Michelle Taylor (MT) – I wanted to introduce you all to Tina Craft (TC). She is one of our valued resources we collaborate with frequently with Women in Wealth (WiW).

For all of you that have been following for a while, you know that one of the important things to us is making sure we are not only providing great education but also that we’re bringing other relationships to the table to make sure our conversations are robust and as meaningful as possible.

Tina, tell us a little bit about you and who you are representing. 

TC: Thank you Michelle. I’m honored to be a part of your WiW Advisory Board. I represent Fringe Benefit Plans we have been in the community for 52 years specializing in employee benefits. My formal title is vice president of strategic solutions. I’m very focused on supporting employers with recruiting and retention strategies and leveraging employee benefits portfolios. 

MT: Going back to something you mentioned a few minutes ago: it’s not only important to have recruiting power, but also to really consider how these relationships stay with you for the long haul. What are some of the things that employers should consider pouring into those relationships where long-term retention is the result? 

TC: An employer’s relationship with their team member is a very large component of all business. You and I discussed this on a very regular basis. Everybody has different needs, so if we talk about the traditional employee benefits making sure that we are serving the health and wealth of the team, the team also is inclusive of who their family may be. Some employees may have a dependent spouse. Some may have children. Some may have a spouse and children. So making sure that we are identifying our employee’s needs and we are giving them choice.

Everybody has different needs when it comes to medical, dental, vision, & retirement. Accommodation is the number one element to retention. Everybody has a different need. It may be a PTO need, which paid time off if we live in a world of acronyms. It may be a retirement need. If we look at the demographics of most employer groups, we are sitting with at least four different generations under these benefits needs. 

MT: Tina, what are some of the most important things for employers to be considering as we are in this season of open enrollment? 

TC: Open enrollment is always a fun time of the year. I say that a little tongue in cheek because it can create a lot of stress not only for the employer experience but also for the employee experience.

What we always want to do is make sure that we accommodate enough time to review the marketplace, review the budget, make decisions, and create a very intentional strategy for communication on what is referred to as the annual open enrollment. You have to give the employees enough time to make these important decisions, work with the carrier partners to give them ample time for installation and implementation, and make sure that we have ID cards ready to go for whatever the anniversary date is.

For many employers that are focused on January 1st go-live we also need to understand that the carriers are very busy and so those timelines need to be shifted to make sure that we’re able to deliver a very excellent employee experience come January 1. We can always consult on how to manage the communication, how to manage the timeline, and/or how to manage a change in anniversary date if what you’re looking to deliver doesn’t meet the expectations of January 1 go-live date. 

MT: It sounds like for any of our audience that are employers, it’s important that they are flexible, a little bit go-with-the-flow and understanding of shifting what a timeline actually looks like because of everything that’s going on in the world today. 

TC: It is true. The power of partnership means that you work together as a team so understanding the time restraints doesn’t mean that those timelines can’t be accommodated, it just means that we may have to churn out the communication and serve individuals as they need as we go through that go-live date. 

MT: Tina, what are some of the changes that are happening in your industry that business owners may not be aware of, and they should be, or maybe they are aware of the changes but just don’t know how to navigate those, what are some things happening? 

TC: Michelle that’s an excellent question. The problem we’re finding right now is employers that are strategically trying to manage our labor shortage. Historically benefits have been used to leverage recruiting and retention for talent and human capital and what we’re finding is that across every industry, employee benefits are a very relevant conversation and with that being said, we see a refocus on employers budgeting again for those solutions to make sure that they can not only be competitive on the recruiting side but also retaining talent.

Retaining talent is extremely important because there really is an impact on the cost of turnover. So what we’re doing is consulting all employers, regardless of the industry, on the benefits of investing in their human capital versus spending the dollars on the cost of turnover which has an immediate impact on the business model. 

MT: I feel like we’re in a season now where even people that are happy with their current situations in their careers are putting feelers out to see what’s out there because it truly is a market where they have become a hot commodity in every industry across the board so that’s a great thing for people to be considering. 

TC: You make an excellent point because the conversation of employee benefits far exceeds that of insurance. It goes into what is your PTO policy. It goes into your flexibility for work remote. It goes into the culture on your ability and your desire to accommodate different work classes based upon the individual so we’re consulting employers to be as competitive as they can be based upon their business model. 

TC: With the different generations we’re going to see different needs within the demographics. You may have a younger generation that are getting puppies and kittens, so now in our world of employee benefits we have mutt, M-U-T-T mutternity leave, and we have pet-ternity leave, P-E-T, so you may have a team member that may want to go virtual or work remote or even take some time off to acclimate the pet into their family. Then we have others in the life cycles that are really starting at family.

We’re seeing some trends in our community are for paternity leave where the father can take some time off to bond with baby and mom when they come home from the hospital. We are seeing unlimited paid time off. Not everybody has the same needs, so this year I may not need a lot of time off and then next year I may. Accommodating those needs creates an environment of loyalty, making sure that the relationship between the employer and the employee is reciprocal and in a labor shortage market that becomes all the more valuable in this today’s world. 

MT: Tina, in this ever-changing environment, what are some of the things that you’re seeing that are unique or out of the box value adds that employers are offering to employees that our audience may have not thought of or may be interested in hearing about? 

TC: From an employee benefits lens, we are seeing a lot of exciting employee benefits being offered again. Medical is always taken the number one spot as an employee benefit, typically followed by a retirement program. Retirement programs are excellent for retention and you can create a program that encourages retention based upon the employer contribution and the vesting schedule.

Dental and vision are still very important benefits. Life insurance- typically an employer provided benefit- and then provide your team the opportunity to add more life insurance on a group chassis. We’re seeing again the trend of disability being brought back into the employer portfolio. Short term disability is really paycheck protection if somebody is out of work due to sickness or accident. 

Long term definitely a very important disability benefit that protects you should something happen and you don’t have the ability to work any longer and will protect your normal Social Security retirement age. If we look at the traditional employee benefits aspect, we’re seeing robust portfolios be offered again to be competitive against other employers that are looking to recruit their talent.

We’re also seeing some innovation. Innovation and insurance typically don’t go together in the same sentence. We’re seeing pet benefits being offered….We see a lot of COVID puppies and kittens. We are seeing unlimited paid time off. This can be an excellent benefit, but you want to make sure that you set the correct guidelines to make sure that the business model is always protected in those environments. We are also seeing tuition reimbursement.

If you want to see retention, how do you help professionally develop your team so that they stay with you and again you want to build those parameters for longevity purposes. So find out what is important to your team and create an environment. It doesn’t have to be a traditional benefit, you can think outside of the box on those and be flexible. Virtual work, remote even, if it’s just one or two days a week it’s amazing how those benefits will create the culture of retention and you are really serving what is best for your team members based on what their individual needs are.

MT: Going back to communication- ultimately asking your team what’s most important to them and caring about them and taking care of them just like you are doing for the employer. I think that really comes full circle. 

TC: It does come full circle and I think what we’re finding in this changing environment is that if you fill the basic needs of some of your employees, IE team members, the productivity actually skyrockets. A lot of companies have seen during the pandemic productivity increase, so it is very important to listen and to accommodate as needed, especially if you’re looking to retain your talent. 

MT: I think it would also be really helpful for you to share what your ideal client is and what is the size of the business that you feel that you can provide the most impact when people are watching this and wondering if they are a good fit to work with someone like Tina or a fringe benefits plan. 

TC: Fringe Benefit Plans was built 52 years ago on the principles of serving the small and mid-market employer in the community. We find that that market has historically been underserved and treated in a very transactional manner, so at Fringe Benefit Plans our target market is 20 employees to 200 employees. We do serve employers under 20 employees as well as well over 200 employees, but we can have the most impact in that space. There are lots of employers that have less than 20 employees so our scope of service is consistent based upon how we can serve that market segment and then for those over 200 we customize what the needs are for the client.

We are privately held as an organization which gives us the ability to be very nimble and very concierge in our approach. We can customize our scope of services to meet their needs which is very unique in our business and our model was built so that we can be very flexible and accommodating. When we’re consulting our employers and ask them to accommodate their team members and their employees, we want to share that same philosophy to be accommodating to what our customers’ needs are and to build a relationship for the short term and long term impact. 

MT: Thank you so much Tina for answering all our questions and certainly providing some education which is one of the important values to us for anybody who is following along. If anyone watching has any questions for us or wants to figure out how to meet or ask Tina questions, we will certainly provide her contact information, just send us a message.

We’d love to connect you with the right person to make sure that you’re providing that care and attention to your employees to make sure that those relationships are investment for not only them but for you as well. Hopefully we were able to provide some great information today and give you some good takeaways and I hope that you stick with us! 

Securities and investment advisory services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC (www.SIPC.org). Gambin Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. Supervisory Office 5001 Louise Drive, Suite 300 Mechanicsburg, PA 17055, 717-791-3300.

Tina Craft and Fringe Benefit Plans are not affiliated with MML Investor Services, LLC