The 6 Best Questions to Ask Your Employee Benefits Broker

April 19, 2017 Tim Sackett

Being an employee benefits pro is usually a pretty thankless job. Employees don’t need you, until they need you, then they REALLY need you. Most employees, and our executives, have no idea the amount of work and effort that goes into selecting and managing a great benefits program on an annual basis.

I think the single most important decision a benefits leader makes each year is which benefits broker they decide will be their partner. A great broker relationship can set you up for success more than anything else you do. A poor broker decision can end up causing a lot of headaches.  

When seeking a benefits broker, it’s super important you educate yourself on what a great broker looks like, and the questions you should be asking when you finally get a potential broker in front of you.

Here are six questions I like to ask potential brokers to see if they’ll be a fit for my organization:

  1. How will you detail claims experience that will justify any rate increase when you deliver our health plan renewal?

The answer should be “Yes,” followed by a detailed explanation and hopefully some examples of what that might look like. I know increases are the norm in health care, but you better show me the data and explain the whys and hows.

  1. How will you help me automate my open enrollment process?

At the very least I need online open enrollment, so they should have a tool or a few tools to pick from to help me with this. Ideally, this tool won’t cost me anything, but based on size there might not be anything I can do about that. I also want to hear how world-class organizations are doing their open enrollment processes as well.

  1. What help do you give us in developing our benefits communications?

Most brokers will at the very least have templates for you to use, but the best will craft these fully with your organization in mind and send them to you for final draft. The tone and language of these communications should match the culture of your company.

  1. What other services can you provide me to ensure my organization stays legally compliant with current laws and regulations?

The best benefits brokers today will offer a wide range of services including attorney services, HR consulting, access to online libraries, etc. Make sure the services being offered are of actual value to you, because while you’re not paying for them, you are paying for them!

  1. Tell me what your other clients are doing, that’s out of the box, to help retain their current workforce and attract great new talent? 

Wait, aren’t we talking benefits!? Yep! And I want to be more strategic within HR and talent, and one of the biggest things that keeps employees or attracts new ones is your benefits package. So, tell me what’s new and innovative in the industry and with your other clients.

  1. When it comes to HR technology, what can you offer me, or what expertise do you have in-house in helping us select the best HR technology solutions for our organization?

Many brokers are now offering HR technology to clients. Some of these systems are better than others. I’m not necessarily looking for you to give me a system, as much as I’m hoping you’ll help me find the best system for our company. If you have great technology I can use, that’s a bonus!

If you get to the point where you’re asking questions like this of your broker, you’ll be in the top 10 percent of benefits professionals! It shows you understand the business of business and the unique strategic advantage they play in your organization.

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Tim Sackett, SPHR is the President of HRU Technical Resources a leading IT and Engineering Staffing firm headquartered in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of combined Executive HR and Talent Acquisition experience, working for Fortune 500 companies in healthcare, retail, dining and technology. Tim is a highly sought after national speaker on leadership, talent acquisition and HR execution. He also is a prolific writer in the HR and Talent space, writing for Fistful of Talent and his blog The Tim Sackett Project. Tim is married to a hall of fame wife. They have three sons and one dog. He is a lifelong workplace advocate for Diet Mt. Dew fountain machines and hugs. 

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