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- Discussing benefits outside of the renewal cycle allows time for more in-depth strategic considerations.
- Group risk providers offer a range of additional services alongside core products that can help employers support their staff.
- Employers can draw on the combined expertise of advisers and providers to develop a group risk strategy that meets their aims and suits their workforce.
There are a range of factors to take into consideration when implementing any component of an employee benefits package if it is to effectively engage and support staff.
For employers, this may mean going back to basics and determining what their key objectives for offering group risk benefits are. John Matthews, partner at Mercer Marsh Benefits, says some of the initial questions to ask include: “What are [their] objectives around looking after employees? What are [their] key priorities? Is it looking after people when they are off work ill? Is it trying to keep them at work through wellness initiatives?”
In addition to organisational objectives, the varying requirements of the workforce should be taken into account, such as workforce demographics, absence trends, previous claims experience, and employee feedback. Lee Gruskin, principal consultant at Capita Employee Benefits, says: “Advisers, along with insurers, have got lots of data and can demonstrate what sort of benefits are being looked at or requested by employees, be it in interviews or surveys. From this, we can help drive a strategy to achieve better value.”
Tom Gaynor, employee benefits director at MetLife UK, adds that between providers and advisers there is a wealth of knowledge that employers can tap into to help maximise the impact of their benefits offering. Where appropriate, group risk providers can work with consultants to deliver further assistance to employers, such as helping with communications and engagement, and ensuring the services on offer are suited to the culture and aims of the organisation.
“I think a more holistic approach is starting to gain some traction,” he says. “We all have to be aware of this and [when provided with] the opportunity to discuss this with employers and hear what they are trying to achieve, there is an amazing amount that we can do to adjust our proposition and make it fit [with their needs].”
Gaining the full value of additional services
“A lot of insurers have historically been based around product, product advice and product sales. But things have changed from that position,” adds Matthews.
Group risk providers have developed their proposition to take into account employers’ broader benefits requirements, offering a number of extra services that support staff around group risk, as well as more widely.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for industry body Group Risk Development (Grid), says: “Providers have worked hard to make sure that the [services] they provide above and beyond insurance actually support their products and support the way they like to do business and that they think will be useful for employers.”
This includes responding to growing areas of focus for employers and their staff; most notably, employee wellness and engagement. “Wellness is a key area now and very much part and parcel of the benefits landscape,” says Gaynor. “I think another area that could be moved into, and I see insurers helping with this as well, is to really understand an employer in terms of what it is trying to achieve, what is its culture, [and] what does it want to be known for as an organisation.”
However, for these additional services to deliver their true value, both employers and their staff must know what is on offer. According to Gaynor, employers can gain greater value from these services by talking through the available options and how these fit into an existing benefits package as soon as a contract has been placed. “If you don’t strike while the iron is hot, which is immediately after the business has been placed with that insurer, then other priorities tend to come up,” he explains.
The importance of timing
To ensure that the most effective and well-suited group risk benefits are put in place for staff, advisers, providers and employers should come together outside of the renewal cycle to hold discussions around insurance and wellbeing strategies, says Gruskin.
John Attley, engagement manager at the National House Building Council (NHBC), agrees: “Too often, we just get to the point of renewal when it does unfortunately go to price rather than [being] value driven; more consultation to understand needs and material needs should lead to better outcomes.”
Taking a closer look at group risk provision away from the point of renewal, when time may be further taken up with several contracts requiring renewal at once, can also allow advisers to recommend a strategy that meets an employer’s objectives around what they are trying to achieve through their benefits spend.
Gaynor adds: “Having discussions outside of the cycle is really important. We can then look at how we can assist advisers as they are building the components of, perhaps, a new benefit structure.”