I have a front-row seat to the evolution of benefits communications happening in the broker space. Here are five thoughts on how to become even more valuable to your clients next year, based on some of the communication trends I saw firsthand in 2018.

1. Bump HSA education up your priority list

Here are two not-so-fun facts:

  • 65 percent of employees still don’t understand how HSAs work
  • In 2017, 40 percent of HSA-eligible employees never opened their account

When understanding and usage are this low, employees miss out on significant tax savings, and your clients miss out on potential payroll tax savings, typically to the tune of nearly 20 percent.

If you provide these clients with a benefits communication tool that helps drive HSA enrollment and contributions, you can help put that lost money back into their pockets and remind them how incredibly smart and helpful you are.

2. Don’t hesitate to offer your sub-100 groups benefits communication software

Once upon a time, only deep-pocketed enterprise companies could afford digital benefits communication tools. But in the past few years, vendors have begun offering products priced for companies with fewer than 100 EEs and tailored them to those companies’ needs.

So, is setting up a software solution for an SMB client worth it? Isn’t the face-to-face TLC you provide during onsite benefits meetings enough?

Okay, that was actually two questions, but the answer is: It’s totally worth it.

Even when you have a small, attentive crowd and heaps of time slotted for Q&A afterward, benefits meetings aren’t the best way to explain benefits topics and help employees make benefits decisions. No matter how great your PowerPoint is, employees are still going to come to you and your HR partners and say, “Great presentation, but what’s the best plan for me?” For most brokers and HR teams, answering that question over and over again (and answering it well), is daunting.

Benefits communication software, on the other hand, can easily provide reliable, data-driven, customized answers to that question, relieving that particular burden for the HR teams at small companies—which are often a team of one.

3. Ask all the vendors you work with to help cover your benefits technology costs

Insurance carriers are often willing to offer brokers technology, communication, or marketing credits (payable either in a lump sum or monthly installments) to help offset—if not completely cover—the cost of new benefits communications technology.

So what do the savviest brokers I know do? Ask every single carrier they work with to pitch in—medical, dental, vision, life, disability, accident, critical illness…the works. Sure, they might say no. But since it’s in their best interest to support investment in better benefits communication that’s going to educate more employees about their products (and possibly boost enrollment), they will typically play ball.

4. Better benefits communication technology could help you sell more voluntary benefits

By definition, voluntary benefits are “nice-to-haves,” not “need-to-haves.” So it’s understandable that many employees are still in the habit of glossing over them during open enrollment.

Better benefits communication technology can show those employees the true value of voluntary benefits, giving them just the nudge they need to enroll for the first time.

5. Make time in Q1 to evaluate a wide range of benefits communication platforms

By my count, there are more than 30 digital benefits communications solutions on the market, but most brokers are familiar with very few, if any.

As you’re reviewing your clients’ situations in the first few months of next year, make note of where they could use the most technology help, then seek out product demos in those areas to get acquainted with the space. Just an hour a week can go a long way. Also, the insider expertise you’ll develop will give you a leg up on your competition in new business pitches.

This article was originally published at BenefitsPRO.com

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