Selecting the right benefits broker for your organization is one of the most important decisions a benefits professional will make. If you get it wrong, your employees could suffer and all that suffering falls directly onto your shoulders and quite frankly makes HR look awful. (No pressure!)
The job of a benefits broker is to sell you on why you should be using them. Many of us in HR and benefits don’t get pitched that often, so we may be more susceptible to just jumping at the first option that comes through the door.
The truth is, most brokers are rarely up against competition when they’re selling you. The normal sale process is: you’re looking for a new broker, you find one, you fall in love, you don’t look at any other brokers.
This puts you at a disadvantage. If you don’t play brokers against each other, and put each of them through the ringer, you never really know if what you’re getting is truly the best for your organization. So to ensure you pick the best broker for your organization, I’d recommend talking to at least 3-5. To help you compare, try to set these meetings up all in the same week, and ask the exact same questions of each broker. Also, make sure you’re comparing them to things that are actually important to what your organization’s needs. These important-to-you items should be decided beforehand, so you don’t get swayed by bright, shiny broker options you don’t need!
Here are 8 questions I’d recommend you ask–and the sorts of answers a quality broker will give you:
#1. How will you help me streamline my open enrollment process?
A good answer: Ideally, the broker will be able to suggest a handful of tools AND some best practice processes from others in your industry.
#2. How will you help me craft my benefit communications?
A good answer: A broker should be comfortable helping you draft your communications with a tone that matches your company and culture–not just send you generic templates. (P.S. My broker actually uses ALEX to help in my communications–and it’s one of the reasons we like him so much.)
#3. How would you help me vet the right Human Capital Management (HCM) software for my company? And how would you recommend we streamline our HR process using technology?
A good answer: This broker should be able and willing to connect you with others they work with that have had positive experiences with their HCM software, or even those you should steer clear of.
#4. What content and services (i.e. attorneys, white papers, HR consulting services) can you provide me to keep up with regulations and compliance?
A good answer: The best brokers will offer you services that are a value add to you, not just something they can throw in that is low cost or no-cost to them. Plus, they’ll frequently share content with you that has to do more about making your operations better, not pseudo-marketing material.
#5. Would you be able to help me review the best resource to produce 1095c to the IRS and then reviewing for accuracy?
A good answer: ‘Yes!’ Plus, an example of how they do this with others they work with!
#6. What are your ideas about how to attract and retain employees in the current landscape? Any trends we should be aware of?
A good answer: The best brokers should have some insights into what others in the market are doing in regards to retention. Plus, the best of the best will also share some innovative strategies you haven’t heard of.
#7. When my health renewal is delivered, will you provide detailed claims experience from the carriers to justify any rate increases?
A good answer: ‘Yes!’ Also, they should be willing to provide some great talking points around this to help you easily share this information with your team and executives in language they’ll understand.
#8. Will you monitor expenses in qualified retirement plans to comply with DOL objectives of fee transparency?
A good answer: ‘Yes!’ And they’ll show you an example up front of how this will look and what you can expect.
This isn’t a complete list, of course; surely, there will be things unique to your business, too The important thing to remember is that your broker should act as a partner. They get paid a ton of money for your business, and you should feel like you’re able to reach them easily and often–and that you’re getting a great return on your investment.
If you’re unhappy with your benefits broker, you should be shopping! It’s not as hard to change you think, but that’s one more thing some brokers want you to believe, so you’re less likely to make a switch!
Long story short: Stay strong. Expect more. And ask the right questions