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Employee Benefit Brokers: 4 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd

The employment market is changing faster than at any other time in history. Take just two examples. First, there’s the dramatic shift to remote work environments. Google says its employees will work from anywhere until next summer, while others, like Facebook, announced policies that would let some employees request a permanent work from anywhere arrangement. And then there’s mental health in the workplace. In a recent survey of more than 2,000 business leaders, Paycor found that 86% are concerned about their employees’ mental health (and that number skyrockets to 92% among the leaders of long-term healthcare facilities). Importantly, that same survey revealed that while most businesses (65%) are planning to reevaluate their benefits spend in 2021, nearly half of respondents (45%) aren’t sure how benefits can address what they admit is a pressing concern—the emotional wellbeing of their workforce. (Only 17% were able to identify specific benefits, like employee assistance programs, that could help.) Business leaders are staring down systemic and unprecedented change; remote work and mental health are just two examples. Businesses need help. And if you can provide it, you’ll stand out from the crowd of brokers stuck in the distant past of 2019.

1. To address your clients’ deepest concerns, be an advisor

Now is the time to be an advisor first, a broker second. Chances are the person you’re advising—an overworked HR director, a nail-biting CFO—has been pushed to their limits for months now. Your clients and prospects are fatigued by the decisions they’ve had to make, one right after another, with far less than perfect information. Offices that have gone remote are struggling to maintain their culture and stay productive, without a clear indication of when (or if) they’ll return to full-time, in-person work. Workers who go into an office or factory face another set of issues and pressures around workplace safety, as their managers and leaders strive to communicate clear policies, while keeping an eye on local and regional rates of infection. And then there’s the ever-present concern working parents have that their local elementary or high school may temporarily shut down in-person classes. As a benefits advisor, you can go on a fact-finding mission. Rather than force your client or prospect to make yet more fast-paced decisions, don’t be afraid to slow the conversation down. Seek first to understand the enrollment and benefits issues specific to your client. Then, walk them through what an enrollment plan with tailored recommendations could look like. Show them how the right mix of targeted benefits (like paid parental leave and childcare benefits for example, or innovative wellbeing programs) can help them address the concerns that keep them up at night. Your clients want to feel safe and secure in the “new normal” of work. Show them how benefits can get them there. 

2. Expand the definition of what “benefits” are and what they can do

Paycor found that the right mix of benefits improve turnover rates by up to 138%. In the face of historic disruptions in the workforce, and at a time when everyone is on edge, company culture is more important than ever and benefits play a key role. Beyond their immediate practical import, employee benefits are perhaps the clearest distillation of what a company culture is, what it stands for, what it values. Now is the perfect time for you, as advisor, coach and counsellor, to have that big conversation: what does your company stand for and how can a targeted, tailored benefits package make those values feel real and tangible to your workers?

3. Help your clients communicate with their workforce

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, your clients spend almost $12 per hour per employee on benefits. That’s a significant cash outlay for businesses. And not only is the money an investment, there’s the time it takes to build a plan that can effectively address the needs of the five generations that make up the modern American workforce. After all that time and money is spent, too many brokers revert to acting like brokers, instead of advisors, and simply move on to the next prospect or client. If open enrollment is confusing for your clients, imagine how their employees feel. Without the right education, employees stick with what they know. Here’s an easy and important way to stand out from the crowd: help your clients craft and execute a plan to explain and educate the workforce on what benefits are available to them. Lean in to really make sure the average employee knows what their getting and knows that these options were designed with them in mind. Go a step further and explain how the organization made its decisions—show them the work that went into crafting the program. You may also want to vary the communication, offer in-person conversations as well as online experiences, like gamification and leaderboards that make open enrollment more transparent and social. In summary, be sure to thread the needle. Ensure your clients’ employees know what their options are, get communicated to in ways that feel personal and valuable to them, and ultimately feel great about their selections.

4. Look to the future, see around corners

If we’ve learned one thing this past year, it’s that change is inevitable. As a trusted advisor, you have a unique opportunity to look ahead in ways your clients and prospects often just don’t have time to do. Take federal regulations and compliance as just one example of the need to “see around corners.” Paycor found that a majority of business leaders (60%) predict their organization will be more concerned about compliance in the next 12 months. Surprisingly, only 9% say their HR technology is “very effective” at mitigating compliance risk.Clunky, outdated HR software may be the reason why 43% say they don’t depend on technology to automate and manage compliance. If the business leaders you’re talking to don’t have a plan in place to mitigate compliance risk, it will only grow as a source of anxiety for them. Understand what regulations may impact their operations. Bring that knowledge to bear in your conversations with them. And be prepared to suggest solutions. This will not only help your clients see around corners, but also select the right technology to automatically and comprehensively mitigate their risks.

As an advisor looking after the health of your clients’ entire businesses, you can lead the way. These four tips can get you started and help stand you out from the crowd as a go-to resource and trusted advisor in no time.


By: Shaun Scott, Paycor Senior Vice President of Strategic Channels