It doesn’t seem that long ago that being different among other kids was uncomfortable, but for me, a lot of years have passed since then.
I had a great conversation with an employer this week that got me thinking about how good it is to be different. This was our first meeting, and she asked, “What makes you different?” It wasn’t a challenge. It was simply a polite statement of fact that there are dozens, probably hundreds of people in the employee benefits business in Western Massachusetts. “Don’t you all pretty much do the same thing?” she asked.
There was a time when that was probably true. When I first got into this business, we DID all pretty much did the same thing. We gathered census data, we got quotes, we compared the quotes on a spreadsheet, and we talked about the value of our service.
So much has changed since then! Great service and pricing options are still important, but they are a really small piece of the puzzle. Frankly, almost anybody with a bit of Excel or Word experience can do a spreadsheet.
Our industry, like many others, has undergone a lot of consolidation, with larger agencies gobbling up smaller ones. Complexity has increased dramatically with ever-evolving legislation. Revenue has decreased, and service needs are more intensive. The days of “giving” your health insurance plan to your brother-in-law or old frat buddy have passed. You just can’t do it anymore…there’s too much down side if something is done wrong.
The employee benefits “dabblers” are either gone, or they will be soon…they just don’t know it yet. We saw the writing on the wall about 10 years ago when we sold our retirement plan business. You simply can’t be good at everything. We’re really good at employee benefits, and we decided to double down on that.
My response to the question above was simple. I explained how we’ve developed a unique process to help employers drive business results with their benefits package and make progress toward becoming an Employer of Choice. When she asked for an example, I told her a story about how a client, after going through our process, told me that one of his biggest challenges is recruiting new college grads to work in Springfield, Massachusetts. Western Mass has a lot to offer, but it’s not often high on the list of potential cities to live for younger people.
We talked about ways to attract kids fresh out of school. Since lots of new grads have college debt, one idea might be to implement a student debt payoff program. A recent study shows that 90% of new grads would prefer to work for an employer with a plan like this. The best thing about college debt payoff plans is the flexibility they offer. It can be designed not only to attract employees, but keep them around for several years as well.
After I finished my story, she said, “Wow. You guys really are different!” As I headed out to my car, I was thinking about what a great meeting that was, and how good it is to be different.
If you’d like to chat about your company’s goals or biggest challenges, give us a call sometime at (866) 724-0008 or click the link below. We love talking about this stuff!