Benefits brokers are constantly looking to general agency services to provide the tools and products they need to keep their clients happy. Over the years, general agencies have endeavored to meet broker needs by introducing new products and services, new technologies, and broader support. It has been a while since the industry has seen the ‘next big thing’. That next big thing may be on the horizon.
MetLife’s annual Employee Benefit Trends Study often sets the table for what general agencies and brokers can expect in the coming year. According to their 2021 survey, 93% of responding employees indicated that customization is either a “must-have” or “nice-to-have” feature for benefits packages.
By any measure, 93% is nearly unanimous. What should this tell general agencies and benefits brokers? That employees are gradually tiring of being given very little choice in their benefits packages. They are tired of the one-size-fits-all approach that has dominated the benefits space for the better part of 50 years.
Brokers and Product Choices
The idea of customization should not be a massive surprise to benefits brokers. For an inkling into why that might be, consider a recent blog post published on the BenefitMall website. BenefitMall offers general agency services to thousands of brokers around the country. They represent more than a hundred carriers.
The post in question discusses the idea of benefit product choices. It asks brokers whether their general agencies are giving them enough choices to meet client needs. When all is said and done, the post implies that brokers should consider switching general agencies if they feel their choices are limited.
Product choices are to benefits brokers what customization is to the employee. In the middle are employers trying to come up with the best benefits packages that will enable them to hire and retain top talent. When employer choices are limited, so are employee choices. But employees clearly want the ability to customize their plans.
Look to the Great Resignation
Proof of the need for benefits customization is found in the Great Resignation we have been hearing so much about. As you probably know, employees left their jobs in record numbers in 2021. Most who left did so in search of a better deal elsewhere. Here is the thing to understand: each employee decides for him or herself what a better deal looks like.
Undoubtedly, some people are looking for higher salaries. Others want more robust health insurance plans. Still others are looking for jobs that will offer them a hybrid work model and flexible scheduling. In truth, the possibilities are unlimited.
A New Mindset
Unfortunately, the postwar era ushered in a mindset that one’s career defines who one is. That mindset eventually led to a corporate culture that gradually demanded more and more from its employees. We eventually got to the point where the majority of employees felt they were not valued. They felt as though they were just resources that their employers could easily replace.
The pandemic changed that. COVID shutdowns and restrictions were a stark reminder of just how much employers and employees need one another. And from the employee’s perspective, the time has come to take back some of the power they have lost in recent decades.
As a benefits broker who relies on your general agency giving you enough choices, take note of the fact that customization is something that employees now want with their benefits packages. If you want to keep your clients happy, you will have to work with your general agency and carriers to figure out how to make customization a reality.