How helping your clients target benefits goals can reap loyalty and business

The current benefits landscape presents us with a dichotomy. Employers want to cap or shrink benefits costs as employees desire better perks and more of them. This situation creates a unique opportunity for sharp benefits advisers to think more strategically and holistically about their clients’ programs.

We are talking about helping your clients draft a strategic plan for their benefits program. And why not? They undoubtedly have some type of strategic plan for their overall enterprise, right? And who is the architect of that strategy document? It’s likely to be their controller or CFO, and that executive usually has oversight of the human resource and benefits management functions. Helping the benefits executive in the organization to develop a strategic plan will earn their loyalty as it elevates their stature in the eyes of the person in the firm’s C-suite.

We advise sitting down with your client, including HR, benefits and the CFO. After recapping last year’s open enrollment and what could be done differently, ask what they want to accomplish with their benefits program over the next three to five years. You might ask about:

· Targeted employee retention goals
· Compensation and benefits integration objectives
· Executive, full-time employee and part-time employee considerations
· Plan redesign considerations
· The possibility of introducing new voluntary (employee paid) benefits
· Improved benefits communications
· Increased employee awareness of their “second paycheck”
· Application of technology to improve communication and access to information

Bottom line, get your client talking in broad strategic terms. Remember, this is a consultative process. You will be getting great information as you gain your client’s buy-in to a strategic process.

After, suggest a well-conceived game plan or road map that will commit all of management to a longer range plan and provide great assistance in the budget planning process. That can be a key selling point as part of the process. It provides a logical and methodical approach to benefits planning, and makes you their trusted adviser. This will enable the company to integrate the plan redesign and new voluntary benefits. The process also will allow you to provide superior service and additional revenue streams.

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The action steps will begin to emerge when tied to a timeline. There might be a big picture vision statement of what the organization hopes to achieve as it creates a positive work environment and retains quality employees. It will be followed by the planned changes for each year. Break down each year’s changes into their component parts. Factor in projected medical insurance rate increases and employer contributions; cost containment and cost-shifting measures; changes in coverage; deductibles and co-pays options; funding mechanisms (HSA’s, HRA’s, etc); gaps in coverages; new voluntary product offerings, communications, technology, among others.

Lay it down on paper. That will enable you to secure your clients commitment to a direction, and make their job and yours easier. Help with the draft and arrange for the document to circulate among the key executive decision makers for the sign-off. Don’t forget to secure your designation as the broker of record and have the client sign a multi-year, strategic consulting agreement. After all, you helped to create the plan.

They’ll need you to implement it. You’ll have made yourself indispensable as their trusted adviser for many years. Greater client retention; more satisfied clients; and additional revenue. That’s a winning combination.

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