Broker leads the way with strategic relationships, mentoring young colleagues

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Selling employee benefits to employers isn’t enough for PK Kriha. She believes that mentoring and growing a community are part of her job description as well.

The senior vice president in the employee benefits practice of Marsh & McLennan Agency launched and spearheads an advisory board to bring the Minneapolis brokerage’s clients together to discuss employee benefits, leadership skills and HR practices, according to Tim Fleming, CEO of Minneapolis operations for MMA.

Kriha’s holistic, forward-thinking approach to the business is why she is one of EBA’s 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising award winners. To select this year’s honorees, EBA editors asked readers to submit the names of thought leaders who are making their mark on the benefit business through their unique approaches to client relations, benefits technology and/or mentoring other women. From the dozens of submissions received, the editors chose 30 benefit advisers to recognize for their outstanding achievements.

According to Kriha, the advisory board allows clients such as vice presidents of HR and CFOs to solve their business challenges, share best practices and help one another. The goal is to develop strategic business relationships.

“This helps us as an agency with ideas and innovation and I run things by the clients,” she says.

Kirha boasts more than 15 years of experience in the employee benefits arena. She joined RJF Agencies in 2002, where she eventually was named partner before the firm was acquired by MMA in 2011. She describes her clients as mid-sized and emerging growth companies with an average of 100 to 1,000 employees. Her largest client employs 7,000 workers.

Holistic approach
Kriha says that her job is not only to deliver employee benefits, but also to help employers attract and retain the best talent.

“Recruiting and retention is the No. 1 concern with our clients, and benefits obviously plays a big role. We look at the total reward strategy and not just the group benefits, which are the traditional benefits. What they're really looking for is innovation and looking at all the generations in the workplace right now and how to solve for all of the unique differences and what they are looking for from their employers,” she says.

This includes using different methods to deliver information.

“You really need to look at things strategically and use all different mediums to get the information to people. You need to be able to provide some of the tried-and-true formats with the older generations and then the innovative technology education pieces like apps [with younger employees,]” she says. “There are all sorts of unique ways to learn and educate, but you have to be able to use multiple means to get there.”

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PK also co-leads and runs the brokerage’s GROW program or Growth in Relationships and Opportunities at Work. She helps to oversee monthly coaching sessions with employees, mentors younger salespeople and leads the firm’s GROW On Demand video and discussion professional development series, which resemble TED Talks.

“This started in our California office and we've taken it coast-to-coast. Every region has created a version of what works best for their region,” she says. She adds that the program initially started for growth, relationships and opportunities for women on the West Coast. “In the upper Midwest region, we have many women in leadership positions, so we changed that to be inclusive of both genders.”

The program includes viewing TED Talk videos and Kriha says the brokerage hopes to produce its own videos one day.

Kriha also works closely with the brokerage’s mentoring program to help mold what she calls “high potential employees” in monthly coaching sessions. She adds that these sessions rely on emotional intelligence and different shared learning experiences.

In fact, one intern who worked for her last year has graduated college and will start as a sales associate with the brokerage.

“I'm going to teach her what I do every day, all day so that she can ultimately develop her own book business and become a sales leader,” says Kriha.

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