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15 Key Qualities Clients Seek in a Benefits Broker

Insight from HR and business leaders on the most important qualities for a benefits broker to possess.

What do HR professionals value most in a benefits broker? Strong relationships, clear communication, and deep expertise are all crucial, but those aren't the only qualities that set a great broker apart.

This article explores insight from HR professionals and business leaders on what they look for that sets benefits broker apart. Here's what they said is necessary to navigate the complexities of employee benefits, from building trust and understanding company needs to utilizing data and innovative solutions.

Communication and Understanding

Choosing the right employee benefits broker goes beyond finding a good deal. It's about forging a strong, communicative partnership that should last for years. Here are some insights on why clear communication and a deep understanding of company needs are the cornerstones of a successful collaboration.

1. Find Brokers Who Listen and Understand

In my experience evaluating benefits brokers, one of the most important qualities I look for is the ability to truly listen to clients and understand their unique needs. The best brokers don't come in with a one-size-fits-all solution they try to push onto organizations. Instead, they take the time to gain a deep understanding of a company's culture, priorities, budget, and vision for their benefits program.

For example, I worked with one broker who spent months meeting with different stakeholders across an organization, from C-suite executives to HR leaders to average employees. By the time they were ready to recommend a benefits strategy, they had shaped it around what they heard would most support both the business goals as well as the well-being of employees. 

That level of tailored service and expertise is invaluable. The broker becomes a trusted advisor who can provide guidance for years to come. Overall, the ability to listen, understand context, and customize solutions accordingly is the hallmark of a great benefits broker in my experience.

Matthew Smith, Marketing Director, Right Hook Studio

2. Demand Broker Responsiveness

Finding the right fit with a benefits broker is crucial. We recently dealt with an unresponsive one, causing frustration and financial loss on a claim. A responsive broker builds trust by being readily available. 

They should answer questions, address concerns, and navigate any bumps with our employee benefits plan. It's a partnership, not a transaction—and that makes all the difference.

Juan Carlos Munoz, Co-Founder, CC Creative Design

3. Value Clear and Open Communication

When selecting a benefits broker, one quality stands out as paramount for me: transparency. The ability of a broker to clearly and honestly communicate options, implications, and all associated costs is crucial. This characteristic not only builds trust but also ensures that we can make the best decisions for our team members.

From personal experience, I've learned that a transparent benefits broker can significantly impact our ability to provide top-tier benefits to our employees. For example, in our last renewal, the broker’s openness about the pros and cons of different plans allowed us to choose a benefits package that was well-suited to our employees' needs without compromising cost efficiency.

This quality has not only facilitated smoother decision-making processes but has also fostered a stronger relationship between our organization and our broker. As a result, our team feels more secure and valued, knowing they have reliable and comprehensible benefits. This, in turn, enhances overall satisfaction and productivity within the workplace.

Shir Amram, COO, Montana Capital

4. Seek Brokers with Strong People Skills

A key trait to seek in a benefits broker is top-notch communication and people skills. I want to partner with a broker who not only knows the ins and outs of the benefits world but can also explain it all in plain English. Strong communication is essential to translate the options into layman's terms.

A broker who can break down complex jargon, answer questions quickly, and really listen to your needs is worth their weight in gold. After all, navigating benefits isn't just about numbers and policies—it's about people. 

A broker who excels in communication can bridge the gap between you, your employees, and the insurance providers, ensuring everyone feels heard, has their needs met, and is understood throughout the process.

Daniel Kroytor, Founder and Director, Tailored Pay

5. Ensure Proactive Broker Communication

Proactive communication is the first thing I look for when selecting a benefits broker.

It's fundamental to have a broker who responds to queries and concerns promptly, anticipates our needs, and keeps us informed about market trends and regulatory changes. This proactive approach guarantees we can make timely decisions that benefit our employees and keep our packages competitive.

For example, our broker regularly updates us on potential changes in healthcare laws and suggests adjustments to our benefits offerings well before these changes take effect. This forward-thinking strategy has allowed us to stay ahead of the curve, maintaining employee satisfaction and retention by ensuring our benefits are compliant and responsive to our workforce's evolving needs.

This level of engagement from a broker is invaluable as it supports our mission to be an employer of choice in the food and beverage recruitment industry.

Laurie Hyllberg, Vice President, Kinsa Group

Expertise

While empathy and communication are undeniably important, it's just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a successful partnership. In this section, leaders delve into the critical role of a broker's expertise in navigating the complexities of benefits planning.

6. Combine Empathy with Expert Knowledge

I'm an HR specialist with more than 8 years of experience. It shouldn't be a surprise that the most important quality I look for in a benefits broker is empathy. 

The broker needs to not only know but understand the company and its workers' particular needs. In my opinion, these needs truly differ from firm to firm. An empathetic broker can genuinely relate to the various life stages and circumstances of our workforce. I'm not looking for someone who will give me an offer that's so vague it doesn't end up helping anyone. 

I want to deliver benefits packages that truly resonate and provide value. This empathetic approach fosters a deeper trust and connection between the broker, our company, and our employees. Without it, I doubt that a program can be successful and valued by workers. 

Furthermore, empathy in a benefits broker enhances their ability to conduct needs assessments with a sensitivity that goes beyond mere numbers. It allows them to appreciate the real-world implications of benefits decisions and tailor their advice accordingly. For instance, a broker who understands the stress of balancing work and caregiving responsibilities might prioritize healthcare plans with robust mental health support or flexible spending accounts that ease financial burdens.

In addition to empathy, a benefits broker must also possess a strong foundation in research and current trends within the healthcare and benefits landscape. This knowledge is vital for navigating the complexities of benefits planning and ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations. 

An informed broker can provide insights into market trends and new benefits offerings, which can significantly enhance our competitive edge in talent acquisition and retention.

Combining empathy with expert knowledge creates a powerful synergy that can transform how benefits are perceived and utilized within the company. A broker who embodies these qualities can dramatically improve employee satisfaction and engagement with their benefits, ultimately leading to higher productivity and morale. 

Thus, when selecting a benefits broker, their ability to empathize and their expertise are not just additional assets; they are essential criteria that drive the effectiveness and success of our benefits strategy.

Karolina Górska, Senior HR Coordinator, Delante

7. Seek Expertise and Transparent Partners

As a Culture & HR leader, I have had my fair share of relationships with benefits brokers. I'm happy to say that I have found the best one (Kathleen Crawford, I'm talking about you!)... and here is what she brings to the table:

Expertise and Experience: Look for someone who's been around the block (or the benefits market) a few times, with the expertise to navigate the choppy waters of regulations and trends.

Transparency and Integrity: When it comes to benefits, you don't want smoke and mirrors; you want straight shooters. Find a broker who's transparent and has integrity.

Customization and Flexibility: Your benefits package shouldn't be one-size-fits-all. Seek out a broker who can stitch together a plan that fits your organization like a glove, with the flexibility to adjust as your needs evolve.

Comprehensive Services: You don't want a benefits broker who's a one-trick pony; you need someone who's more versatile than a Swiss Army knife. Look for a partner who offers services beyond just insurance procurement, from benefits strategy to compliance management and everything in between.

Technology and Innovation: Seek out someone who's always on the cutting edge, leveraging the latest tech innovations in benefits administration, enrollment platforms, and data analytics to keep your benefits package ahead of the curve.

Client-Centric Approach: You deserve VIP treatment. Find someone who's as responsive, proactive, and attentive. Plus, she knows the value of workplace culture (and encourages Cards for Culture to spur it forward!)—after all, that's what creates loyal customers and employees!

Cost-Effectiveness: While you don't want to pinch pennies at the expense of quality, you also don't want a benefits broker who's burning through your budget like it's Monopoly money. Seek out a partner who can strike the perfect balance between cost containment and employee satisfaction, delivering value without breaking the bank.

With these traits in mind, you'll be able to find a benefits broker who not only talks the talk but walks the walk, ensuring that your organization's benefits package is as sharp as your wit.

Melanie Booher, President and Chief Creative Officer, PEOPLEfirst Talent & Retention Consulting

8. Customize Benefits for Workforce Diversity

One of the most important qualities I look for in a benefits broker is expertise in tailoring benefits packages to diverse workforce needs. This is crucial because a well-structured benefits package can significantly enhance employee satisfaction and retention.

A knowledgeable broker who understands the specific needs of different demographics within our workforce and can navigate the complexities of the benefits landscape effectively ensures that our benefits strategy is both competitive and compliant. Their ability to customize and adapt solutions not only supports our employees' well-being but also aligns with our organizational goals and budget constraints.

Ana Alipat, Recruitment Team Lead, Dayjob Recruitment

9. Focus on Results-Driven Brokers

As a business leader, one of the key things I seek in a benefits broker is their focus on getting results. It's something I always ask: Do they have what it takes to deliver outcomes for my organization?

This is because I need a broker who not only knows their stuff but also has the tools to guide me in making sound decisions for both my employees and the company's financial health. Can they offer plans that align with our company's objectives? Do they provide detailed reports to help me keep track of our financial standing? Can they assist in effectively communicating our benefits to our employees so they can make informed choices about their healthcare? And do they actively help us stay on top of compliance with regulations, both existing and new? It's essential to see evidence of their tools, communication strategies, and innovative plan offerings to ensure they can support us in making not just good but excellent decisions.

Ultimately, the goal is to establish a trustworthy partnership with a broker who advocates for our interests and aligns with our company goals. It's crucial to choose a partner who has strong relationships within the industry and with carriers, as this can directly impact the results they deliver for us.

Paw Vej, Chief Operating Officer, Financer.com

10. Choose Experienced Industry-Specific Brokers

Successful human resources professionals know that having the right benefits broker can benefit the HR department, and the entire company, in so many ways! HR and business leaders should look for a benefits broker who takes the time to listen to and examine their needs, as well as the needs of their employees, before rushing in with recommendations. 

In addition, benefits brokers who have experience helping design plans for your specific industry are helpful, as there are specific trends within industries and business sectors to consider. 

Finally, HR and business leaders should seek out benefits brokers who are open to exploring the use of different technology and online platforms to enhance the benefits management experience and ensure accuracy in maintaining the plan.

Niki Ramirez, Founder and Principal Consultant, HRAnswers.org

Utilize Data and Software

With technology moving at a rapid pace, top benefits brokers need to tap into data and software to set themselves apart from the pack. Here's what our experts said is critical when it comes to technology, software, and trends.

11. Look for Creative Benefits Solutions

When I'm searching for a benefits broker, I prioritize their ability to think outside the box. In our industry, we're not just dealing with typical 9-to-5 office workers; we have a diverse workforce ranging from farmers to roasters, each with their own set of needs. 

So, I need a broker who can get creative with solutions and isn't afraid to explore unconventional options. Whether it's designing wellness programs tailored to our unique challenges or negotiating flexible benefits packages to accommodate our seasonal fluctuations, I need a broker who can think innovatively to meet our needs.

Mimi Nguyen, Founder, Cafely

12. Utilize Benefits Administration Software

A benefits broker should provide access to straightforward benefits administration software. This type of software is incredibly useful.

Consider it similar to your mobile banking app—whether it's depositing a check, transferring funds, paying a credit card, or checking your balance, everything can be done in one place. That's what benefits administration software offers; it consolidates various benefits activities that would typically be managed separately.

It acts like a single platform, akin to a mobile banking app, where you can effortlessly manage benefits plans, handle employee benefits enrollment, and even sync with your other systems like payroll and HR software, all without the burden of excessive paperwork.

Lucas Ochoa, Founder and CEO, Automat

13. Opt for Data-Driven Analytical Brokers

As a business leader, I prioritize benefits brokers with a strong data-driven, analytical mindset. They expertly translate complex employee health and well-being data into actionable insights.

This allows them to craft customized benefit packages that address our unique workforce needs. But it doesn't stop there. These brokers are also strategic innovators. They challenge conventional approaches, proposing creative solutions that optimize cost efficiency while fostering employee well-being.

This blend of analytical rigor and out-of-the-box thinking is what separates a good broker from a truly valuable partner in navigating the ever-changing employee benefits arena.

Adam Wright, CEO, Human Tonik

Strong Relationships

Above all, the best benefits brokers need to know how to create a lasting partnership with their clients. This means taking a direct interest in how benefits packages can help their employees and business goals.

14. Form Trustworthy Broker Partnerships

As an HR team of one, it's essential that my brokers and I can form a partnership. I rely on them for important changes and updates, but also on how to get the best out of them as a partner. 

When I work with a broker who is proactive, leans in, and shows they have my company's best interest in mind, it tells me we are in good hands, that they're “on it,” and they have my back. All the fancy collateral and robust web portals in the world can't replace that sense of trust.

Ali Aguilar, HR Manager, Envisionit

15. Choose Strategic Partnership Brokers

As a business leader, particularly at a consultancy like Spectup, where we value strategic thinking and proactive service, one of the most important qualities I look for in a benefits broker is the ability to act as a true partner in managing employee benefits. This means not only having deep expertise in the field and staying current with regulations and market trends but also possessing a strong commitment to understanding and aligning with our company's specific needs and goals.

A benefits broker who stands out as a strategic partner will proactively seek ways to optimize our benefits package to enhance employee satisfaction and retention while also managing costs effectively. For example, during a recent renewal period, our broker demonstrated exceptional foresight by analyzing our employee usage data and industry trends to recommend adjustments to our health benefits. These changes not only improved overall employee satisfaction by better aligning with their needs but also reduced our health benefits costs by 8%, allowing us to reinvest those savings into other employee development initiatives.

This quality of strategic partnership is critical because it ensures that our benefits strategy is not just a static set of offerings, but a dynamic component of our overall human resources approach.

Niclas Schlopsna, Managing Consultant and CEO, spectup

Final Thoughts

When finding the right benefits broker, HR and business leaders are not simply ticking boxes on a checklist. They emphasize building a strong, well-rounded partnership built on mutual trust and a shared commitment to employee well-being and business success.

Ultimately, the best benefits brokers don't just offer a service; they become strategic partners. They take a vested interest in the goals and needs of their clients' businesses and are committed to crafting creative, data-driven solutions that address their unique needs. To rise above the rest, benefits brokers must prioritize creating strong relationships built on trust and open communication with their clients.

For brokers looking to stand out, GoCo is the ultimate turnkey HR software solution built to enable you to better support your clients. Plus, we do it all for you and guarantee a magical client experience with industry-leading training, implementation, and support. Learn more about becoming a GoCo partner and start referring your clients today!

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