It’s no secret small business owners have a lot of responsibilities — hiring and retaining talent, paying the bills and acquiring new business rank toward the top. Juggling these responsibilities while keeping up with competition and complying with new healthcare reform laws can lead to some sleepless nights.
Benefits brokers can play a strategic role in helping to address these concerns. By offering a comprehensive benefits plan, brokers can tackle these items that are top of mind with small business owners. Here is a closer look at five top concerns for small businesses, and how benefits brokers can play a role in addressing each. By helping to mitigate these concerns, a broker can become a trusted advisor to small business owners, which in turn will help grow their own business.
Recruiting and retaining skilled talent
One of the most important concerns for any small business owner is recruiting and retaining skilled employees. A valued benefits package is important to employees and can also signal the strength and stability of a small business.
As evidence, MetLife’s U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study shows that concerns about health care reform, slow job growth and uncertainty in Washington have boosted the perceived value of employee benefits. The study found a significant rise in the number of employees who agree that the benefits they receive are an important factor in why they choose to join or stay with a company.
Small businesses today have a wide range of options available to offer a competitive benefits program that is both efficient and cost effective. But greater choice brings new challenges. Because of the number of options available, employers need help understanding which individual options and plan structures make the most sense for their employees and their organizations.
As noted by David Mills, senior vice president and small market leader at MetLife, “A robust benefits plan can signal to current and potential employees that the business is stable, values its employees, and is aware of its employees’ needs.”
Brokers can help small business owners understand which benefits best match the needs of the employees they are trying to attract and retain, and then help design a benefits program that is competitive in their industry, market and locale.
“To create meaningful benefits packages, benefits advisors should invest time in understanding their clients’ needs and demographics,” says Mills. “This allows advisors to recommend benefits packages that are customized to particular employee populations and to demonstrate to employees their unique needs are recognized and valid.”
Controlling costs and cash flow
Cash flow is a common concern for small businesses. For them, knowing where to invest and where to make cutbacks can be challenging, and employee benefits must be considered. When asked about benefit objectives, 88 percent of employers report that cost control is a very important benefits objective, but retention continues to be an equally important objective for employers.
According to Mills, “For small businesses, it’s crucial to find the balance between affordability for the business and the employee while offering benefits that meet the needs of the employees.” Employees are increasingly accepting the fact that they must assume more of the costs of their individual benefit offerings in order to have a comprehensive benefits program. In fact, MetLife’s U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study reveals that 61 percent of employees find this to be preferable to losing their benefits. Other employees, especially younger workers, view it as the price for access to benefits choice and variety.
Brokers can help small business owners design a benefits plan by providing a combination of cost-effective and comprehensive benefits. “It starts with really listening to employees’ needs to ensure that the right and valued benefit options are made available to them. A broker can help with this process by helping the employer solicit feedback from employees and then working to translate the feedback into the right benefits package,” explains Mills. Rather than cutting benefits, brokers can help small business employers explore ways to provide a range of benefits that also keep costs under control — such as through plan design options or cost sharing.