Working with a range of white and blue collar clients, Sue Donohue has one clear mission. The senior director of account management for Norwell, Mass.-brokerage NFP aims to help manufacturer, healthcare, higher education and other companies keep employee retention high.

“We're part of helping them attract and retain talent [by making] sure that they have a complete and competitive program,” says the 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising award recipient.

Sue Donohue

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.

Donohue leads the Massachusetts Account Management Team for NFP's three offices in Massachusetts, where she oversees the retention, growth and service of all health and welfare client accounts. She is responsible for implementing Northeast regional initiatives that have an impact of her clients and client teams. Before joining NFP, Donohue was human capital practice leader at Willis and HRH, a consultant at Watson Wyatt and an underwriter at MassMutual. She graduated from Colgate University with a BA in mathematical economics.

Donohue admits that sometimes it can be a delicate balance to deliver top-notch health benefit options for employers to attract and retain star employees and demonstrate their commitment to the health and welfare of their worker, while not bankrupting the employer.

“No. 1, you have to understand what your employees really want, because different populations want different things,” she says. She adds that advisers must understand “what fits in the company culture as far as what it's providing and then you have to make sure you're buying the most cost-effective products that fit all those needs.”

Top benefits
In her 25 years as a benefit adviser, Donohue has seen new benefits emerge as “must haves” for savvy employers. These days, it’s student debt assistance for millennials who struggle with stifling college loans, and paternity leave for millennials and young members of Gen X who are growing their families.

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EBA’s 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising
30 leaders whose unique client management strategies, innovative data manipulation and other industry-leading skills are transforming the field

“It seems like with every generation, there's some kind of new needs and new benefits that are of value, so a lot of our clients really look to offer a number of programs and give employees opportunities to, in some ways, pick and choose what really is meaningful to them,” she says. She notes that her client base range from very small businesses with only two lives up to around 5,000 employees.

Communicating the benefits to employees is a key part of her job. She notes that high-deductible health plans, employee engagement and employee shopping for benefits “requires quite a bit of education and knowledge for employees to participate in those kinds of programs.”

She adds, “A lot of our clients are looking to better educate their workforce so they can make the best choices around their health plans and healthcare options, not only in terms of price but also in quality. Not only what is being offered but also how to best access benefits at the time of need.”

Data is key. Donohue looks at monthly data of overall healthcare expenses to see how employees are using their plans. “Oftentimes, that data can help us and our clients lead us to a path of what are people really looking for or what they are using and how could we impact them in a positive way by giving them access to additional information,” she says.

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