The majority of brokers are optimistic about the future of the benefits industry and their role in it. (Image: Shutterstock)

Employers increasingly want their brokers to provide expert consultation on what kinds of benefits best lure and keep talented workers, but for that to happen, brokers need more training from their own companies, according to MetLife’s 2018 Broker Study, “Why broker expertise matters now more than ever.”

Metlife surveyed both employers and brokers, and found that employers say that they would turn to their broker for expertise regarding cost savings (64 percent); innovative benefits solutions (60 percent); benefits administration solutions (58 percent); legal, regulatory and compliance solutions (58 percent); and insights on benefits trends (57 percent).

Related: 3 ways brokers can help bridge the talent management divide

While 44 percent of the brokers surveyed say they are advising on workplace and employee trends now, 79 percent anticipate the demand for this guidance to increase in the future.

“Providing this thought leadership adds significant value to the relationship — but to maintain that role, brokers need to stay updated on trends and expand their knowledge and offerings accordingly,” the authors write. “More training may help. According to the research, 84 percent of brokers believe their company teaches them the skills to succeed in their current position, but only 43 percent report that on-the-job training is offered at their firm.”

Still, the majority of brokers are optimistic about the future of the benefits industry and their role in it.

Three-quarters of brokers surveyed say that the workplace will look different in coming years, but the changes will be largely positive. Most importantly, more than 80 percent say that the industry and their brokerage firm will grow along with these changes.

The survey also found that 76 percent of brokers say that their clients need to focus additional attention on supporting work-life balance. This finding jibes well with the 2018 MetLife Employee Benefit Trends Study, in which 87 percent of employees say that they’re more satisfied with their work and loyal to organizations that help them balance work and life.

“Broker activity reflects this sentiment, with broker recommendations for non-traditional benefits related to work-life enrichment significantly increasing from last year,” the authors write. “Meanwhile, the likelihood of employers offering these benefits has remained about the same. The takeaway: Employers may benefit from more education on the issue.”

Brokers are increasingly recommending non-traditional benefits to their clients, including adoption assistance, expanded parental leave and automatic paycheck deduction. Brokers are also recommending a variety of benefits that employers may not have considered, such as volunteer opportunities, concierge programs, vacation savings, student debt forgiveness, phased retirement and genetic testing.

Interestingly, the survey found that many brokers aren’t offered the same kinds of benefits at their own firms that they recommend to clients. While most brokers receive traditional benefits, data shows a majority are not yet offered voluntary, non-medical benefits by their firms. For instance, 63 percent of brokers recommend an assortment of non-medical benefits to their employer clients, but less than half of brokers are offered those benefits at their firms.

“The contrast could be an opportunity for some brokerage firms to offer their employees the experience of shopping for supplemental non-medical and voluntary benefits,” the authors write. “Doing so may increase empathy for the customers and knowledge about the process. It may also give brokers more choices when it comes to their own benefits packages.”

Metlife’s report concludes with three key takeaways for brokers who want to elevate their role and add value to their client relationships:

  • Stay updated — and update your clients. “Dedicate time to studying workplace trends, the role of benefits in meeting employee needs and the proven results for employers that do. Educate your clients on these issues year-round, and not just when evaluating plans and enrolling employees.”
  • Encourage your firm to lead by example. “It’s time for more brokerage firms to embrace their own advice, and reap the rewards of offering a wider array of medical and non-medical benefits.”
  • Dive deeper into non-medical benefits. “Understand the variety of offerings available to your clients, especially those that promote work-life enrichment, how these benefits fit in with current offerings and why they’re an increasingly important part of any benefit package.”