Instead of looking to get clients the most return on investment out of group benefits overall, brokers should focus on the reasons employees are attracted to specific types of benefits in the first place, two industry insiders said last week at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance.

In the past, brokers were spending “so much time and throwing so many resources at getting a [client] more bang for their buck with medical insurance and trying to keep them in compliance,” said Matthew Owenby, senior vice president and chief HR officer at Aflac, last week during a keynote address at the New Orleans conference.

Matthew Owenby, senior vice president and chief HR officer at Aflac, speaks at EBA's Workplace Benefits Renaissance in New Orleans.
Matthew Owenby, senior vice president and chief HR officer at Aflac, speaks at EBA's Workplace Benefits Renaissance in New Orleans. Elizabeth Galentine/EBA

That was thinking about benefits in the “wrong way,” he said. “There is a hidden nature to the value of benefits being offered. The reason why most employers … offer benefits is for attraction and retention. But, when you think about some of the things we can do in the benefits arena, you can start to see an impact to a client’s bottom line” by focusing on engagement that will in turn lead to more productive employees.

According to Owenby, the average worker will take less pay for better benefits — 62% of millennials will choose to take a job specifically because of its benefits offering and no other factors, he said.

Therefore, advisers need to have a customized plan to close existing gaps for each specific client, he said. “Very few times does a broker … come in and have good information about what I [as the head of HR] am doing, or what my people are [doing] and what my needs are,” Owenby said. “This point is knowing your client and engaging your account management is really critical. It is easy to go out and get the information about clients you will be seeing.”

Listen and engage
To find out what clients are looking for, it is important to talk and listen to employees through engagement surveys, benefits committees and attending enrollment fairs. “You can get quite a bit of benefits feedback from an engagement survey,” Owenby said. Looking at Aflac’s own internal engagement surveys over the past few years, 20% of feedback is benefits related in one way or another, he said.

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Amy Underwood, vice president and director of resources innovation employee benefits at diversified financial services company BancorpSouth, believes establishing benefits committees made up of a company’s employees is key, as such groups “allow you to not only train the committee on the importance of great benefits, but [it also] allows them to talk to their peers in a way they know their peers will understand,” she said during the keynote.

Underwood also recommended attending employee benefit fairs to hear what employees are most interested in. “That is the only way of how to create a story and that is the story you are going to use when you [talk] to a client and sell … products,” she said.

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