How advisers can capitalize on expanding employee benefits | EBA

Andara Puchino

Ever wonder how to chat with clients not only about the cost of health plans (your core bread and butter), but also how to infuse family planning into the benefit picture? Join the club.

Between greater adoption of technology, a global pandemic and the Great Resignation, the employee benefits landscape has experienced a seismic shift. Each of these factors represent ways we are being challenged to help employers understand the rising demands of their workforce. In dealing with hybrid or remote work atmospheres, connection, communication and education will continue to shift how employees view their benefits.

For decades, the benefits package centered around run-of-the-mill medical, dental and vision insurance plans with employer-paid life and disability coverage tossed in as a sweetener. More than 10 years ago, it was extremely rare — and in some cases, even taboo —to have a conversation about fertility benefits, pet insurance and mental health.

Read more: How advisers can help clients create a hybrid workplace that works

This is not all bad, though. While the definition of employee benefits has shifted and expanded, it creates more of an opportunity for advisers to provide value to employer clients each and every month. I believe the new definition of employee benefits is the true benefit of being an employee. Essentially, this concept breaks down into three sections — all of which I will tie to this shifting definition:

Benefit products
This category involves the financial aspects and purchasing mechanisms that provide employees with access to care such as health, dental, vision, life and disability plans, as well as pet insurance and much more.

How has this contributed to the shift? More employers are offering additional insurance-based offerings to help customize or personalize choices. The expanded menu allows them to better compete for the best talent by rounding out a comprehensive benefit program.

Culture and perks
This speaks to the hearts and minds of employees. I would argue that organizational culture is indeed part of the overall benefit of being an employee. While culture and perks are two completely different focal points, the perks that are offered help protect and promote the culture in which organizations work so hard to uphold.

Read more: When it comes to perks and company culture, beware of style over substance

How has this contributed to the shift? Now that we’re all dealing with remote or hybrid workforces, ensuring employees are singing from the same song sheet is increasingly difficult. The culture factor is more prevalent today due to the Great Resignation since our current workforce want to feel as though they are making an impact and are part of something greater than themselves.

Lifestyle benefits
Under this emerging area, we can focus on solutions that help employees beyond the insurance perspective. So-called lifestyle benefits may include anything from soft perks and unusual offerings to allowance-based programs and student loan refinancing. These are the types of solutions we as advisers can deliver to clients to help not only round out a comprehensive benefits package, but also focus on daily non-work-related issues our workforce is dealing with.

How has this contributed to the shift? In addition to insurance products, employers are now focusing on benefits to help individual employees and their families from a personal perspective. This strategy will motivate people to work more often and efficiently.

The latter two categories are emerging trends that have contributed to our change in thinking about employee benefits. The pandemic spotlighted what was important to individuals, and because people became more vocal about their needs and desires, demand swelled for newer solutions to help deal with day-to-day matters.

This, in turn, is a contributing factor to mental health now being a significant deliverable for advisers. In fact, wellness has grown in meaning to more than just nutrition and fitness and now includes mental, behavioral, spiritual and financial wellness as part of an expanded definition of holistic well-being.

Read more: 4 ways to use technology to enhance the benefits experience

Consequently, once employees realized what was important to them both personally and professionally, it helped spark the Great Resignation as employees sought more from their place of employment. As such, employers increasingly have turned to their advisers for guidance on how to handle evolving employee demands. That’s made life more challenging for advisers. In essence, we have now become solution providers for more than just employee benefits and technology.

The pandemic and Great Resignation have cast a light on just how pivotal the adviser role is to helping define employee benefits. For example, financial wellness platforms are now working through broker partner channels. Think about it: a new SaaS-based tech firm trying to sell a product to employees can find much greater impact by partnering with a benefits adviser who has the full trust of employer customers.

Advisers serve as the gateway, deliverable and solution provider for employers. The messaging and delivery becomes simpler. Our role is now as crucial as it has ever been.

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