Employee Benefits Administration Services
An all-in-one solution to manage your employee benefits.
Easily manage your company benefits in our simple, integrated platform.
What You Get with Flock Benefits Administration, by Paychex
Easy-to-Use Mobile Benefits Administration
Paychex’s new employee benefits administration software, Flock, allows you and your employees to make timely updates to benefits selections from anywhere, at any time. This platform is intuitive, making it easy-to-use—but should you need additional guidance, you can take advantage of the in-app assistance tools, including videos and tutorials.
Hundreds of Carrier Connections & Integrations
We have relationships with an abundance of insurance carriers and our leading technology allows us to connect to carriers with all different technology requirements. What's more: we can support your payroll needs through a few options.
Compatibility with Your Existing Broker
Already happy with your current broker? No problem. You don’t have to be a Paychex customer to take advantage of all that Flock has to offer.
Flock helps you simplify and automate flexible benefits administration processes, ensuring accuracy and reducing the chance of human error when it comes to data entry, so you can save both time, and money.
Automate Your Employee Benefits Management
Our automated benefits administration technology can help you manage eligibility tracking, enrollment forms, benefits changes, and much more, including:
- 24/7 access to benefit information for each employee, all in one location
- Online management and communication of employee eligibility, new-hire dates, life events, and open enrollment
- The ability to easily drill down into benefit details via our analytics dashboard
- Streamlined processes to help reduce administrative burdens and costly errors
The Future of Benefits Administration is Here
Experience benefits administration like never before. Fully integrated with Paychex Flex, Flock’s mobile-friendly capabilities help reduce administrative burden and costly errors, while our ongoing support and training features empower employees through the enrollment process. Take a look at some of the ways Flock is changing benefits, including in-app tutorials, top carrier connections, intuitive dashboards, reporting, and much more.
Gain Total Visibility With Up-to-Date Benefits Data
Leverage complete administrative access and control over comprehensive benefits data and processes, including real-time status and eligibility changes. Drive informed decision-making with customized reports and visualizations by department, location, division, or other data categories. Data can also be shared with brokers or third-party administrators and is conveniently saved year to year.
Avionics Company Finds Smoother Sailing with Flock Benefits Solution
High tech avionics company finds way to leverage additional technology of Flock Benefits Administration to streamline open enrollment and remove time-consuming manual processes.
"It has been a life-changing opportunity for me. It was the first time in 20 years that employees for FreeFlight Systems actually experienced electronic enrollment, and it was incredibly seamless for our team."
Offer Competitive Benefits
Help attract top talent and keep your current workforce happy by offering a competitive benefits package they can count on. We’ll help you select, establish, and manage your benefits administration so you don’t have to.
Other Paychex Services
Hiring and Onboarding
Hire smarter with our all-in-one software that allows you to recruit, screen, and track candidates and onboard new hires within the same platform.
Automate your payroll processing and pay your employees with ease. Whether you want to do it yourself or work with a payroll specialist, we have a solution to meet your needs.
Simplify employee management with proactive HR advice to help you focus on your business, plus trusted benefits to help you attract and retain top talent.
HR Compliance services
Get help meeting regulation requirements and keep employees safe on the job with customized action plans including safety manuals, employee safety trainings, and expert support whenever you need it.
Benefits Administration FAQs
How do you offer and manage employee benefits?
How do you offer and manage employee benefits?
Our customers have the option to set up their own benefits packages, but we understand that managing company benefits services and employee plan services accounts, and keeping up-to-date with regulations, can be a burden. That’s why we allow customers to combine the game-changing experience of Flock with the benefits of working with Paychex Insurance Agency to:
- Help simplify administration through payroll integration
- Provide easy group insurance plan enrollment and employee self-service
- Gain access to licensed agents to help you select a group health plan
- Get help meeting the reporting requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and more
What is employee benefits administration?
What is employee benefits administration?
Benefits are an important part of your company’s employee compensation plan. An effective benefits administration service can help streamline and simplify your benefits process.
What is included in benefits administration?
What is included in benefits administration?
Paychex employee benefits administration includes services like group health insurance, retirement services, flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), dental and vision insurance, and other ancillary benefits.
Additional Employee Benefits Resources
Employee Benefits Administration: How To Manage Benefits Effectively
6 min. Read
Implementing employee benefits is a key element in boosting employment satisfaction and engagement with your business. Nationwide labor shortages have changed many businesses’ hiring and retention strategies, shifting benefit packages from a nice-to-offer to a must-offer. In response to this, organizations have increased the benefits they’re offering by an average of 22% compared to the year before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the 2022 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey.
With benefits packages becoming increasingly necessary to stay competitive, benefits administration software is critical for effective, ongoing management of these offerings. Read on to learn about benefits administration, what implementation looks like, and how to improve employee benefit management at your business.
What Is Benefits Administration?
Benefits administration is the process of creating, developing, managing, and updating the benefits program that an organization offers its employees. Once they’ve selected benefits to offer, many businesses will choose to use benefits administration software to help them execute ongoing benefits management tasks in a more streamlined way — benefits reporting, communicating to employees, conducting audits, etc.
What Does an Employee Benefits Administrator Do?
An employee benefits administrator is usually an employee within the organization who is responsible for managing benefits on an ongoing basis. The benefits administrator’s responsibilities can include auditing current offerings, investigating new benefits, and supervising and monitoring the day-to-day operations of benefits programs, such as:
- Group health insurance plans
- Supplementary medical benefits such as dental, vision, short-term and long-term disability
- Workers’ compensation
- Health benefit accounts such as FSAs, HSAs, and HRAs
- Retirement plans
What Is the Employee Benefits Security Administration?
One of the most important responsibilities a benefits administrator must take on is being knowledgeable about federal laws that govern health, retirement, and other benefits. This includes benefits compliance enforced by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), an agency of the Department of Labor. The EBSA is responsible for protecting the benefits of about 154 million participants in employer-sponsored retirement and health benefit plans, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). This includes assisting workers in understanding their rights, protecting their benefits, and facilitating compliance by plan sponsors, plan officials, and service providers.
Part of EBSA’s enforcement includes focusing on retirement and health plan compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which establishes minimum standards for employee benefit plans. A benefits administrator must ensure, among many other things, that benefits plan information is disclosed to employees in a manner consistent with policies enforced by EBSA.
Steps in Benefits Administration
Audit Your Benefits Package
Offering benefits to your employees is a balancing act between meeting employees' needs and staying within your budget. From time to time, it's a good idea to audit your current offerings and review where things stand in this area. While federal law doesn't require small businesses to offer most types of benefits, many choose to offer additional perks to help their employees, and to stay competitive. Here are key types of benefits you may want to consider:
Health care benefits: For smaller budgets, consider health savings accounts combined with qualified high deductible health plans. Also, look at flexible spending accounts for medical expenses, which do not require any employer contributions.
Retirement savings: Help employees save for their retirement by offering a qualified retirement plan. You can do so with no significant cost to you (e.g., 401(k) plans without any employer contributions). A tax credit may also be available for the administrative costs of setting up the plan and educating employees about contributions.
Training: You can pay to train employees on the job or enable them to take education courses outside of work. By setting certain parameters, you can arrange for this benefit to be tax-free to employees.
No-cost benefits: Perhaps the best types of benefits you can offer have no associated costs. Consider offering flex time, permitting employees to continue or start working from home, or other work arrangements that allow workers to better manage their work/life balance.
Offering certain benefits requires you to give certain notice to employees. This notice allows them to opt out in some situations or to take advantage of the offering in others. Examples:
- Safe harbor 401(k) plans require a notice to be distributed 30-90 days in advance of the plan year, outlining rights, obligations and certain minimum benefits, as well as the timing and method for making salary deferral elections.
- Qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements (QSEHRAs): At least 90 days before the beginning of the year, notice must be furnished to eligible employees that states the permitted benefit and coverage requirements to maintain eligibility.
Withhold Appropriate Taxes
Some benefits are subject to payroll taxes, while others are exempt. Be sure to factor in the correct status when reporting on:
- Employees' W-2s
- Quarterly employer tax returns (Form 941)
It’s also important to ensure that you:
- Permit employees to submit a revised Form W-4, which allows them to increase or reduce their withholding.
- Adopt appropriate withholding rates for supplemental wages (e.g., bonuses). The 2022 rate is 22% if you choose to withhold separately and not combine the supplemental wages with regular wages. The withholding rate on supplemental wages exceeding $1 million during a calendar year is 37%.
- Determine reimbursement status. If you reimburse employees for certain costs under an accountable plan, the reimbursements aren't compensation; there's no withholding. But if it's a nonaccountable plan, you must withhold accordingly.
Establish a Communications Plan
Traditionally, companies communicate with their teams about benefit plans once or twice a year, usually during annual open enrollment periods and performance reviews. HR departments play an essential role in communicating benefits' value to employees by raising awareness and providing insight into how programs can be used.
But occasional communications aren't sufficient. It may lead to the perception among employees that benefits really aren't a priority within the organization. Developing and executing a plan for ongoing employee communication can help cultivate favorable perceptions that drive strategic business goals.
Employee Benefits Communication Plan Best Practices
If you don't have an employee benefits communication plan in place, here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you put one together:
Communicate frequently. You can’t over-communicate news about employee benefits. Regularly schedule updates to employees, even when nothing much seems to be happening. Make use of your benefits administration platform to produce information of genuine value. Topics for these updates might include tips from benefit providers and employee benefit success stories.
Consider sending out value-added messaging over the course of the entire year. These messages should:
- Be easy to understand.
- Take little time to read while creating real value for employees.
- Avoid the alphabet soup of acronyms common in today's benefits literature.
- Foster positive impressions regarding workplace benefits.
Examples of effective communications include spotlights on optional benefits programs such as pet insurance, tips from benefits providers on how to make the most of a program, and employee success stories.
Get started ASAP. When it's clear changes in benefits are imminent, begin preparing your presentation to employees. Rumors can take on a life of their own, and once they get started, it's hard to conduct damage control. At the same time, be sure to have all the facts in place before making any official announcement. If a new plan is going to be implemented, you’ll want to answer employee questions as clearly as possible.
Frame the message in a positive light. Employee reactions will depend on how favorably you frame the message about changes in benefits. For example, if you are canceling an established plan, your company should make clear you aren’t cutting benefits across the board. Instead, you may want to communicate that you are providing access to improved benefits that have been chosen with employees in mind.
Don't cloud the message with industry jargon. The areas of health insurance and other employee benefits can be cluttered with insider jargon. Many employees don't know the terminology, so including these terms in your message can increase confusion and uncertainty, rather than reduce them. Strive for clarity at every point and if you must use industry terms, explain exactly what it means.
Tailor your communications efforts. Your workforce is most likely comprised of different demographic groups, with unique benefits concerns at each individual's life stage. One group might value information regarding time off or flexible work schedules, while another might value detailed information about retirement options. Tailor your communications to fit your specific business strategies. Consider developing unique content streams with collateral and communications targeted to different groups, such as college recruits or senior executives.
Use all distribution channels at your disposal. You can't always be sure how employees receive important information, so it’s a good idea to "use a variety of methods to reach employees, such as videos, blogs, social media, town hall meetings, lunch-and-learns, and benefits fairs," says Paychex HR Services human resources coach Kirsten Tornow. "Some workers tend to appreciate more face-to-face enrollment meetings, while other workers may prefer getting details on their devices, with important information delivered in short, concise bites."
Consider the following avenues:
- HR portal: This channel can promote self-service access, automated notifications, news postings, and online tools that are spotlighted every time an employee logs in.
- Mobile devices: Share information with messages optimized for smartphones, tablets, and text messaging for employees who have opted into this communication method.
- Electronic: Reach out to remote workers and multiple offices through email notifications, videos, and online satisfaction surveys.
Offer printed materials and online resources. Producing easy-to-read printed pieces can be very helpful, particularly those pieces that offer side-by-side comparisons of:
- Premiums, projected employee contributions, and/or deductibles
- Lists of in-network and out-of-network medical facilities and consulting physicians
Changes in plan offerings for the upcoming year as compared to the past year Try to anticipate the kinds of questions employees will ask and include detailed FAQs with this printed piece (a PDF version on your company's intranet can also help).
What Is Employee Benefits Administration Software? Key Features and Capabilities
Benefits administration software is defined as meeting the following criteria:
- Provides a centralized administrator dashboard.
- Allows access to a marketplace of insurance carriers.
- Offers an employee benefits portal so employees can access benefits plans, update their information, and enroll.
- Lets administrators create compensation statements.
- Includes built-in compliance checking and reporting features.
Additionally, there are three other key pieces when it comes to benefits administration software: reporting, security, and transparency. If you’re offering health and wellness benefits, benefits administration software can help make these tasks easier for you and your employees, plus more compliant for your company.
Most benefits administration software lets HR create customized benefits reports. These reports can be a big help when it comes to streamlining your benefits process and sharing data with organizational leaders.
- Certain reports help you detect benefits changes during a particular payroll period.
- Others make it easier to audit a monthly medical insurance bill and help make sure your company and/or employee aren’t accidentally charged for something that wasn’t used.
- Reports can help you decide how you might want to expand or change your benefits package for the upcoming year.
A manual benefits enrollment process can make it difficult for companies to keep things secure. After all, we’re talking about forms that include Social Security numbers, home addresses, and other critical personal information.
- With benefits administration software, personal and/or sensitive employee information is stored securely.
- As an administrator, you can set criteria to allow employees to only see data relevant to them.
When an employee submits a benefits requests that needs to be approved, your benefits administration software will make every step of the process traceable, which can help minimize issues that might come up later.
- You and employees will have access to information that the benefits provider shares. This can help keep everyone on the same page and avoid miscommunication.
- This level of transparency can also help explain things like benefits contribution requirements. When this information is easy to find, it can help you catch errors, or resolve issues related to an employee’s coverage.
How Can Employee Benefits Administration Software Help Your Business?
Benefits administration software can help you and your organization stay balanced while you focus on the moving parts.
Although federal law doesn’t require that small businesses offer certain types of benefits, most companies offer health care and wellness benefits to support employees and attract job seekers. And when you use benefits administration software, it can be much easier and more secure to administer benefits packages and encourage employees to use their benefits.
- Benefits administration software can help you facilitate open enrollment easier than a paper system. Most benefits administration software includes an administrative dashboard that lets you view and adjust benefits packages when needed.
- Benefits administration software gives employees control over making claims and allows them to update their information.
- Benefits administration software can help you stay compliant with federal and local regulations, such as those related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and others.
Another major advantage of employee benefits software is that it includes features such as employee portals and self-service menus, which give employees more control over making updates and changes:
- They can manage and change personal information when they need to.
- Employees can update their coverage options during open enrollment, or at other times when they’ve had a qualifying event, such as a change in their family status.
- Employees are empowered to make their own basic changes, freeing up time and resources that would otherwise fall on to your HR team’s plate.
Stay Competitive and Alleviate Administrative Burdens With Benefits Software
Just as important as establishing attractive employee benefits is administering them effectively. Luckily, benefits administration doesn't have to be overwhelming. You can easily manage all your offerings from one place via employee benefits administration software. This technology provides a holistic view of your company's benefit plans, helping improve productivity, communication with employees, and your ability to make well-informed business decisions. Learn more about how your business can handle employee benefits administration more simply and with less hassle.
Employee Benefits Trends for 2023: What Are the Future Trends?
6 min. Read
For many workers, 2022 has been a year defined by opportunity and anxiety. The Great Resignation saw many employees leave their current employer in search of better opportunities elsewhere. At the same time, rising costs of living, especially in healthcare, has workers struggling to balance their work and home responsibilities. Through all this turmoil, the desire to work from home, sparked from the pandemic, remains a high priority for many employees due to its role in helping them achieve improved overall well-being.
Employers are faced with a balancing act. They want to attract and retain top workers by keeping pace with employee benefits trends. The 2022 Paychex Pulse of HR Survey reported that organizations have increased the benefits they are offering by an average of 22% compared to the year before the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, inflation demands that businesses assess and invest their benefit dollars carefully and get creative with meeting employee needs.
As we move into the new year, employers should familiarize themselves with employee benefits industry trends to guide their decision-making. Reviewing the emerging trends in employee benefits and responding with meaningful action can go a long way to keeping your employees happier, healthier, more productive, and loyal to your business.
What To Know About Employee Benefits Trends 2023
- Improving Healthcare Affordability
- Whole Body Health and Well-Being
- Remote/Hybrid Work Environments
- Personalized Benefits
- Family-Friendly Benefits
- Savings and Retirement
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Improving Healthcare Affordability
Of all the employee benefits trends, health benefits that improve healthcare affordability has become a staple. It's a simple concept. A healthy workforce is the foundation of productivity, creativity, and a positive work culture. Yet, the rising cost of healthcare along with finding time to get treatment during a relentless, demanding work schedule can be an obstacle for workers to seek the care they need, when they need it. Today's deferred care translates into increased claims down the road. And it's not just about treating a condition. Access to preventative care is equally important. Employers who actively make health care more affordable and accessible are sending the message that they care about their workers as people. There's another consideration. Employers who aren't offering health insurance are in the minority. Health insurance is the number one benefit offered with as many as 72% of businesses saying they offer health insurance, according to the Pulse of HR Survey.
There are several strategies that employers can use to improve healthcare affordability. In addition to a robust healthcare plan and virtual health care, providing employee health benefit accounts can maximize opportunities for employees to save on their healthcare expenses. Health benefit accounts also provide cost savings to you by helping you reduce your tax bill and control healthcare costs today and into the future.
Mental Health and Well-Being
Related to improving healthcare affordability is providing benefits that encourage improved mental health and well-being. Mental health in the workplace is an interconnected issue and is inextricably linked to physical health. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), depression increases the risk for many physical health problems, especially chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The CDC also points out that the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk of mental illness. It becomes an escalating feedback loop with dire consequences for those who are caught in it.
Even before the pandemic, employee mental health benefits trends were gaining traction. Since then, Paychex surveyed more than 1,000 workers to find out how the pandemic has affected their mental health at work. Around 51% of respondents said their mental health had worsened during the pandemic. Around one-third reported struggling to achieve their typical level of productivity due to their current state of mental health. As we move into the pandemic's prolonged aftermath, recruitment, retention, and productivity success will likely favor those employers who provide mental health benefits.
One of the current trends in employee benefits is providing services that encourage healthful behaviors such as good sleep hygiene, regular physical movement, smoking cessation, and addiction treatments. These types of benefits can go a long way in helping improve an employee's mental health and empowering them to live a happier, more fulfilling life. When workers are more emotionally, socially, and financially fit, they will be more engaged at work and contribute to an energetic, positive work environment that excels in creativity, problem-solving, and a can-do spirit. Consider offering support resources such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), comprehensive biometrics and lifestyle education programs, online resources, behavioral health education programs, and suicide awareness training for managers.
It's worth noting that mental health benefits are particularly important to Gen Z workers. A 2022 Paychex survey reveals that when asked to rank benefits (aside from higher pay), more Gen Z respondents cited mental health benefits as the top benefit that would make them stay at a company long-term.
Remote/Hybrid Work Environments
Another way employees are seeking to improve their overall health and well-being is through finding a better balance between their work and home life. The pandemic has shifted how employees show up for work and these remote or hybrid work environments continue to help them find the balance they desire.
The degree to which you support hybrid or remote work arrangements for your workers may play an important role in your ability to retain employees. In a 2022 Paychex survey, in partnership with Executive Networks, employee respondents reported that job stability and performing meaningful work were the two most important reasons for continuing to stay at their current companies. However, the type of work arrangement and even generation also play a role. According to the survey, 46% of Baby Boomers, 38% of Gen X, 31% of Millennials, and 24% of Gen Z said that flexibility in work hours and scheduling would make them more likely to stay long-term at their organization.
Implementing a remote or hybrid workplace benefits employers, too. When executed thoughtfully and successfully, you can gain access to a larger talent pool when it's time to recruit new employees, expect higher levels of productivity from employees, and save money in everything from overhead costs to fewer sick days.
Depending on your workforce, a one-size-fits-all benefits package may not yield the value for your employees that you are hoping to provide. As employees place higher priority on benefits (aside from pay), they will gravitate to those employers who are actively seeking ways to meet their needs. Personalized benefits is one way to give your employees a choice in constructing a customized benefits package.
One strategy might be to offer an array of voluntary benefits, which are goods or services that are either fully or partially paid for by the employee, but at a group discounted rate made available by the employer. Examples typically include ancillary benefits that fall outside of traditional benefits packages such as ID theft protection, financial counseling, healthy lifestyle programs, public transportation passes, and supplemental insurance packages such as life, cancer, and even pet coverage. Employers then provide a monthly or annual expense allowance that employees use to offset their costs for these voluntary benefits. You can even set up a reimbursement plan to help with medical expenses, remote work costs, or other perks that support your workers.
Between daycare, healthcare, and enrichment programs, the costs of raising a child or caring for an elderly dependent represent a huge financial burden. Add to this the reality that many parents are working full-time, and the result is workers who are burned out, stressed out, and exhausted. Employers are recognizing that expanding family-friendly benefits beyond what is required by federal law is an important trend that safeguards the physical and mental health of their workers.
Paid parental leave, paid adoption leave, and surrogacy benefits are ways employers are extending family-friendly benefits. A dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA) can help ease the burden of daycare or other ancillary care costs. Specialized benefits that support women's reproductive health in everything from family planning to high-risk pregnancies to menopause is also gaining traction.
Savings and Retirement
Monetary concerns continue to headline employee benefits trends of 2023. Financial security, or lack of it, certainly contributed to the anxiety many Americans experienced during the pandemic and its continued ripple effect through the economy. As a result, prioritizing financial goals to improve financial wellness continues to receive much-needed attention from workers and their employers. It's a serious issue.
Financial wellness programs can play an important role in employee retention strategies, according to a September 2021 report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Morgan Stanley. Helping build savings for emergency funds, debt repayment, and retirement are critical elements to a competitive financial wellness program.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Efforts
While not a direct benefit in the traditional sense, today's diverse workforce will naturally gravitate to those organizations that are taking thoughtful actions toward creating an inclusive and equitable work environment. And why wouldn't they? A company that prioritizes DEI provides a work environment that feels safe for sharing ideas and expressing creativity along with a greater opportunity to gain access to training, mentorship, and upward career growth.
Establishing a work structure that organizes itself around DEI is beneficial. Employers who fail to recognize DEI as one of the future trends in employee benefits risk losing talented new hires who could bring valuable and much-needed alternative perspectives and ideas to the business. There are tangible steps you can take within your business to demonstrate your commitment to DEI practices. These include vetting your recruitment and hiring strategies, providing DEI training classes for management, and providing holidays, benefits, and acknowledgments that support different sexual orientations, religious and cultural backgrounds, and marginalized communities.
Offer Your Employees the Benefits They Want in 2023
As employers struggle to hire and retain employees, a strong and strategic benefits package can play a key role in your business's success and help set you apart from the competition. Staying abreast of new trends in employee benefits ensures you're investing in benefits that your employees will find useful in improving their personal and professional lives. As a trusted HR provider, Paychex can help you put together an ideal package as well as provide ongoing, easy-to-use support that benefits you, your employees, and your business.
Having a strong partnership with a licensed benefits broker can be good for your company and your employees. Brokers can leverage their relationships with carriers to help you maximize coverage options and find solutions you may not be able to find on your own. In many cases, they hold the keys to simplifying online enrollment as well as access to real-time program reporting. What’s more, they are available to help you stay compliant with state and federal requirements regarding benefits programs and offerings.
What is a Benefits Broker?
A benefits broker is a professional who provides benefits advice, products and services, and guidance to employers and employees. Employers will use brokers to help them narrow down offerings by providing input and expertise on the matter. Some brokers may work for a health insurance carrier rand may encourage you to choose plans from that carrier. Others may not be tied to a carrier but specialize in one type of benefit. Others may have a larger base of benefit options for employers to consider.
Why Do You Need a Benefits Broker?
As independent professionals, brokers are the bridge between your organization and the vast healthcare industry. Ideally, your broker will work with you to evaluate major insurance carriers, structure a plan, communicate on your behalf, and explain the many nuances to your employees.
Brokers can also play a critical role when it comes to helping your employees become well-informed healthcare consumers. If you want this result, then you want a broker who can readily provide:
- Information and guidance when choosing insurance, including health, life, disability, dental, vision, and more. Remember that not every broker offers the full range of insurance options.
- Compliance information in regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and any other relevant regulations that could impact benefits.
- Advice on how to minimize total costs, including how to reduce total premiums.
- Assistance with employee communications related to open enrollment and understanding their benefits options.
- Help resolving benefits issues, acting as a go-between for the employer and carrier to help resolve any problems with claims.
- Analysis of your existing benefits and claims, including advice on future plan changes and areas for potential cost savings.
- Advice on changes to benefit packages based on employee demographics, previous utilization rates, and pricing models.
- Direct assistance to employees who have benefits, coverage, or claims questions.
- Education for employees with learning tools and resources to help them make the best-informed decisions during open enrollment about their healthcare options.
Choosing a Benefits Broker
Many organizations pick their benefits broker based on their experience working with other organizations that are similar to theirs. They might look at factors such as:
- The size of organizations a broker supports
- Different industries these businesses are in
- The lifestyle needs and choices of other employee populations, compared with their own
While these considerations are valuable, they only scratch the surface when it comes to selecting a broker. Ideally, your broker also has the ability to form a deep professional understanding of your goals, and what you want to achieve on account of your benefit plans.
And since goals vary quite a bit, you want your broker to be an adept listener who can pivot services toward finding solutions that make a difference.
What Does a Strong Employer/Broker Relationship Look Like?
HR must juggle multiple responsibilities every day. That includes benefits administration, which can make it difficult to be proactive about benefits. A strong employer/broker relationship, along with effective benefits administration, can be the key to getting more out of your benefits.
A strong broker relationship can bring much-needed support to your employees, your organization, and your own workload. However, optimizing benefits with the help of a broker is about much more than just shopping for coverage from different carriers.
For starters, it involves working with a broker who takes a well-rounded approach to how you strategize, budget, and design your benefits plan. Therefore, if your broker only helps you shop for plans and is largely unavailable the rest of the year, you might not be reaping the full benefits of your partnership.
Tips to Evaluate Your Broker
The following tips can help you examine the strength of your current broker relationship and set the stage for finding a new broker. It’s a good idea to conduct the broker selection process as far in advance of your plan renewal date as possible.
Identify the Skills You Need in Your Broker
Employers don’t select brokers very often. Therefore, it’s easy to stay on top of the latest skills, tools, and capabilities that modern benefits brokers possess. However, in today’s healthcare reality, ignorance about brokers is not an option. Your broker should be laser-focused on meeting your business’s and employees’ needs.
Also consider the fact that your broker might be responsible for helping you manage a budget that makes up nearly 30% of your total compensation costs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You should feel the utmost confidence in their capabilities when choosing and evaluating your broker.
Be Open to Shopping Around
Changing relationships can be difficult. However, if your current broker is unable to bring you the results you need, shopping around may be the way to go.
When it’s time to compare, it can be difficult to measure how brokers differ. In fact, it’s not always easy to see a difference that will drive you to change brokers. To compare brokers, first look beyond premiums. After all, you may need your broker to be heavily involved in enhancing the employee experience.
Ask for Direct Referrals from People and Organizations You Trust
Be sure to check licenses and professional registrations. You may even search disciplinary records via the insurance commissioner’s consumer hotline in your state.
Talk to colleagues in other organizations about their benefits broker as well. Whose professional reputation rises to the top?
Ask About Network Reach
Find out about your potential broker’s area of focus. Some brokers focus on specific products that may or may not meet your needs. Consider the breadth of the networks they have access to. When you do, make sure these align with the needs and expectations of your employees.
Pay Attention to Other Ways Your Broker Can Help Support Employees
The way you handle benefits communication can affect employee morale, and spur enthusiasm for your benefits program. Your broker can play a major role in helping you execute your benefits communications strategy.
As your broker helps you sort through different plans, they can include employees in the process. This type of back-and-forth can involve open, ongoing communication, interviews with employees, surveys, group meetings, and more.
Your broker can also play a role when it’s time to communicate benefits changes. As an industry professional, they can help reassure employees, and even empower them as time gets closer to open enrollment.
When more employees engage in your benefits program, it can help generate a positive return on a very large investment. Your broker can be a big help when it comes to creating confidence in your benefits program.
Get a Broker That Supports Your Business and Employees at Every Step
Don’t settle for a broker relationship that falls short of expectations, especially when it comes to managing costs, simplifying communications, and maximizing the benefits experience.
Know that true levels of services and professionalism will always vary from one insurance professional to another. However, as you consider your broker relationship, the general rule of thumb is to make sure you and your people are getting the support you need on every level — including costs, support, enrollment, communication, and benefits workflow.
When it’s time to hire a new broker, how well you prepare and understand what you’re looking for can make all the difference. Having the right benefits tools, such as benefits administration software, can also help you and your organization stay ahead.