How to build a winning benefits plan for your clients in 2020

Delivering greater value and positioning yourself to be your client’s human capital management adviser is no easy task. You need to go beyond being perceived as the point of access to benefits product information and services and transcend your client’s expectations.

The best way we know to do that is to create a multiyear benefits strategic plan. Now is the perfect time of year to initiate such discussions with your existing clients and prospects. It is a powerful planning process that will enable you to guide your clients’ benefits planning for the future.

A benefits strategic plan articulates how the benefits program will continue to support the attainment of the overall business plan and corporate objectives. It will explain how the benefits component fits into the total compensation plan and provides rewards and incentives to employees to achieve the corporation’s goals. By using a strategic planning process as a tool, you will establish greater credibility with your client’s senior management and elevate your interaction to that of a trusted adviser. There are tools that can assist you and like anything else, a little bit of experience goes a long way. And in no time, you will be wondering why you didn’t start using this approach years ago.

For many businesses, the corporate strategic plan is a “roadmap” for how the entity will conduct its business affairs. In most firms, the chief financial officer is the author and repository of this important plan document. The CFO generally also oversees the human resource, compensation and benefits functions. This is likely true for most of your clients and prospects as well. Logically, the CFO is accustomed to preparing strategic documents to help steer the enterprise. That’s why creating a multi-year strategic plan for the benefits program is such a logical fit. The CFO will find it highly relevant and engaging. So think about this in the context of your points of contact at client firms and see how this approach will dove-tail with the entire enterprise planning process. This will get you connected with the CFO, president, or CEO faster than any other marketing strategy you may have ever tried.

Here’s a winning action plan outline that is designed to stimulate your thinking:

• During the next 30 to 45 days, review and assess the prior and current year’s benefits offering, the enrollment process utilized and the overall results.
• Note any appropriate changes and lay the groundwork for future benefits decisions.
• Propose the development of a three- to five-year strategic plan to the pertinent decision-makers at your client or prospect organization.
• Encourage HR, benefits, finance and members of the C-suite to participate. If possible, get the CFO involved in the process.
• If you are not the broker of record, this is your way to get “inside the tent.” Raise your clients’ expectations about the services a “benefits adviser” should be providing.
• The strategic plan needs to address your client’s key organizational goals (each firm’s goals may be different and therefore key elements will be different in each strategic plan).
• Schedule a brainstorming session with your client to get all the issues out on the table. Your role will be that of facilitator. Employ a consultative approach.
• Use the topics below to get the discussion started. Facilitate a high level discussion about your client’s organizational goals. Potential sample topics include:

- Target employee retention goals
- Compensation and benefits integration objectives
- Benefits options for executives, full-time and part-time employees
- Budget forecasts for premium increases for group health insurance
- Contingency plans should those premium increase targets be exceeded
- Plan redesign considerations
- Creation of coverage gaps and discussion regarding how to fill those gaps
- Consideration of the intelligent integration of voluntary benefits
- Improving employee benefits communications and how to pay for it
- Leveraging technology (if appropriate) and how to pay for it
- And any number of other topics that are relevant to your client’s current circumstances

Ultimately, from the notes, a strategic roadmap will be created. It will be a written document that maps out what the organization wants to accomplish during the strategic plan period (three-, four- or five-year timeframe). Make sure that it includes a section for executive sign off and approval on the plan document. Secure the buy-in and commitment of all relevant constituencies and put yourself in the driver’s seat.

The creation of a benefits strategic plan document is a win-win for you and your client. In the process, you will have made yourself an invaluable resource to your client or prospect. After all, you co-authored the benefits strategic plan. Additionally, you can charge a consulting fee for facilitating the strategy session and developing the written plan document, so you will be adding a revenue stream to your business. Some advisers we know are using benefits strategic planning to morph a portion of their practice to a consultancy model. Now that’s a winning marketing and client retention strategy.

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