In today’s benefits world, HR technology decision makers are struggling “to determine what’s real and what’s right for them,” says Rhonda Marcucci, CEO of HR technology consultancy Gruppo Marcucci USA in Chicago. But are brokers ready to provide that guidance?

Marcucci spoke with EBA about a new training program that her company is launching this week. HR Tech Track Training is designed, according to a press release, to “help brokers navigate the evolving client service role around HR technology and develop a new business model that will enhance [a broker’s] relationship with clients as their trusted adviser.”

EBA: What is the new product?

Marcucci: It is designed for benefit brokers and consultants, carrier reps and internal account management, and tech provider reps and internal account management. It is meant to help everyone to be able to have what I call a one-inch deep conversation with clients and prospects about HR and benefit technology.

It teaches such things as what does integration mean and what are the questions that you need to ask to understand what it means. It teaches the differences between a carrier and tech provider. There is a key difference, but we see the broker community trying to treat the tech providers like they are carriers.

It teaches the names and vocabulary of all systems in the market. A lot of times people don’t understand there are 20 different kinds of HR technology systems. They tend to lump them all together under something called HRIS. It also teaches brokershow to have a conversation with an employer to understand what their current environment looks like and what they are trying to achieve with technology.

Also see: "Technology Adviser of the Year: One simple question makes all the difference."

It is not going to make anyone an expert, but it is going to give people confidence to have a conversation to ask the right questions and get answers.

EBA: Why is there a need for this?

Marcucci: What we see a lot [is that] people are afraid to have a conversation with a client because they don’t understand it, so they just don’t have that conversation. What happens is the people who know how to have that conversation get that person as a client.

At the end of June 2015, we sat around in our organization and said, ‘We need to start to enable others to have the conversation.’ Clients are demanding and expecting help from their benefit brokers and consultants in this area, and there is no natural place for clients to go to get help.

Where do clients go to get help for benefits? They go to their benefit broker/consultant. Where do they go to get help for compliance? They go their benefit broker/consultant. Technology is tied up in all of that stuff. These days they are starting to get a lot of HR consulting help, so we think of it as a new line of coverage.

Rhonda Marcucci

EBA: How does the training work?

Marcucci: It can be customized for whoever the audience is. For example, we just talked to a very large broker who said, ‘We love this training, but can we add something about what we are doing around technology in our company so people are familiar with that as well?’

EBA: What type of training is it?

Marcucci: It is live training, because we think it is better delivered live. We are happy to travel wherever, and we expect we will travel.

Aflac is our first client for this event. The way we put this together is we are not going to market it directly. It will be a sponsored event. Carriers want to be in front of brokers all the time; tech vendors want to be in front of brokers all the time.

Aflac is paying for three-quarters of the price, while a broker who signs up pays for a quarter of it. There is a 10-minute commercial for Aflac inside this related to their technology and process. We are actively talking to and have a lot of interest from carriers who say to themselves, ‘What can we do for our unique brokers? What can we do to help them do their job better?’ It is not a marketing event; it is a true training.

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