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BenefitsPRO 2021: 3 Featured Takeaways + 1 OBVI

Aug 23, 2021

First, let’s get the obvi out of the way - it was simply awesome to enjoy a national conference IN PERSON after 18 long months! I left this year’s Broker Expo with a renewed appreciation for face-to-face connections with industry partners. 

Much of the conference focused on resiliency and how we – as benefit specialists – can shift our focus to support clients and partners in new ways. Today, I’m sharing some key takeaways…

1. A Few Big Themes

Employees want benefits that meet their changing needs along with a workplace that offers a culture of support. To that end, below are a few trending themes.

Address specific employee needs
The following needs came up in multiple conversations throughout the week:

  • Personal/work life balance is a must. Up to 43% of women leave positions because they don’t feel supported in growing a family without sacrificing career goals. This shows up in a variety of ways such as the desire for a phased back-to-work approach after family leave, increasing requests for fertility coverage and the flexibility to work from home. Which leads me to the next point.   
  • Working from home is here to stay. A vast majority of professionals - men and women - don’t want a return to the typical Monday-Friday 9 to 5 office grind (as highlighted in the recent Microsoft Work Trend Index).
  • Healthcare is a confusing time suck. Transparency and Advocacy tools are key to easing the pains of a complicated healthcare system. Employees want a go-to resource for trusted guidance in their healthcare journey. A rep from their insurance carrier or an impersonal WebMD search aren’t sufficient and shouldn’t be the top options. 

Guide employers in recruiting & retaining efforts
We’re back to a crazy job market. “The Great Resignation” has left many employers scrambling for talent. The right benefit mix is vital, but so is the communication strategy behind them. Simply throwing benefits out there without consistent messaging negates the value and nobody will remember they have them or use them. 

This wave of hiring also creates a fresh opportunity to help employers work toward enhanced culture within their organization. Eric Silverman, Andrew McNeil and Edwige (Ed) Ligonde led a great discussion surrounding DEI (diversity, equality & inclusion). Eric recommended focus groups within large employers for a genuine gauge of what employees want to see. Taking time to discuss your client’s vision and steps to build culture is huge in attracting and retaining top talent. 

High Touch + High Tech Tools

Practice habits of leadership
Kevin Trokey shared 4 great points to keep out front and ensure you’re positioned as a true consultant who brings value.
1) Discipline - How do you approach the week? What needs to be accomplished?
2) Prioritize - What will ensure you meet those goals? 
3) Trust - Remember character is everything. Live it and it will pay dividends. 
4) Vision - What motivates you? Big visions require a team. Make sure your team is working with you toward that vision. 

2. Broker of the Year Finalists

The Broker of the Year Panel is always eye-opening. Each of the panelists shared some terrific tips. Here’s a few of my favorites when asked, “What’s one thing you would fix with the benefits industry?”

  • Tom DiLiegro: “Ensuring employees have an advocate. This gives them a feeling of ownership. Whether they’re large or small, they deserve someone in their corner.” 
  • Mike Hill: “Healthcare is complicated. Having an advocate is key.” 
  • Rachel Miner: “Transparency within quality metrics is crucial. Help someone find the best doctors and providers instead of limiting them to a network.” 
  • Megan Zimmerman: “A community-based healthcare system that goes back to truly taking care of people, instead of taking care of a corporation.” 
  • Broker of the Year, Ed Ligonde: “Personalization of the healthcare experience. Ensuring you have benefits the employees need, instead of just throwing a bunch of benefits at the group that they don’t even know exist!”

3. Political & Economic Thoughts

Lastly, political columnist George F. Will shared some thoughts about our political climate and where it’s headed. He shared, “The first rule of economics is, ‘Scarcity is real.’ The first rule of politicians is, ‘Ignore the first rule of economics.’” 

The truth we need to come to grips with when financing the healthcare system is: longevity is expensive. About 75% of people are living past the age of 75. The average cost of healthcare for an 85-year-old is 5x the cost of a 55-year-old. This will be a tough issue to innovate around.
Though this could paint a bleak picture of America’s financial future, he noted that a positive future can be ours, as long as we “get out of the way of America’s productive energies.” He emphasized his trust by restating an often-quoted piece of wisdom, “Nobody ever got rich betting against the United States.”

On my travels home, I decided resiliency is the perfect buzz word for 2021. We all know 2020 wasn’t kind. It forced our industry to reshape our thinking and the way we serve our clients. As mom to a 3-year-old and two teens, I never anticipated balancing a career, my usual family responsibilities PLUS being teacher - and principal ;-) Still, I’m grateful for the lessons learned in the last 18 months and look forward to continued resilience and growth in an industry I’m proud to be part of.


Mandy is an Account Executive for freshbenies where she supports sales professionals who serve brokers and employers in the benefits industry. With 15+ years in the employee benefits industry, she brings energy and passion to helping groups navigate and control healthcare. Mandy's a busy wife and mom to three kids and two dogs - she’s personally seen the perks of non-insurance benefits to control her dime, time and peace of mind.

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