As the challenges mount for benefits advisers to prove their value to clients, one of the main questions I think we should consider is can we help HR? And if so, how? What are the solutions that help HR be more effective to their organizations? Is it possible that benefits advisers might be able to help HR have a more strategic “seat at the table”?
I believe that we must help HR and there has never been a better time than now. However, I'm not so sure that most benefits shops have gone about helping HR in an effective way.
Yes, of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part the help has been to provide them with tactical services. This creates a paradigm where HR wants much more and, in contrast, the benefits shop feels good about giving away some tactical service for free or a small fee.
There are several more strategic, less tactical ways that advisers might actually help HR. Here are three that I see as the most valuable in today's environment:
- Employee engagement. There has been a lot of attention paid to employee engagement (at least on the RSS feeds that I read!) or the lack thereof. Increasing employee engagement in organizations is a strategic objective for most if not all companies. If the average employer's payroll efficiency, their return on investment for dollars spent on salary/wages, is a mere 63% then it is no wonder that HR departments have been analyzing ways to improve employee engagement. If we can all agree that employers want to understand levels of engagement and improve upon the average results most employers ‘enjoy’, then helping construct effective engagement programs collaboratively with HR is one way to provide a real solution.
- Return on Human Capital, NOT Employee Benefits. As the cost of benefits continue to skyrocket, HR teams want and need help in re-thinking their approach to the traditional benefits paradigm (we pay a lot of money and our employees don’t understand it or appreciate it). Rather than looking at benefits as simply a cost to the organization, advisers need to help HR teams think about employee benefits as a part of their strategy for overall return on human capital. When re-constructed in those terms HR can develop measurements for the major investments organizations make in their employees.
- Platform for HR to communicate to other executives. One of the reflections I’ve had after working with HR teams and other executives is that there needs to be a more effective communication platform between the two parties. Often times HR is so busy doing the day-to-day work it is difficult for them to find time to communicate the strategic work they are also doing. Simple steps can be taken to make sure the other execs know the strategic work HR is doing, like using a scorecard or some other kind of reporting method. Actually doing the communication on a consistent basis is (obviously) imperative.
These suggestions, on the one hand, are about meeting your client where they’re at – a novelty! – and, on the other hand, part helping them implement best practices. Instead of bemoaning our current plot, let’s actively engage our HR counterparts in a broader conversation about engagement, human capital, and communication.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Lacher, CIC, leads the Employee Benefits and Consulting divisions of Lacher & Associates, a second-generation firm located outside Philadelphia. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkLacher and @Lacherinsurance.
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