We’re all being asked to do more than ever by clients and employers. This is especially true for brokers who need to expand their HCM expertise to stay relevant to clients and their own firms amidst a rapidly changing benefits environment. 

Benefits and insurance administration expertise are no longer enough to succeed. Brokers today are expected to be clients’ trusted advisors in “all things human capital.” They’re expected to help clients assess their holistic needs around human capital, and define the right combination of technology, process improvements, change management, compliance, data and risk mitigation to deliver the best return on investment and employee experience. For today’s businesses to thrive, it’s all about talent, and those brokers who bring innovative approaches to all aspects of human capital are winning. 

One reason for this change: Businesses need and expect HR to be more strategic, especially at a time when they face more tactical administrative and compliance-related tasks than ever before. 

Firms able to provide these support functions are finding opportunities and winning business from incumbents because they’re approaching clients with a more holistic business conversation; they’re not just talking traditional benefits and insurance.  

At the same time, the brokerage industry is experiencing challenges finding and developing talent to meet client demand, as nearly 1 in 4 brokers are nearing retirement, according to PWC. Many firms are looking to develop new talent with a similar approach to major league baseball teams: by growing talent organically while encouraging their maturing assets to further develop their skillsets.    

So how can your business keep up?

Be creative when recruiting. Build your bench organically. Instead of pirating producers and account executives from competitors, the best firms are recruiting recent college graduates or looking for sales professionals with experience outside the insurance industry. Think about incubating college graduates with marketing or business degrees so you can inject fresh thinking into your workplace.

Also, consider recruiting talent from different industries, like technology or professional services. You want to find people in these industries who have strong financial and business acumen, strengths in networking and building centers of influence, and know how to connect the solutions they’re offering to broader business outcomes. One Florida-based broker recently shared that her firm exclusively hires associates from outside the benefits world since they tend to bring with them better sales training and processes. Such recruits also have been able to open more doors by changing the conversation with clients. By talking about developing a holistic strategy to HCM and acknowledging the challenges that HR directors or CFOs face on a daily basis, the firm’s approach has doubled its revenue over the past two years.   

Build your collective IQ. According to The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB), the value brokers can bring in this new world is the ability to uncover employers’ unique needs and pull together the resources to serve them.

Employers want brokers to coordinate the myriad of services to achieve their benefits objectives, and look to the brokers to design the solutions they require. As such, firms need to train their brokerage staff to provide consultative services to employers and focus on developing their strengths, so it’s not just the account manager who is “all things HCM” to clients.

Successful firms bring all workers’ shared expertise to the table.  Often, this includes working with third-party experts who can help educate clients and provide the technology and resources needed to make it easy for employees to access the latest information on benefits enrollment, eligibility and policy. Training every member of your workforce to be HCM experts can be resource intensive and expensive, so outsourcing these needs may be able to help provide cost savings. 

Be fast and agile. The brokerage industry has traditionally been perceived as slow moving, but recent changes demand that firms thrive in a constantly changing environment. According to business coach Kevin Trokey, more than simply being fast, brokerage firms need to become agile, with a clear sense of direction. To do this, brokers need a clear vision, and should establish processes and structure needed for success. This includes everything from revaluating marketing, sales, hiring and training methods to aligning with the right industry partners.

When it comes to training, some large multi-office firms have seen a huge payoff in simplifying their sales approach.  They train associates using a uniform process that works nationwide to deliver a consistent, successful sales experience to clients whether they’re based in California or New York.

In addition, constant communication with your team is important in order to educate them on the changing dynamics of the industry, your firm’s vision, and the progress the firm has made in achieving its goals. Lastly, be sure to provide feedback on how people are performing as critical players in your overall efforts.

The good news is that mployers remain confident that brokers and consultants are best suited to help them navigate the rapidly changing healthcare landscape. According to a recent CIAB survey, more than 86 percent are using a broker, consultant or both. The brokerage firms that realize it’s time to recruit and train a new type of broker — one not solely focused on pushing products, but rather one who is a holistic advisor on all things human capital and can assess clients’ needs to define appropriate solutions — will be the winners in this “new normal.”