How to Make Your Employee Benefits Go the Extra Mile, from BenefitsPro’s Broker of the Year

two people at a meeting

It’s been a big year for Ed Ligonde. A former collegiate soccer athlete turned benefits advisor, Ed was recently named 2021 Broker of the Year by BenefitsPro: for his passion in helping employers improve their benefits experience, his dedication to pairing the right health plans with the right employee education, and his commitment to service. 

And if you haven’t heard his name yet, you will soon. Because Ed’s next big appearance will be at Engage 2022 in January, where he’ll be speaking about employee benefits engagement: what’s working, what’s not, and how we can finally get it right.

We caught up with Ed to hear his best advice for employers to maximize their benefits investment, find out what’s missing from the HR and benefits space, and learn how he takes his coffee. Here’s what he had to say.

Name: Ed Ligonde

Title: Executive Vice President

Company: Nielsen Benefits Group

Where can we find you online? LinkedIn

How do you like your coffee? Ha! A bit of coffee with my cream, and a dash of vanilla. 😊

Tell us a bit about yourself and Nielsen.

I’m a former collegiate soccer athlete turned benefits advisor who loves spending time with my family, wine tasting and watching Formula 1 racing. 

Nielsen Benefits Group is a regional employee benefits firm. We’re hyper-focused on ensuring we aren’t just a typical broker, but rather a partner to clients to help them achieve a desirable workplace for their employees.  We’re fortunate to be back-to-back-to-back winners on the list of Best Places to Work in our tri-county community, and our teammates regularly receive national awards and recognition.

What energizes you about your job?

I’m in a fortunate position as I get to do a little bit of everything!  I have the opportunity to lead a team of wonderful professionals who all have the same mission as myself: helping employers enhance the lives of their #1 asset (their employees). We work together to ensure our clients are not just happy, but ecstatic – as much as possible at least!

What most excites you about participating in Engage 2022?

I’m glad to see an esteemed and highly regarded organization such as Jellyvision gathering a group of professionals to truly address some of the gaps in communication we have surrounding benefits.  Education is king, and Engage 2022 is a great way to collaborate and learn from each other on methods to challenge the status quo of “set it and forget it” benefits.

Why is it important for employees to engage with and take full advantage of their health and wellness benefits?

For one thing, you don’t know what you don’t know.  In order for employees to take advantage of their benefits, they need to know HOW—which turns them into savvy healthcare consumers. When employees take full advantage of their benefits, 

1. They know how and where to get access to benefit information, which reduces the burden on HR and People Operations teams

2. They know how to navigate tricky benefit situations, which can reduce healthcare costs and benefits confusion

3. They’re empowered to take more ownership of their benefits choices when they fully understand the robust offerings their employer provides 

4. They save money! Free always tastes better, and better benefits understanding means taking advantage of resources that aren’t payroll deducted.

From an employer perspective, employee benefits are the 2nd biggest line item expense in most cases.  While it’s hard to quantify “return on investment”, we can drive return on engagement.  If you’re spending millions of dollars on a thing called benefits, we should ensure everyone knows as much as possible about it.

"If you’re spending millions of dollars on a thing called benefits, we should ensure everyone knows as much as possible about it."

Which employee benefits and perks should employers be most focused on in the coming year and why?

Family planning benefits, financial wellness and mental health. The pandemic has shed some light on these emerging benefit trends. 

Also worth mentioning: younger generations focus less on salary and more on total compensation, total rewards and personal/professional development.  It’s about the entire package.

What is your top tip—you can only pick one!—to help employees choose, use and engage with their benefits?

Brand and digitize your benefits.  It’s 2022.  Paper is becoming obsolete, and people need and want quick and easy access to information.  Younger generations have less attention span and less patience—so if we can digitize, personalize and brand our benefit offerings, it will give employees the information they need in the way they need it, while reducing HR’s burden. 

"Brand and digitize your benefits. It’s 2022. Paper is becoming obsolete."

What’s missing from the HR + benefits space right now? What aren’t we talking about/doing enough of?

I believe employers should focus on ensuring their benefits match their “why”.  What is the “benefit” of being an employee at your organization?  Not just the perks, but what makes life at your organization more desirable than a competitor?  Having this mission down can help increase retention and onboarding during the Great Resignation.

On that note, it’s important for employers to understand the difference between benefits/perks and corporate culture.  Oftentimes, these two concepts get intertwined when they are two very different things (although they can work hand in hand).  Your perks are what bring short levels of happiness to employees—whereas your corporate culture is about ensuring your “why” as an organization rings true amongst your entire population.


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