Ten years from now, brokers will be working with sponsors in a whole new paradigm of benefits. They will be selling benefits that give employees knowledge in order to set them up for success; benefits that teach them how to make decisions rather than making the decision for them. The famous saying by Lao Tzu from the 4th century B.C. is true in the 21st century, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Employers have traditionally taken on a role similar to that of a surrogate parent to employees–employees follow clearly defined rules and responsibilities in exchange for remaining on a company’s payroll. But the changing workplace has employers taking on a new role more aligned with that of a coach, creating an environment, culture and communications system in order to set employees up for success rather than giving them outlined roles to get there.
With benefits more commonly being reduced or disappearing, employees are becoming more responsible for their own financial success. As pensions and matches are dropped, the resources they have available to do it with are quickly decreasing. This means the landscape of benefits will change. Here’s how:
- Financial education will become a key employee benefit purchased through benefits brokers and provided by full-time financial educators–experts at giving participants information, tools and guidance to make key financial decisions about their benefits so that they can achieve independent financial security rather than depend on their employers to provide it for them.
- There will be more emphasis on retirement and benefits plan design in facilitating good decision making. Employers will seek trusted consultants who can help them with successful plan design and make both their core and voluntary benefits successful. Employers will recognize that it is much harder to get participation when employees have to fund benefits and choose among seemingly complex options.
- Overall benefits consulting will become an even bigger differentiator as financial benefits become more commoditized. Benefits providers that win engagements will increasingly be those who are on the leading edge of trends and best practices, providing ongoing consulting to employers to help them shape their overall benefits strategy–from design of benefits to benefits communication and planning. Providers that take the partner approach with employers will dramatically outperform those who simply sell services.
Knowledge of how finances affect employee success and participation in benefits will continue to grow and the changing landscape of the workplace will continue to shift to one that helps employees reach individual goals in order to reach company objectives. Times are changing for the better.