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Employee Benefits Broker: The Value for Your Business

David Rook

Like all business owners, you’re trying to navigate the murky waters of health insurance and other employee benefits. It’s time-consuming, frustrating, and ultimately not a subject you're well- versed in.

In an effort to help, someone recently suggested you use an employee benefits broker. You’re not even sure what they do and you don’t want to spend extra money on them. You've also heard of other options, such as PEOs, payroll vendors, HR software platforms and the SHOP exchange. How do you sort through all of these options and confidently make the right decision?

We're admittedly a little bias on the topic, but we highly recommend you start this process by simply talking to a benefits broker. If you don't know any (and even if you do), gather a few recommendations from your peers within other organizations. Just make sure you initiate your consultation with a trusted broker who is well regarded in the industry and your market. A broker with a solid reputation will help you quickly assess all of your options and will, in all likelihood, be completely upfront with you in the event they aren't your best option.


If requesting proposals from employee benefits brokers, it's important to inquire about specific capabilities of prospect organizations, most especially as they relate to your primary needs.  Download our free guide for 100+ sample questions and scoring template.



Once you decide to move forward with an employee benefits broker, they'll guide you through sound analytical and strategic reasoning for the benefit decisions you are making for your workforce.  Employee benefit brokers are far more affordable than you might think and good ones can be invaluable to a business, paying for themselves many times over in the savings they generate for you. Brokers are especially helpful to small businesses with skeleton HR departments but are equally as useful to well-staffed operations. 

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Topics: Employee Benefits, employee benefits broker

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Is it Time to Fire Your Employee Benefits Broker?

Jeff Griffin

Many companies stick with their employee benefits broker for years on end, not giving too much thought to whether a change is warranted. HR directors always have long to-do lists full of time-sensitive issues, so finding a new broker is typically the last thing on their minds — except maybe during contract renewal season if the news isn’t good (and it never seems to be with health insurance these days).

The issue here is that there is a point when it’s time to fire your broker, but recognizing it when the time comes is difficult because you have a million things on your mind and far more pressing matters at hand.

However, there are some definite signs it’s time to find a new employee benefits broker and it’s important to keep an eye out for them. Here are some of the big ones.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance, Education, Disruption, Strategy

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How You Can Help Your Employees Make The Most Of The July 4th Holiday

David Rook

Many employees feel like they have to check-in with work even when they’re supposed to be enjoying paid time off. More often than not, this is a cultural issue within a company.

Supervisors might be checking-in and sending emails in the evening or on weekends. This leads their direct reports to believe they need to respond immediately, and they may even start adopting these behaviors themselves. 

Yet, research has shown time and time again that workers need frequent breaks and unfortunately, Americans leave a lot of that paid time off on the table every year. It might seem like workers would be more productive if they aren’t using all their vacation time, but in reality, skipping our vacations actually makes us less productive. To keep employees operating in top shape, we need to encourage them to enjoy their downtime — and perhaps it’s fitting to begin with the July 4th holiday. Here are 5 ways to encourage employees to enjoy their independence...and their paid time off this weekend.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Employee Retention

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Employee Benefits Automation; Optimizing Online Enrollment Systems

Jeff Griffin

There are countless online employee benefits enrollment systems out there today. While each is designed to make our lives easier (employees, employers, insurance carriers, payroll providers and benefits advisors), some don't quite live up to the hype.

While the initial transition from paper enrollment to any one of these online enrollment systems typically yields tremendous upside from an efficiency, speed and data integrity perspective, it's highly unusual for an enrollment system to be fully optimized for peak performance at first launch.

Tweaking and perfecting the system in the quest to maximize performance and outcomes should be an ongoing activity within your organization. Most agree that the goal of optimizing these systems is to make them as easy and intuitive as possible for your employees to use, while also guiding educated, informed and appropriate employee benefit decisions for your workforce.

Much of what’s considered “best practice” in online benefits enrollment has been adopted from best practices in eCommerce. After all, enrolling in benefits these days isn't that far off from purchasing something off Amazon, comparing cars at AutoTrader, or configuring a laptop at Dell.

While this list is by no means complete, here are some best practices you should consider adopting to optimize the configuration of your online benefits enrollment system for peak performance.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Automation, open enrollment, Strategy, Decision Tools

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Employee Benefits in the Gig Economy

David Rook

From Uber and Lyft to TaskRabbit and Fiverr, the gig economy is now firmly established as a fixture of today’s workplace. 

Gallup surveys show that about 36 percent of U.S. workers have some sort of gig, and 29 percent rely on an "alternative work arrangement" (as it's sometimes called) as their primary source of income.

With such a strong presence in the labor market, the gig economy is altering the shape of employment. The numbers from Gallup are lower than some respected economists originally reported (and lower than some less established source’s statistics), but they still show that the gig economy is here to stay. Few aspects of employment will remain unaltered by it, and employee benefits certainly isn’t immune to its impacts.

In fact, multiple issues related to employee benefits in the gig economy have already been raised. Moving forward, both government agencies and businesses will need to rethink employee benefits programs so that they adequately compensate independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers, temporary workers and others with alternative work arrangements.

Here’s what’s being done for both the distant and near future.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Recruitment

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How Does Your Employee Benefits Package Stack-up? Our 2018 Employee Benefits Benchmarking Study Is Now Available

Jeff Griffin

It’s considered conventional wisdom that the fiercest competitors can be found in the world of professional sports. After almost 30 years working in employee benefits, I beg to differ.

Greatly exacerbated by today’s low unemployment rate, the competition for talent in the business world today is as fierce as I’ve ever seen it, most especially in the fields of construction, dining, cybersecurity, nursing, and finance, just to name a few. Bryce Harper and Tom Brady have nothing on today’s business professionals in charge of talent acquisition.

As if competing for customers wasn’t enough, companies often compete against each other for the same pool of talent, whether that be within specialized industries or simply within an overlapping geographic region.

In the quest to attract the best talent, employee benefits benchmarking is crucial. This practice allows employers to gauge their organization's position in terms of benefits versus the competition. Some companies regularly conduct benchmarking as part of a strategy of good governance, while others perform benchmarking in response to something specific, such as an acquisition, the need to fill a specific role, or the launch of a new division.

Introducing Our New Partnership & Benchmarking Study

This year the JP Griffin Group joined with United Benefits Advisors to produce the nation’s largest independent health plan benchmarking survey. In doing so, we’ve created the most comprehensive source of reliable benchmarking data for employers of all sizes.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Benchmarking, Recruitment

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Why Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance Might Be The Second Most Important Employee Benefit You Offer

Jeff Griffin

While dental and vision care are typically the second and third most popular employee benefits after health insurance, employers should look long and hard at short term disability and long term disability insurance as "must haves" in their benefits portfolio.

Why? Well, when someone in the organization misses a considerable amount of work due to an injury or illness, there isn't a business owner we've met who doesn't then struggle with the incredibly difficult decision of how best to resolve the issue. 

Not only is the impacted employee struggling with a loss of income, but the employer is also struggling with compensation decisions regarding this individual during their absence, not to mention compensation investments that might have to be made to fill the position left open in this person's absence. 

Everyone is spared these difficult decisions if disability insurance is in place. That's because disability insurance protects your employees from a disruption in income in the event of an injury or accident. (This should not be confused with Workman's Compensation. While they are similar, the main difference is that Workman's Compensation only covers employees for illnesses or injuries which are work-related.)

So let's examine the trends in long term and short term disability insurance and discuss tactics to improve employee participation. 

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Multi-Generational, Voluntary Benefits, Long-Term Disability, Short-Term Disability

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Cyber Monday Slowdown: 4 Ways To Maintain Worker Productivity

David Rook
Long holiday weekends are typically an excellent opportunity for employees to relax and recharge their batteries. While the first day back is admittedly a bit crazy, the backlog of calls and emails eventually subsidies, with one dreaded exception...Cyber Monday. 
 
According to the research firm Robert Haft Technology , nearly a quarter of your workforce will shop online during their work-hours on Cyber Monday. And while 46 percent will browse during their lunch breaks, almost a third of employees will shop all day long.
 

So what can be done about this employee productivity killer? In a nutshell, not much. Resistance is futile, as they say. So here are four ways that you, as an employer, can embrace Cyber Monday in ways designed to minimize workplace disruption and maintain employee productivity.

Sanction Shopping Time
 
Rather than prohibiting or admonishing online shopping throughout the day (it’s going to happen anyway), bring it out from the shadows. In doing so, you might turn this covert experience into something far more social - an activity which can even perhaps foster some group camradery.
 
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education, Employee Productivity

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Black Friday Revolt Continues; Employers Put Family Time First

David Rook
Black Friday has become an enormous "tent pole event" for both retailers and consumers. The day after Thanksgiving has become synonymous with outrageous deals – but also outrageous lines, all-night camp outs, poorly-staffed stores, and sometimes violent confrontations between shoppers vying to be the first to hit the shelves. 
 
For a long time, Black Friday was seen as simply a good day to get a head start on Christmas shopping and save some money. However, in recent years, store openings have crept earlier and earlier, even into Thanksgiving itself, and viral videos of stampeding shoppers, brawls, and even some deaths have contributed to a growing sense that the infamous “holiday” has gone too far. Add to this the numerous complaints from employees on social media and the rise in popularly of online/mobile shopping,  and one gets the sense that the importance of Black Friday is finally waning.
 
As demonstrated by REI for the fourth consecutive year, retailers who take the brave stance of sticking to normal business hours, can not only engender goodwill from their employees by adhering to tenets of their corporate culture, but also, in certain situations, can endear themselves to loyal customers - a true win / win if ever there was one. This year, not only will REI close their physical locations during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but they also plan to take it a step further by not processing online orders during this time either. Though REI is one retailer willing to push the limits by completely closing up shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, countless other retailers have curtailed the practice of opening their doors Thanksgiving evening. In fact, according to BestBlackFriday.com, a record number of stores will remain closed that day.
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education

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Three Ways for Employees & Employers to Save Money on Healthcare

David Rook

Recent news that the rising cost of healthcare in America may actually be slowing is being met with resounding elation by those looking for ways to save money on their medical insurance. For those with high deductible health plans (HDHPs) and other forms of consumer-driven healthcare, this comes as especially welcome news.

If sustained, this tempering of rising medical care costs will hopefully begin to curb an alarming trend, that being dangerous cost-avoidance practices by some covered individuals, which sometimes includes such dangerous practices as skipping medications and postponing necessary medical procedures. (Many have also skipped out on preventative care, despite the fact that most all of it is covered at 100%.)  While in the short-term such actions will indeed bring down healthcare expenses, they are likely to trigger larger problems later on, which cost far more money.

There are much safer and more effective ways to curb healthcare expenses, but it takes a bit of effort and education to capitalize on them. Here are just a few we’ve found. Please feel free to use these money saving strategies with your workforce — and better yet — try them out yourself.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, HSAs, CFO, employers, CHRO, cost management, Consumer Driven Healthcare, FSAs

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