Changing Your Benefits Broker: How to Know When to Make the Switch
Your choice of employee benefits broker can make or break the quality of your benefits plan, stability of your budget, and employee satisfaction. So when things aren’t working, sometimes it’s best to hire a new broker. Here’s your guide to knowing when it’s time to change your benefits broker.
Choosing an employee benefits broker for your company is a pretty important decision for your HR team – but you also need to know when to walk away if the relationship is no longer serving your company and employees.
That's because your relationship with your employee benefits broker is absolutely crucial to the success of your benefits (and, arguably, your business!) In fact, your broker’s support impacts everything from the quality of your benefits, to your employee engagement and satisfaction, to your bottom line.
Here are eight warning signs that your benefits broker may not be the right fit.
1. You need to chase your benefits broker down for an answer
You probably see your broker a lot during benefits renewal season – but what about the rest of the year? Benefits management is a year-round gig. Still, many brokers are out of sight for the majority of their clients’ benefits lifecycles.
Sure, your team will probably require the most hands-on support during renewal season, but benefits management doesn’t begin and end with renewals. In fact, year-round broker-client collaboration is a must-have in any effective benefits strategy. So if your broker is hard to reach outside of renewal season, that’s a problem.
A good rule of thumb: Your benefits broker should respond to your queries within 24 hours or less on business days and first thing following a weekend or holiday.
Or even better – your benefits broker should be proactively reaching out to you on a regular basis. Maybe they send a biweekly newsletter with the must-know compliance deadlines and industry benchmarks. Or maybe they put monthly calls on your calendar to review key metrics and strategize on cost savings. Or maybe they just call to check in on how your employees are liking their plans so far that year.
Either way, your broker shouldn’t be a stranger – they should be a true partner.
2. Your HR team is spending too much time managing benefits
If your team finds their time and bandwidth eaten away by benefits admin tasks, your broker's support is not working. A good broker for your business will make managing benefits so easy that it takes the task off your team’s shoulders entirely.
For example, here are just some of the key tasks your broker should be managing:
- Answering day-to-day employee questions and helping them solve problems as they arise (e.g. navigating surprise bills or claims issues)
- Navigating the complex benefits vendor landscape to recommend the best vendors for your needs
- Analyzing key data, like utilization or employee benefits survey responses
- Answering your questions on compliance, benefits administration, or industry best practices
3. Your healthcare renewals were rushed
When a broker sends your renewal information with little time to spare before the deadline, HR leaders often feel pressured to blindly accept what’s given to them. That rush doesn’t exactly lend itself to building a thoughtful strategy for the year ahead.
During renewals, your broker should be sending out renewal information early, allowing you the opportunity to review your plan thoroughly, pose any questions, shop around, and make necessary changes to your plans.
4. Your broker isn’t familiar with your business goals, employees’ needs, or company values
You can (and should) work with a benefits broker who is as passionate about your company’s mission as you are. In fact, that alignment is a must-have in a broker-client partnership; your broker can’t tailor your strategies to your needs if they don’t understand your needs in the first place.
Your benefits strategy and your broker’s level of ongoing support should be bespoke to your employer’s unique situation. From day one, your broker should have made it a priority to get to know your company from the inside out – and they should strive to keep pace as your needs grow.
5. Your HR team regularly fields benefits questions from confused employees
Benefits can be notoriously difficult for employees to understand. And if they don’t understand their plans, they won’t use them correctly (or at all). Over time, a lack of benefits literacy can lead to high bills and frustrated employees.
Plus, if your employees are regularly confused by their plans, your HR team is probably spending several hours each day answering basic questions.
When your employees have questions, your broker should have the answers. Ideally your employees should have a way of contacting your broker's team directly, to answer day-to-day questions, navigate billing issues, and help them make the most of their benefits plans.
6. Your HR team has come close to missing compliance deadlines
On the HR hierarchy of needs, staying compliant is a top priority. And to stay compliant, you need to understand compliance regulations and keep up with deadlines.
Still, compliance is complex. When HR’s jobs get hectic, it can be difficult to keep up. That’s where your broker should step in.
Your broker should support you on all things benefits compliance. They can do that by offering reminders for key compliance deadlines, keeping you up-to-date on any new laws, and making sure you understand what’s required of you.
To prevent any stressful close-call scenarios with compliance (and legal fees of up to $150K for compliance missteps), your broker should have an ERISA attorney on staff to guide you and your team and field any questions as they arise.
7. Your benefits broker doesn’t keep you in the loop on industry insights
The benefits world is changing fast. Your broker should help you keep up.
As a professional benefits expert, your broker should be savvy about industry trends – and share their knowledge early and often. They should keep you up-to-date on new benefits trends and industry benchmarking data, so you can stay competitive.
8. Your broker just doesn’t feel like a partner
Because your broker handles something as essential as the health and care of your company’s entire staff, they should feel like an outsourced member of your team. And as a member of the team, they should elevate the entire group by making the jobs of their HR teammates easier.
If you do not feel comfortable and connected with your broker, or if they have become (or have always been) difficult to work with, that alone is reason enough to make the switch.
Planning to change your employee benefits broker?
With thousands of benefits brokers across the country, it’s incredibly easy to end up with the wrong broker for your company’s unique needs. Just because you chose the wrong benefits broker for you does not mean you need to stay in an unsatisfying relationship.
Elevate your employee experience and take the pressure off your HR Team with a brokerage that goes above and beyond.
Need help choosing a new benefits broker? Our team can help.
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