The Affordable Care Act has changed the benefits game forever. Even if a ‘repeal and replace’ happens; the enormous shove from the government has changed the health benefits world forever.

From an adviser perspective, some were reluctant to get in front of the change, while others grabbed technology and built their own private exchange with the ‘if we build it, they will come’ mentality, while yet others seem to have played the transition nearly perfectly, positioning to thrive in this new frontier.

From an engagement perspective, where does that leave the average benefit broker these days? Even for small cases under 50, they are likely light years beyond 2010, when many were stuck in the Groundhog Day presentations, where group meetings felt more like an Econ lecture from a big screen Chicago teacher. (Bueller?….Bueller?).

There’s a lot of information out there about engaging employees, especially those pesky millennials that everyone is still trying to understand (even the millennials). But, what is definitive, is that perception is reality and if you can change a client’s perception of employee education and engagement, then you can quickly change your professional reality.

Consider: Businesses offer benefits for a reason:

Benefits are a massive company investment and your client should expect a ROI. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the cost of private sector benefits around 30% of employee total compensation — invested for the promise of employee attraction, retention, morale, job performance, etc., — and all of which play into profitability.

For a retention measurable, the cost of turnover varies by source; some rate it at six months’ salary, while others cite it at two times annual salary. Regardless, turnover has a significant cost.

Employees overall don’t understand current company benefits: So, maybe 30% of employee investment is wrapped up in benefits, and then a couple top-line stats like these hit you:

  • 90% of employees say that they choose the same benefit options year over year. (If you have ever tried to drive HSA participation, you have seen this in action)
  • Only 34% said that they completely understood their emergency room coverage (although ER utilization drives rates)
  • Only 25% completely understand how coverage works for their spouse/partner/dependents.
  • 73% said that their employers have communicated benefit information two times or less in the last year. (Remember this is 30% of your clients employee compensation investment, and one of their greatest expenses.)
  • A majority of employees would likely accept a job with lower pay, but better benefits (most admit to not understanding what benefits are currently being offered.)
  • Over 40% said that a well communicated benefits package would make them less likely to leave their job.

Engage to maximize and grow your book—

Anyone can send out some information and set up an enrollment website — differentiate your firm.

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"Engage your clients. Engage their employees. Don’t get stuck in a routine."

Don’t sacrifice tomorrow for today.

Start at the beginning and make sure that the process with your current book is solid. There is no reason to bring clients in the front door when you are losing existing clients out the back door due to a lack of follow through and commitment.
Don’t be afraid to invest and challenge what has ‘worked.’

The investment doesn’t have to be substantial, or financial, and any investment done correctly will have great returns per client. ‘Worked’ is relative. Don’t allow yourself to be passive. Someone is prospecting your clients as you read this. Protect your business. Grow your business.

Find the right prescription. You probably won’t find a one-size-fits-all.

Your investment can vary from an employee engagement department (that’s the small case future, by the way), to software, to enrollment firm/third party assistance, to planning, or a greater personal role in the process.

It’s not an ‘implement and walk away’, it’s a relationship. Schedule dates. How many clients have you lost because you ‘stopped dating’? (figuratively) From a literal standpoint, you work with people you trust. You trust people that you get to know and see regularly, those partners who have your best interest at heart. A relationship must be deeper than a renewal meeting.

I have seen so many group benefit brokers challenge the incumbent who appeared to be taking a client for granted. The clients’ decision, often hinged on which broker seemed to have their best interest at heart, and that was generally manifest by a strongly communicated long term strategy and the brokers’ willingness to be present and active in a manner that the incumbent hadn’t demonstrated in their several years of client service.

Engage your clients. Engage their employees. Don’t get stuck in a routine. Focus on the relationship and partner with your client. Reap the rewards.

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