After an employer’s brand and reputation, employee benefits are the No.1 tool in a company’s recruiting and retention efforts.¹  By offering the right benefits package, a company can attract and keep top talent – and even become an “employer of choice.”

According to Gary Kushner, SPHR, CBP, who has advised four U.S. presidents on health care, 80 percent of companies believe that their benefits package is and will remain a competitive differentiator for attracting and retaining quality talent. Benefits plans are so highly regarded, in fact, that an employee’s experience with his health care carrier can often spill over into his experience in the workplace at large.

With the popularity of consumer driven health plans, more and more workers are faced with having to make their own benefits decisions. But less than half the workforce feel they have complete confidence in their choices.²  This lack of confidence primarily stems from a lack of information and can evolve into a lack of trust, working corrosively both within and without the organization.

Today’s employers are being called on to provide quality information to employees – information that will help workers choose better benefits, along with determining their long-term success.

And as a benefits broker, you play a significant role in the employer’s success.

Are brokers in tune with the changing nature of employers’ value propositions?

Whether purchasing a new car or choosing health insurance, nearly every consumer bases their decision on quality and cost. Yet those enrolling in employer-sponsored benefit plans are often not given enough quality or cost data, hampering their ability to make good decisions.

According to a Center for Advancing Health study, consumers must consider an average of 41 simultaneous decisions when faced with a health care issue. This includes deductibles, copayments and the provider’s reputation. But despite this overwhelming barrage of choices, only about half of all workers feel that all of their questions were answered before or during their benefit open enrollment periods.³

Often, the information is lacking simply because the employer itself doesn’t have enough details to make a good plan choice. It’s the employers that are able to provide better information and more support to employees that are likely to be most successful in the future. And it’s here that a broker can really make a difference.

According to Kushner, as more consumers take the reins of their own health care — and more employers move to a defined contribution plan in which employees can choose their own benefits — the new employer value proposition isn’t about which benefits a company offers and how much they cost, but rather how well an employer provides support to workers making benefit decisions.

How to thrive in tomorrow’s employer health plan marketplace

Going forward, benefits decision-making tools and support will be key competitive differentiators for large and small employees alike. As it stands today, only 37 percent of workers agree that their employer has their best interests in mind when it makes health insurance and benefits decisions. And of those, only 23 percent strongly feel that they trust their company’s ability to provide information and improve decision-making.²

This is especially true for millennials and other young workers. Unlike in the past, when the average person held six jobs throughout the course of their career, today’s consumers are likely to have six careers… and six separate jobs during each of those careers.

On top of that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that today’s employee stays with an employer for a median of 4.6 years.  That already-brief timeframe could become even shorter if an employee believes their employer is disinterested in or unsupportive of his health care decisions.

So what does this mean for brokers looking to thrive in the future employer benefits market? On the one hand, the state of the market certainly poses a challenge. But on the other, it offers a tremendous opportunity.

While most employers feel their brokers provide them with the best options, the majority want even more guidance and advice. With that in mind, the biggest determinant of an employer’s success will be their ability to give employees the information and support they need — not just during open enrollment period, but throughout the entire plan year.

It’s also important to gear plans toward specific employer needs. If, for example, a particular company’s data show that its employees are more prone to developing diabetes, look for a plan that offers wellness benefits and no-cost diabetic drug prescriptions. This can also ensure that employers receive the support they’re looking for from the health care provider.

In the years to come, nearly 60 percent of employers will make insurance decisions based not on the merit of a product, or even on its cost, but on the experience.² By providing an outstanding experience, easy-to-access information and ongoing support, brokers can differentiate themselves with employers and, in turn, drive more business.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation.

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¹ Aflac Healthcare 2025 Insight.

² Aflac “Healthcare 2025 Study.” Conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, and fielded online in the United States between July 23 and July 28, 2015, capturing responses from 1,024 employees and 2,047 consumers.

³Center for Advancing Health, 2010. “A New Definition of Patient Engagement: What is Engagement and Why is it Important?” Accessed on Jan. 14, 2016 at http://www.cfah.org/pdfs/CFAH_Engagement_Behavior_Framework_current.pdf

Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014 Employee Tenure Summary. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm