8 Tips for Hiring a First-Rate Employee Benefits Broker

Key Points:

  • Benefits make up a significant portion of your labor expenses. You want a broker who will handle them effectively. Unfortunately, few organizations properly assess brokers to make sure they’re hiring the right one. 
  • You can compare brokers to get the best plans, rates, and quality of service for your specific business.
  • Once you’ve made a hiring decision, review your broker’s performance regularly to ensure they’re still meeting your needs.

If you need to hire a new employee, you probably use a rigorous selection process to find the best candidate. You review multiple resumes, schedule interviews, and ask a variety of questions. After all, you’re going to depend on this person’s work, give them a salary, and take the time to train them. You want to make sure they’re worth the investment. New benefits brokers are a lot like new employees: it’s important to take your time and hire the right one. 

What does an employee benefits broker do?

An employee benefits broker helps you choose and manage employee benefits while negotiating the best rates, offering assistance with claims, and keeping up with current trends and healthcare legislation. 

Employee benefits brokers are critical to securing good benefits, but only 10% of employers use the same rigor when hiring a broker as they do when hiring a new employee. Ultimately, this can lead to unsatisfactory benefits management and financial repercussions. 

Whether you’re seeking your first employee benefits broker or a replacement for your current one, these tips can help you find the one who’s the best fit you.

1. Find a benefits broker familiar with your needs

There are a lot of brokers out there, but the best one for you depends on your organization and your specific needs. Your broker should specialize in your organizational size range and geographic location. Your broker should also have a broad understanding of the many types of insurance out there. For instance, if you’re considering Medical, Life, and Disability plans, your broker should be able to answer your questions on each topic. This way you won’t have to bounce around from one broker to the next to get all your answers. 

2. Check your benefits broker’s certifications

Confirm that your broker is licensed and has the necessary liability coverage. A license doesn’t guarantee their skill level, but it does show that they’ve been trained and educated in benefits administration. If you do business in multiple states, make sure your broker is licensed to conduct business in each region.

If you’re ever unsure about your broker’s legitimacy, there are several online programs you can consult. On these platforms, you can view the profiles of individual brokers and firms, along with their certifications and any awards or disciplinary events on their records. While these programs are fairly comprehensive, they don’t include every single broker. If you can’t find yours, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t legitimate. You may just need to consult additional sources.

3. Request pay transparency

Different brokers earn wages differently. Some are paid by insurance companies through commissions they earn on sales. Others charge a flat fee that’s dependent on the number of employees their client has. Regardless of how they earn their money, your broker should be transparent about any payments they receive from vendors and carriers. This way, you’ll know if your broker receives compensation or bonuses above their base premium commission. If they do, ask them if that extra money will be used to expand their services.

4. Choose questions to ask your employee benefits broker

Once you’ve determined which services and plans you want, understand how your broker provides them. Ask your broker: 

  • Do you work with benefits analysts or other agencies?
  • What does your timeline for open enrollment look like?
  • How do you handle employee benefits and necessary changes on a day-to-day basis? 

If your broker works alone, ask them: 

  • Will I still get assistance if you’re sick or on vacation? If so, who will help me? 
  • Does this person have the necessary qualifications?  

If your broker works with a firm or a group, ask them: 

  • Is there a specific individual who will be responsible for my organization? 
  • Who will replace them if they’re out of the office? 

If your broker doesn’t have someone to take over for them when they’re out of the office, you might not have the most reliable service.

5. Confirm your broker’s knowledge of legislation & marketplace trends

Changes or additions to healthcare legislation can affect benefits and your employees’ coverage. Your broker should be aware of any revisions to legislation on the federal, state, and local levels so they can update your existing plans as needed.

The right broker should also be up to date with technology trends that you can use to simplify your benefits administration and other HR processes (such as integrated HRIS!). 

6. Make sure your employees have support during open enrollment

Nowadays, many employees can compare benefits plans and enroll on their own. Whether your employees have this power or not, they’ll probably still have questions about their options and which plan is best for them. 

Your broker should be available to answer their questions, assist with claims, and offer advice during open enrollment. Brokers who provide these services are often worth the investment, as they make your employees’ lives easier and save you from answering the questions yourself. 

7. Make sure your HR team has the support they need

Ideally, your broker should be easy to reach and quick to respond. As your benefits expert and primary resource, you want to make sure you can get in touch with them whenever you need to, especially if you have a pressing concern or time-sensitive issue. 

You might also need help with compliance and benefits administration, so make sure your broker is familiar with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), and other regulations. Your broker can’t assume responsibility for your compliance, but they can offer the support, resources, and advice you may need.

8. Review your broker’s performance every year 

A good broker will secure the best rates for you from the get-go. A great broker will continue to negotiate the best rates for you year after year. Even if you’re satisfied with your current plans, a broker should constantly be on the lookout for better deals. 

At the end of each year, sit down and review your broker’s performance the same way you would conduct a performance review for an employee. Are you getting the best deals? Is your broker responsive and accessible? Are your employees satisfied with their coverage? 

If you answer no to any of these questions, or if any of the previous tips don’t match your current experience, it may be time to find a new broker. 

Using An HRIS Provider As Your Broker

For an affordable solution that doesn’t sacrifice quality or expertise, you can work with an HRIS provider that doubles as a licensed benefits broker. These providers offer comprehensive plans and benefits administration with an integrated HR solution.

Sentric is one such provider. We partner with national and regional carriers like Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Highmark, and UPMC to give you access to benefits from Medical, Dental, and Vision to Cancer Insurance, Disability, and Retirement. 

Your Benefits Broker Matters

Like job applicants, every broker is different. You’ll find the right fit for your organization only if you take the time to explore your options and clearly define the services you want. After all, your benefits broker is responsible for about 30% of your organization’s total expenses, making it important to find one who’s worth the investment. 

Speak with one of our benefits experts to learn more about how Sentric can get you the best plans and rates while streamlining your overall HR experience.

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