Arrow Benefits Group (ABG) has launched a division that offers the Spanish-speaking employee populations it serves hands-on benefits selection guidance in their native language.

Named Alianza (which means alliance in English), the group includes a team of six benefit specialists and two HR support staffers who are fluent in Spanish and understand Latin culture. With this new service, Spanish-speaking employees and their families can call in, text or email questions concerning their benefits offerings and receive a direct response.

Alianza is staffed with benefits experts as well as Spanish speakers because ABG has learned over time that while explaining benefit coverage in an employee’s native language is helpful, for true engagement additional support is needed. For example, in order to make good benefits selections or to utilize their benefits properly, employees need explanations for basic plan concepts and various insurance terms. Otherwise, they’re still left in the dark.

“Our clients definitely see a difference,” reports Rosario Avila, who heads up the new division.

tABG, a United Benefit Advisors partner and the third largest benefits firm in the North Bay outside of San Francisco, formed Alianza to break through language and culture barriers, and close the gap in education and services, for a large, yet historically underserved employee demographic. The division also emphasizes employee confidentiality, given that many Spanish-speaking employees aren’t comfortable disclosing personal information directly to their employer.

Among ABG’s approximately 1,400 clients, around 20% are expected to need the new service, and as many as 60% among its food growing and wine producing clients in and around the Napa Valley. Objectives include raising plan participation, benefits utilization and employee morale, as well as freeing client HR departments from a variety of labor-intensive tasks.

Landing new clients

For ABG, the service is proving to be a game changer and has been instrumental in landing new accounts. A case in point is Cristina Rodriguez, the HR manager at Honig Vineyard & Winery. Alianza, she says, was the primary reason ABG was brought on board.

Rodriguez already had a relationship with Avila, who used to work for Honig’s previous benefits manager. When that broker decided to end its Spanish-speaking services, ABG hired Avila in time to manage Honig’s annual benefits enrollment.

Half of the vineyard’s 42 employees make use of the Spanish-speaking service, which allows them “to absorb more of the information that is given to them,” says Rodriguez, who notes that this year Honig’s entire workforce enrolled in its benefits program.

Another advantage to working with Alianza, is the emphasis the group puts on working with an employee’s dependents. For instance, when the wife of an employee takes their children to a doctor, she may call for information about co-pays, deductibles or a change in insurance carrier. “And sometimes,” laughs Avila “it’s the children that we end up speaking with because the parent thinks that they’re not going to be able to understand what we’re saying.”