What Is an Employee Benefits Consultant?
If you've ever been in charge of HR at a small to midsize employer, you know that managing employee benefits can be a big headache. You have to stay on top of constantly changing laws and compliance regulations, answer day-to-day employee questions, and benchmark your benefits to stay competitive -- all while keeping costs in budget. Benefits can be a full time job in itself (and then some).
That's why a great employee benefits consultant is a must-have for any growing business. In short, a benefits consultant should make managing benefits easy for your employer, both during benefits renewals and year-round.
In this post, we'll explain what an employee benefits consultant does, and how they help employers build and manage employee benefits plans.
What is an employee benefits consultant, and how do they support employers?
A benefits consultant is an employer's partner on all things benefits. Also commonly referred to as an employee benefits broker, these consultants build and manage benefits strategies for employers.
As benefits experts, consultants support their clients through every step of the benefits cycle — from healthcare renewal season, to open enrollment, to day-to-day support — to ensure that employers get the most value out of their benefits spend.
Here's what a benefits consultant does for their clients:
- Designs and customizes employee benefit packages to meet their clients' unique needs
- Supports their clients' HR teams in year-round benefits management
- Keeps clients up-to-date on compliance requirements
- Manages open enrollment to ensure employees understand their plans
- Provides year-round employee support to answer questions and help employees use their benefits confidently
On top of these services, consultants should offer a level of support to meet each client's unique needs. No two employers are 100% alike in their goals, needs, and values — so your consultant's services should meet you where you are.
Creating customized benefits strategies
Benefits consultants assess their client’s needs and budget, and then create a customized benefits package to meets those needs. They specialize in helping clients select the best combination of health, dental, vision insurance, and ancillary benefits (like financial wellness or mental health benefits) to suit their needs and budget.
In short, a great consultant will take the time to get to know your employer's needs, values, and goals, and then use that info to build a bespoke benefits strategy.
Once they've built a strategy, they liaise with the benefits carriers or vendors to purchase and optimize your plans.
When benefits renewals season rolls around, they review your data from the prior year — including employee benefits survey responses and utilization — and factor it into their benefits strategies for the coming year. Depending on your goals, they may also make recommendations on cost-saving strategies.
Collaborating with HR teams in benefits management
The marker of a great employer-consultant partnership is their year-round support for the HR team. In a way, employee benefits consultants are an unofficial HR team member.
HR and benefits consultants work hand-in-hand to manage benefits throughout the year. In fact, a great consultant will proactively take benefits-related tasks off of HR’s plates. In other words, partnering with a broker should lead to streamlined benefits admin (and more bandwidth for HR).
Supporting open enrollment
A reliable employee benefits consultant can make the open enrollment process smooth, organized, and effective.
If you want your employees to choose the right benefits plans for their needs, they need to understand the plans available to them. That's where your consultant comes in. The professional guidance and employee support that consultants bring to the table helps to ensure employees understand their options — so they can confidently choose the right plans.
Helping clients navigate compliance
It can be difficult to keep up with ever-changing rules and regulations — especially for small HR teams at growing businesses. That's where an experienced benefits broker can make all the difference.
Whether by compliance deadline reminders to step-by-step guidance, a good benefits broker helps employers avoid costly compliance missteps. They have the know-how to cut through the red tape, so you don't have to spin your wheels trying to decode the latest healthcare reform updates.
Providing year-round employee support
Benefits can be confusing to employees. And when employees don't understand their benefits, they won't use them correctly — or, in some cases, at all.
That's why your benefits consultant's employee education efforts shouldn't begin and end with open enrollment. Your employees should feel comfortable turning to your consultant with their benefits questions throughout the year.
Ideally your consultant should offer an easy-to-use platform for round-the-clock employee support, so your employees can reach out for help as problems arise.
Above all, your employee benefits consultant should make benefits management easy.
An employee benefits consultant can be a powerful asset to any growing employer who wants to offer a competitive benefits package to their employees.
Get the most out of your benefits offering with Nava Benefits. By melding innovative tech and industry expertise, we make great benefits easy for midsize businesses. Get started here.