the same thing over and over. So you won’t make the mistake of simply sticking to what you know just because you know it, passing over opportunities to make massive savings because you don’t understand them, and thus don’t trust them (yes, this really happens).

The world of insurance is growing and changing, and employers need to be able to grow and change along with it—and that requires employers to become educated about their situation and their options.

Expect more

The bottom line is you don’t have to settle for the same type of broker. In fact, you shouldn’t. You and the people your business supports deserve the best service and the best benefits available—and you can only get that by having the power to make informed decisions yourself.

Start expecting your broker to teach you. Start asking questions and expecting answers. Look for a broker who focuses on education, year-round communication, and who takes the time to help you fully understand all your options. You deserve more than the same old story. It’s time to expect a new one.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk

Wellness Plans: Q&A

Are you thinking of implementing a wellness program? If so, check out answers to these common questions.

Q: What kind of wellness plans are there?

A: As employee wellness has increasingly gained attention and a spot on most employers’ priority lists, the variety of wellness plans has increased. Your wellness plan will change depending on several things: where your priorities are, what your budget is, and the demographic you want to reach. Some examples of standard plans are:

  • Wellness programs to help stop bad habits such as smoking
  • Paramedical plans that offer massages, chiropractic work, or acupuncture
  • Employee assistance plans and teletherapy to provide mental health support
  • Physical activity challenges such as community races or a team steps contest
  • Coaching services for leading a healthy lifestyle (cooking, physical activity, mental wellness)

Q: How do I choose a wellness plan for my business?

A: Not every wellness program will work for your business. First, ask yourself, “What is my primary goal for implementing an employee wellness program?” Your plan may look different if your goal is to reduce healthcare costs for your business than if your goal is to create more loyal employees by developing a positive culture.

In either case, the main thing you want is for people to participate. If you choose a plan that doesn’t interest your employees, they’ll be much less likely to participate, resulting in a low ROI. Send out a survey, taking the temperature of your employees’ feelings about a wellness program. Ask what interests them, what challenges they have and would like help with, and how they see themselves participating. Use what they tell you to inform your wellness plan choice.

Q: Do wellness plans work?

A: There’s been some back and forth about whether or not wellness programs work. Critics point to studies showing a lack of clear improvement or healthcare savings for employers who offer wellness programs. There have also been studies showing that while people who participated in the programs cited feeling happier and healthier, their participation didn’t result in decreased healthcare costs for employers. Other studies show that programs aimed at increasing physical health are most often used by those already in good health and can possibly alienate those who aren’t.

However, the conversation of employee wellness has become a top concern for employers and employees alike. Employees expect more from their organization and value jobs that support their overall wellness. Proponents of wellness programs point to studies linking them to increased employee retention, satisfaction, engagement, and much more.

Q: How do I keep my wellness plan in compliance?

A: In the past few years, regulations for ADA-covered wellness programs that include employee participation incentives have come under some scrutiny. Critics say wellness programs that require employees to pay higher premium costs for not participating or not meeting specific health-related goals are immoral and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This year, the EEOC has proposed new regulations, requiring only “de minimis” incentives for employee participation. Under the new rules, health-contingent wellness programs would still be allowed to offer incentives of up to 30% of the total cost of insurance, but no more. So far, the new regulations haven’t been published yet and will likely be challenged. To stay in compliance, be sure to know what kind of wellness program you’re offering and how it may be affected.

 

Photo by Vasyl Yakobchuk

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Empowering Women in the Age of COVID

While the pandemic has highlighted many staggering inequalities in our economic and social system, one of the most significant is its disproportionate effect on women in the workforce. To get a broad idea of the affect coronavirus has had on women, let’s look at some numbers.

So what does this mean for employers? It’s time to lean into strategies designed to empower, educate, and support women in their workforce.

Start with education

A critical factor in working against the inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic is to build awareness within your company and your community about the effects that recessions have on women and minorities.

The more awareness you build, the more effectively you can push your community towards working against those detrimental consequences.

Financial empowerment

One significant way employers can affect positive change is by developing wellness programs that focus on financially empowering their employees. The 2020 Workforce Benefits Report by Bank of America determined that because women and men have different financial goals, they also have varying challenges and needs.

According to that report, women are less likely to feel they have control over their credit card debt, citing it as one of their top three financial concerns. It found women are twice as likely not to have money left over after paying their monthly expenses, and saving for retirement was a top financial goal.

As employers develop wellness programs and benefits packages for 2021, these are critical components to keep in mind.

Consider implementing debt management support. As women are much more likely to have credit card and student loan debt than men, offering services to help them address their debt would be a targeted way to enable them to become financially stable in 2021.

Your employees may also greatly appreciate the ability to talk to an expert who can help them plan for their financial goals and mitigate challenges. Partnering up with a financial consultant who offers this type of support, enabling employees to become more financially literate, can help them gain long-term stability.

Holistic wellness

The pandemic hasn’t just taken a toll on financial situations—it also puts people’s mental and physical health at risk. To support your employees as they navigate the pandemic, consider offering assistance programs such as an EAP or virtual mental healthcare services.

Remember, wellness isn’t just financial, or mental, or physical. It’s a combination of everything. Employers who focus on supporting their employees in each category see increased engagement, loyalty, and productivity. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do. In times like these, businesses, employees, organizations, and communities all have to work together to protect and support one another. Together, we’re strong.

 

Photo by Marina Pissarova

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Creating a Remote-Friendly Benefits Strategy

As organizations settle into offering remote work as a long-term solution, it’s time to re-evaluate their employee benefits strategy to match the needs of remote employees. It’s not surprising that employees working from home have different needs than those working in an office. While it may seem obvious, it will still take time and effort to design a strategy that matches these new needs.

With open enrollment approaching, benefits strategies are top of mind for employers, many of whom are concerned about shrinking budgets as the economy continues to feel the impact of COVID-19. With that in mind, we’ve created a list of employee benefits and perks designed for employees working from home, which can be worked into a variety of different budgets.

Home office support

Consider offering employees a budget to help them adapt their homes into functional workspaces. Small things like folding partitions, ergonomic keyboard and mouse supports, back pillows, and desk lamps can make a big difference in someone’s experience working from home. The more comfortable and functional their space is, the more attention they will have to get work done.

Mental health services

As many employees adjust to working in more isolated environments, and a growing number of adults in the United States say they are suffering from mental health issues, offering virtual wellness services can make a meaningful impact on your employees’ health. Services like BetterHelp and TalkSpace offer virtual therapy over phone, text messaging, and video calls. Giving employees an accessible format for meeting their mental health needs—especially as they learn to navigate the challenges of the pandemic—can help improve their quality of life and their ability to bring their best self to work.

Childcare support

With many schools continuing to stay closed going into the rest of the year, families are under a lot of pressure to support their children who are learning virtually while they’re also working from home. Consider offering financial support for childcare services, giving parents some much needed relief. If this isn’t an option for your company, offering flex-time can be a significant help to parents who need to be available to support their children during the day.

Subscription benefits

One way to support employees as they work through the pandemic is to offer grocery subscription services. This can provide higher risk employees relief from going to the grocery store and can provide support to working families who are already crunched for time and resources. Home Chef, Instacart, and HelloFresh are some of the many popular meal and grocery delivery services available.

People-centered design

In the end, your employee benefits should reflect the needs of your team. Consider running a company-wide survey to identify the most common needs your employees share, and find solutions that can work for both them and you. Your benefits package is a wonderful way to help build strong and long-lasting relationships with your employees. By designing a benefits plan that meets their needs, you’re showing them you care about their wellbeing, which can positively impact not only their quality of life but the quality of your business.

 

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Effectively Communicating Employee Benefits Plans

As open enrollment approaches, employers and HR departments need to be thinking about the most effective ways to communicate with their employees about the benefits package. This is especially true if your company is functioning with newly remote employees. Benefits are expensive. And ensuring your employees know what they have and how to use them is a critical part of ensuring a positive ROI on your benefits package.

Here are several things to keep in mind as you work out your communication strategy.

Pick your purpose

Defining a messaging plan around your benefits package should be a critical part of your benefits strategy. For messaging to be successful, you need to define a clear purpose behind the communication.

  • Are you implementing new benefits designed for remote employees?
  • Are you attempting to increase engagement with your benefits?
  • Are you trying to educate employees about what’s available to them?
  • Are you trying to educate employees about how to use their benefits?

An easy way to lose your audience and miss the mark on your message is to get your goals jumbled. To create clear, easily consumable information around your benefits, identify a goal for each piece of content you create, and stick to it. Ask yourself if everything in that piece of content aligns with the goal, removing everything that doesn’t.

This leads us to the next piece of the puzzle: what content, and where?

Pick your platforms

Depending on your provider, the demographics of your employees, and the benefits themselves, you may want to use a variety of ways to communicate your benefits package. Whether you’re using a website, a string of emails, in-person/video meetings, or shared documents, there are several things to keep in mind.

  1. For the sake of ease and efficiency, have a place where employees can access all the documents they may need to learn about and use their benefits.
    1. If you’re sending documents through the mail or over email, make sure you also store them somewhere they can access later. Use DropBox, Google Drive, or any file sharing platform to keep all documents in one place.
    2. If you’re using a website or page on your website for employee benefits, create a clearly marked and easily accessible place for employees to find any documents they might need. Keep this accessible year-round.
  2. Consider the different demographics within your team and develop a communication strategy that meets their differing needs. Older employees may find in-person or video training sessions useful when learning to use their benefits platform. Younger generations who may be new to having their own benefits plan may need extra help understanding their benefits as well.

Keep it going

One of the most effective ways to increase ROI on your benefits plan is to create a year-round benefits communication strategy. Keep it top-of-mind for your employees by regularly checking in with them.

  • Consider adding it to your company-wide newsletters
  • Hold quarterly training sessions or meetings to help your employees use and understand their benefits
  • Survey your employees and keep close tabs on how they feel about their benefits plan, including:
    • How easy it is to use
    • How relevant the benefits are to their needs
    • How often they use their benefits
    • How satisfied they are with their plan and what they would like to see changed

Effectively communicating employee benefits plan takes time and effort. Be ready to hear and act on the feedback you receive. Pay careful attention to who uses their benefits and who doesn’t. If you’re serious about creating a benefits plan that works for your business and your employees, then take the time to work out your communication strategy. It’ll pay off for you and them.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners