JAN 7, 2015

Voluntary benefits are becoming increasingly important in the effort to attract and retain top employees, and the Affordable Care Act hasn’t discouraged employers from that way of thinking. Seventy-one percent of employers said voluntary benefits improve employee morale and satisfaction — a 13% increase from 2010 — the last time LIMRA surveyed employers.

The newest study, released in late December, showed the ACA had “little-to-no impact on the majority, 60%, of employers’ appetite for offering voluntary benefits.” However, many employers are still confused by the health care law and how it will affect their benefits, LIMRA said. “The study found that just 10% of employers offer an insurance benefit through an exchange, and most are not likely to do so within the next two years.”

Advisers can help clients navigate the ACA as well as implement voluntary benefits — and employers are now giving more thought to the latter, says Jim O’Connor, national practice leader for employee benefits at CBIZ. A good voluntary benefits strategy complements the core programs being offered, he says.

Communication, education are key  

An adviser has to be adept at product assessment and must select the right plan for the workforce in question, O’Connor said. “You need to know how the product lines up with the workforce,” he says.

Education and communication are also key parts of an adviser’s job. “That’s not just about sending a memo out and leaving it at that,” O’Connor says. Advisers who communicate well do so via thoughtful, thorough and various channels, he says. “You have to have a diverse approach to your communicating strategy,” O’Connor says. “The key is really all about communication.”

Employers satisfied with advisers, carriers

The majority of employers said advisers and carriers in the voluntary benefits industry follow through on their promises, according to the study, which surveyed 1,321 employee benefits decision makers at private companies with at least 10 employees.

Employers are more loyal to carriers than four years ago — 14% of companies switched carriers in the past two years, down from 17% in 2010 — the survey found. “Price continues to play the biggest role in takeover activity,” LIMRA said.