It’s no secret that the employee benefits brokerage space is highly competitive. But if you’re not careful, you’re burning your employees out trying to compete and stay relevant.
A well-run organization can be the antidote for built-up stress and the key to running a successful organization with high job satisfaction, positive client experiences, and high revenue growth.
According to Wall Street Journal Author Quint Studor, “we need to do more than generate coping mechanisms. We need to fix the internal issues that frustrate people. Upstream interventions to deal with the cause of stress and burnout are better than downstream tactics to deal with them after they happen.”¹
The Unique Challenges Facing Benefit Brokers
While stress is a reality in almost every job, benefits brokers feel the added pressure that comes from the sheer volume of areas they are expected to not only balance but be experts in. Typical responsibilities brokers need to juggle include:
- Keeping current with Federal and State compliance changes
- Helping employers map out and implement a strategic direction
- Understanding the latest point solutions and marketplace offerings to expand coverage and reduce costs
- Helping employers choose and implement technology solutions
- Analyzing claims
- Forecasting budgets
- Marketing new programs
- Negotiating renewals
- Benchmarking programs
- Creating communication programs
- Resolving employee service and claims issues
- Being highly accountable to solve day to day service issues
- Building carrier and vendor relationships
On top of wearing a lot of hats, brokers often must be the “hero” that swoops in to save the day when things go wrong. The combination of these responsibilities is a heavy burden to carry — even for the most seasoned brokers.
The daily pressure to keep clients happy is exhausting. Without the right corporate structure and a system to help employees succeed, burnout seems inevitable.
Identifying Chaos at an Employee Benefits Brokerage
According to a 2023 study by Harvard Business Review, more than half of managers reported experiencing corporate burnout. That’s a staggering statistic. But more than that, that stress trickles down into the rest of an organization when there aren’t appropriate systems in place.
For example, if your employees have to bounce from department to department to get a task done or find an answer for a client, that’s a problem. That’s also incredibly stressful for everyone involved.
Work to identify these moments of chaos in your employees’ days so that you can provide the tools and resources they need to be successful. Not sure how to do this? Go right to the source.
Set up a system — anonymous or not — for employees to give you feedback. Whether it’s a physical suggestion box or an online submission form, give everyone access and really listen to what they have to say. Make this a regular, judgment-free part of your company culture, and you’ll better understand (and be able to fix) what’s going on.
Stress Grows When Leaders Are In the Wrong Seats
It may be tough to admit, but you may not have the right key players in the right seats.
As a leader, it’s your job to look around and see where there are holes in management. What does the leadership team look like? Do they have the right experience to manage the ever-changing benefits world? Do they welcome change and look to improve? Or, are they stuck in the “way things have always been done”
If your management team is stuck in the past and unwilling to change, it may be time to make a tough call. That might mean letting someone go, investing in training, or bringing in new people in to fill in the gaps.
Leadership strategist, Ann Hiatt, often talks about how stress within your organization indicates it’s time to build up the right type of support staff — and tools — to support your entire company.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is, as a CEO or leadership team member, it’s your job to identify where you are on the growth trajectory and plan accordingly.
With this in mind, here are some steps you can take to add structure and help your employees stand out in the benefits space.
4 Ways to Reduce Broker Burnout
When it comes to solving the issue of burnout, a well-run organization is the antidote to built-up stress. Here are several steps you can take to help your employees succeed while reducing their stress level.
Keep in mind, while you can implement most of these solutions the old school way, leveraging a digital platform will deliver greater returns and enable you to gain efficiencies in both time and costs, while delivering a more compelling work product to your clients.
1. Lock Down Deliverables
A framework helps make it easy for everyone on your team to deliver a consistent client experience This can include:
- How each customer will be served
- What the key deliverables are
- How the key timelines work
- What checklists and systems will be used to ensure you implement repeatable processes
2. Standardize Your Best Practices
It takes a level of creativity and nuance to manage client relationships successfully, but when it comes to improving your service model consistency is your best friend. Templates will work in a pinch, but a companywide platform that allows you to iterate and measure progress will provide much greater value.
When you’re trying to deliver the right solution for a client, error free projections and data matter. How that information is presented also matters.
Financial analysis software has been used for years in the financial industry, so it only makes sense that modern technology moves into the benefits space to enable consulting teams to work more efficiently and free up time to focus on more strategic solutions for their clients.
Not only is information easier to find at exactly the right moment, which reduces stress, but managing the entire client lifecycle becomes easier.
And when clients get used to seeing information laid out in a clear, accurate way, the trust factor goes way up. They know what to expect each time you meet and renewals become easier. That’s a win-win.
Clients will be more confident they “got a good deal” when they feel like they were listened to, guided to the right solution, and prioritized. Clear data. Clear solutions. Clear partnership.
3. Peer Review Your Work
To err is human, but to err when you should have been implementing a peer review process in your workflow is embarrassing.
Not only is it embarrassing, but it creates a whole host of headaches when numbers are off. Clients are frustrated (and may fire you), your team is stressed, and it takes time and favors to fix the errors after the fact.
Make sure that peer reviewing is part of your organization on a consistent basis by having accountability built right into your process.
4. Hire More Experienced People or Build More Structure
We touched on business structure briefly above, but if you don’t have enough structure within your business, you’ll need to hire more experienced people who can self-manage.
Consider paying for overqualified people a necessary cost to counteract the lack of structure. Once things are well organized, you can add less experienced employees at a lower cost and easily train them on the repeatable processes you have established.
However, keep in mind that these steps cost time and money, so structure your company wisely as you plan for growth and scale.
Best Practices Are Only as Successful as the Systems Behind Them
As high-level best practices, our suggestions seem logical and almost standardized. Perhaps your brokerage is already doing some or all of them. However, there often is a disconnect between implementation and success.
When a process is manual, it must be performed flawlessly in every engagement. Checklists can help, but they are not foolproof solutions. Having the right people in place makes a big difference, but it still relies on someone who may be having a bad day.
Can you guarantee that the person doing your peer review can spot every error — especially when changes are made minutes before a meeting begins? Is it feasible to check hundreds of formulas by hand or quickly spot if a spreadsheet template was adjusted to reflect a particular scenario?
Can you trust your templates and processes are clear enough to be followed, error-free, in every scenario? Is your system strong enough to iterate from consultant to consultant and account to account? If not, it may be time to reevaluate everything.
Better Technology Can Reduce Broker Burnout
Utilizing the right tools and technology can help consultants get their job done without the added stress that comes from errors and uncertainty. This can also help your brokerage reduce churn and spend less time and money on training new employees.
Vertical Fox is a comprehensive software solution for benefits brokers that gives you a reliable way to wow clients, close more deals, and increase revenue, and differentiate your brokerage.
Created by a team of benefits brokers with 30+ years of experience, Vertical Fox can help you:
- Ensure error-free calculations and formulas without the risk of human error.
- Deliver a consistent client experience from strategic planning to marketing.
- Create internal processes that can be iterated across teams and offices.
- Attract the best talent, reduce burnout, and increase employee retention.
- Improve your bottom line.
For more information on how Vertical Fox can simplify your life, automate calculations, and provide a stand-out client experience, schedule a demo of Vertical Fox today!