EMPLOYEE BENEFITS BROKERAGE FIRMS: WHAT TO EXPECT

If you're looking for a new benefits package for your employees but don't know where to start, a good quality employee benefits brokerage firm might be just what you've been seeking. Such firms aim to deliver leading-edge benefit solutions to meet the ever-changing needs of employers and employees.

If you work with an experienced and reputable benefits broker, you can benefit from strong relationships the broker has built with health care and insurance companies over the years, which enables them to deliver highly competitive services and cost-effective financial arrangements. You may even establish a relationship with the broker that launches into an ongoing arrangement.

At HCM Benefits, Inc., one of the largest full-service brokerage firms in the United States, the firm views itself as an extension of its clients' human resource and finance departments. HCM looks at all pertinent areas of their clients' operations, evaluates options, recommends the best possible course of action - and, perhaps most importantly, plays a proactive, hands-on role in effecting positive results. Quality employee benefits brokerage firms such as HCM are staffed by executives who participate on many professional and legislative advisory boards, positioning their companies at the leading technical edge of the industry. The best firms will also conduct ongoing research in risk reduction, benefit design, cost containment, and other issues affecting employers. As a result, such firms' clients are the first to learn about the latest developments and innovations in group benefits.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

When selecting your employee benefits brokerage firm, it is important that you check to see that the firms you are reviewing can truly serve the needs of you and your employees. Maybe you've had a long relationship with a firm but are unhappy with the services they have provided. There are several things to look for when shopping for a good broker or evaluating your current firm.

Does the firm in question provide objective counsel in the design, funding, and administration of group benefit plans? Do they negotiate effectively on your behalf with health care providers, insurance carriers, and administrative service companies.

Here is a list of some of the things to look for. The best brokerage firms will:

? Comprehensively design and implement group benefit plans

? Deliver in-depth financial analysis and management

? Evaluate employee satisfaction and the competitiveness of your benefit plans

? Provide employee communications services and enrollment support

? Evaluate the capabilities of provider organizations

? Assist legal counsel

? Monitor and interpret legislation

A good employee brokerage firm will believe that each organization is unique. Your business goals and objectives, your management style, and the attitudes of your employees distinguish you from other companies and it is important for the firm that helps to establish your benefits package to understand that. Each company's needs require special analysis. Firms such as HCM apply an approach that is solution based. Through an intricate and tailored analysis, they can anticipate and shape an action plan to address these issues quickly and effectively.

The importance of designing human resource support systems to fit the nature and economics of an organization is another factor that should not be discounted. To achieve a workable balance, an account management team of benefit professionals should be formed. That team should begin by gaining a thorough understanding of your business needs. After an exploratory meeting, the team should go to work - following a detailed action plan designed to address your specific concerns and unearth any underlying or potential issues.

While each firms' action plans are customized to address a client's unique agenda, here's how the HCM approach generally works. During the first 30 days, the firm concentrates on their homework. They study the client organization and determine employer and employee satisfaction with current programs. They help the client set the right priorities, develop strategies, and establish financial and human resource objectives for benefit programs. They develop workable program guidelines, delivery systems, financial arrangements, and administrative procedures - looking at local, regional, and national alternatives. Throughout the review process, they evaluate a range of alternatives to find the solution that best satisfies the client's needs.

HCM then anticipates and initiates, acting as a catalyst for change - if change is appropriate. They can then negotiate financial arrangements with carriers and health care providers that achieve client objectives before developing administrative procedures to complement or improve on existing systems.

Because such an approach is action-oriented, a quality full-service employee benefits brokerage firm will assist in all phases of plan implementation. An account team should ensure a smooth transition of administrative responsibility; develop and carry out an effective communications strategy; participate in management and staff orientation and training; conduct employee presentations and enrollment meetings at various work sites; and watch for changes in benefits legislation to keep the client informed.

Finally, a top notch benefits brokerage firm such as HCM, will provide benefit professionals that think outside the box. Such experts will guide your organization in making benefit decisions to support your overall human resource strategies and achieve your goals and objectives.

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