Here's what brokers can do to keep their edge

While employers are increasingly turning to brokers to educate them on benefits, advisers stand to gain from extra learning themselves, a new survey finds.

While 84% of brokers believe their companies teach them the skills to succeed at their jobs only 43% say on-the-job training is offered in their office, according to a survey of 750 brokers from MetLife. The insurance company found that most brokers recommended voluntary non-medical benefits to clients, but more than half say they aren’t offered these benefits from their own employers.

Jenn Kischell, vice president of group benefits at MetLife says that while using a particular benefit is by no means a pre-requisite for recommending it, having some personal experience can add a more empathetic touch.

“There’s a real opportunity to expand their knowledge of those products by having those experiences themselves,” Kischell says. “By going through that enrollment experience to learn about the individual product at the point of purchase.”

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MetLife found there was a disparity between what brokers recommended to workers versus what they got in their own benefits packages. For example, while 58% of brokers say they recommend critical illness insurance only 32% got it in their own benefits packages.

Kischell says that these findings indicate there is opportunity to expand broker’s knowledge through personal experience. Although they don’t have to enroll in the benefit themselves, simply walking through an enrollment scenario can help them better see what it’s like from an employee’s perspective.

“How are [these benefits] being displayed to them — during a really critical time when they’re signing up once a year,” she says. “They should think about trying to do that more often, just to be better informed.”

Kischell says while there has been a heavy focus on employee training, it may be time to shift toward broker education. Many brokers don’t have learning and development programs at their own firms, she adds.

“I think the industry is moving so quickly it’s difficult for everyone to keep up,” Kischell says. “I don’t necessarily think it’s 100% resting on the shoulders of the brokers at all. I think it’s a responsibility across carriers, across the insurance industry.”

But employers are still heavily relying on brokers to educate them about benefits, and advisers anticipate this demand will only increase, MetLife found. More than half of employers in the survey consistently turned to brokers for help with cost savings, benefits, administration, compliance and trends insights. To maintain a thought leadership role brokers should “stay updated on trends and expand their knowledge and offerings accordingly,” the survey says.

Kischell says employers have an increased interest in offering robust benefits packages to employees. But if workers don’t understand the benefits they have, then those new offerings won’t be used. That’s where an educated adviser can be useful, she adds.

“It’s really about how do you communicate all of these benefits,” she says. “If you have a large robust benefits package but no one understands that package, you haven’t gotten anywhere.”

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