The Tip of the Iceberg

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Bruce Hentschel, Assistant Vice President, Specialty Benefits, the Principal Financial Group

Recommending employee benefit plans that speak to your clients’ needs doesn’t have to be difficult. But it does require insight that can enlighten and clarify. And it needs to satisfy their key objectives.

As I mentioned here last month, data unearthed through the course of doing business is often the most powerful. This can be from your own block of business or through online tools that compare benefit designs by size, industry or geographic region. One example is the Principal Benefit Design ToolSM from Principal Life Insurance Company.

Business-driven data out of this tool provides unique insight into what’s important to clients. And, you don’t have to dive deep to uncover some patterns. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Priorities: Cost isn’t the first or even second priority among most employers. The first is attracting and retaining employees, and ranking at second is providing a competitive benefit package. Cost comes in at third, but it does become a higher priority with blue collar industries and as the employer size gets smaller.For employers who are predominately focused on cost, a majority offer life and dental insurance, and usually with a higher degree of cost sharing. However, for those who place a higher priority on attracting talent, a larger share offer LTD in additional to life and dental and, in this situation, pay a higher percentage of the cost.

  • Benefits: Medical isn’t the most commonly offered benefit, nor is it the second or even third. Life is highest, with 60 percent of employers offering it – then dental, LTD and finally, medical.While more than half of employers don’t offer medical, they do tend to offer at least one non-medical option (most often life and/or dental). And, when they offer a disability benefit, it’s most likely an integrated LTD/STD plan.

  • Size: Micro employers (under 10 lives) are a little less influenced by the priorities listed above. Instead, they become more focused on providing benefits that employees can use or that help their employees maintain their physical and/or financial well-being.

  • Industry: Employers in the healthcare and manufacturing industries are more interested in controlling costs than those in other industries. Like micro employers, about half of employers in the social services and retail industries are focused on the benefits most employees can use.

As you reflect on your client’s top objectives, keep your view holistic. Their objectives are inter-connected, so when you focus on one goal in determining your recommendation to clients, you run the risk of missing the mark on others. Instead, keep the big picture in mind, but let the data you have lead you.

If you’re not using data to customize benefits for employers, think about adding it your list of ways to reach clients and prospects. Understanding these trends, helps you put forth a design with a higher likelihood of sales success.