Quick look: The 2023 BenefitsPRO Voluntary Survey provides a welcome bright spot for the broker industry. Its annual results show promise in the months ahead with increasing optimism for the voluntary benefits market. With many brokers reliant on voluntary products as a significant percentage of their business, it’s a good reminder to evaluate offerings and learn how a PEO can provide additional support.
BenefitsPRO issued its annual voluntary survey results, which revealed improvements in the market over the past year. Though the data is encouraging, brokers should still be prepared for potential setbacks caused by inflation and people’s (in)ability to afford voluntary benefits.
To position themselves against future obstacles, brokers are relying more on technological advances, as well as working with professional employer organizations (PEOs) to stay competitive and up to date for their clients.
But for now, it’s time to celebrate some good news, before forging ahead and preparing for what’s next. Here are some of the results from this year’s survey forecasting a rosy outlook.
Voluntary benefit sales are on the rise
78% of brokers reported annual sales were approximately the same or higher than what they were pre-pandemic. The last few years created a lull in benefit sales overall as companies were faced with lay-offs, furloughs, and shutdowns. Now as businesses are back in the swing of things, the workforce has shifted accordingly, and voluntary benefits are becoming a central part of the conversation.
Optimism about continued growth
70% of brokers expect their voluntary sales to grow in the future, while 27% report stability or no change. Additionally, 48% of brokers report enrollment is up compared to rates pre-pandemic, with nearly one-third of brokers relying on self-service, online enrollment. Although, part of this growth may also be due to voluntary brokers being more likely than traditional benefit brokers to hold one-to-one meetings onsite.
Top-selling benefit products remain the same
When evaluating the most popular voluntary benefits employees asked for year over year, the top five included: accidental injury, critical illness, short-term disability, dental, and hospital indemnity. However, additional research shows employees are seeking out voluntary benefits such as tuition assistance, pet insurance, and financial counseling as well. Bundling products continues to be an effective strategy used by most brokers to give clients the best options and rates possible. And survey results showed nearly half of brokers offered at least three voluntary benefits in a single enrollment.
Technology is important for growth
55% of brokers surveyed share the importance of having products built into a benefit technology platform. 20% list it as extremely important, while 36% consider it a nice-to-have feature. As brokers continue to find ways to streamline their efforts and make enrollment decisions easier for clients, implementing technology is one of the best ways to achieve these goals. Yet, even though technology remains an important factor, 55% of brokers care about offering the best voluntary benefits available, rather than how they are implemented.
Steady employer enthusiasm for voluntary benefits
93% of brokers say employer enthusiasm for voluntary products will be the same or higher 12 months from now, though there is concern about inflation prohibiting people from being able to afford these benefits. In fact, inflation is the top concern for 41% of brokers, followed by a lack of access to employees at 22%, and competition from other brokers at 16%. Other factors, such as a lack of employer understanding regarding voluntary benefits, and the constantly changing regulations, technology, and market leave some brokers concerned about the future.
How PEOs help brokers stay competitive
To maintain a competitive advantage, brokers are teaming up with PEOs to differentiate and expand their services to clients. In addition to working with a team of HR experts well-versed in what benefits are most applicable to today’s workforce, PEOs offer Fortune-500 level benefits at cost-effective rates for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Additionally, PEO brokers working with ExtensisHR provide their SMB clients an extra level of service missing from big-box PEOs. ExtensisHR offers customized HR solutions, giving clients the personalized attention they need and deserve through:
HR and benefit services
PEO brokers can expand their network to a team of professionals who will collaborate with their SMB clients to build a customized HR plan every year. This includes payroll and tax administration, talent management and recruiting, as well as benefit overview. Rather than relying on the same plan, benefit services are flexible and go beyond the basics of typical benefit offerings; thus, meeting current workforce demands and helping companies attract and retain the best talent.
Proprietary HR technology
ExtensisHR’s mobile-first Work Anywhere® platform provides SMBs the technology they need to securely manage HR tasks from wherever they are. HRCloud consolidates workflows and unifies reporting; Performance Cloud, powered by 15Five, synchronizes goals and performance and improves retention; Time and Labor Cloud improves cost management and reduces compliance risk; and Knowledge Cloud upskills internal teams and integrates learning schedules.
In addition to implementing advanced technology into benefit planning and administration, ExtensisHR focuses on a person-to-person approach. Part of this includes educating and explaining the value of voluntary benefits to SMBs and their employees. The landscape of benefits is changing so rapidly, it’s necessary to have specialists who can customize offerings and make adjustments in real-time. Since each company requires a unique benefit plan, having a dedicated team known for its same-day response rate makes an important difference.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
ExtensisHR also offers an employee assistance program (EAP) which provides free and confidential resources like short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services for employees 24/7. This type of program addresses both personal- and work-related issues to provide the diverse type of support employees seek, and ultimately, improve job satisfaction and company culture.
As PEO brokers continue to make strides forward, working with and recommending the best provides an added boost of credibility. ExtensisHR maintains a level of credentialing only 1% of PEOs maintain. By upholding a high level of success, it helps to strengthen brokers’ relationships with their clients and solidify their book of business.
Traditional benefits still remain a top priority for SMBs and their employees, but there’s a renewed focus on voluntary benefits. PEO brokers who address these demands accordingly and continue to provide ways to contribute to their clients’ growth will assure long-term success.
To learn how a PEO partnership could benefit your portfolio, contact ExtensisHR today.