What Small Businesses Are Looking For in Employee Benefits

Q4 will be here before you know it, which means small and mid-sized businesses across the country will be selecting benefits for 2021. As brokers prepare for the busiest time of year, preparation is key to being a trusted advisor — and that means understanding clients’ needs to determine what’s important to them. The needs of small businesses can differ significantly from their larger counterparts with larger budgets and headcounts. Here are a few things SMBs (small and mid-sized businesses) look for as they shop for benefits plans.

Tools for acquisition and retention

Attracting top talent means putting together an appealing benefits package for SMBs that don’t necessarily have the name recognition and reputation of larger companies. Health, dental, vision, and life insurance are vital to employees and their families — but they can be costly on their own. Employers who offer benefits can invest in their prospective and current employees by alleviating some or all of this financial burden. In turn, employees may feel valued and want to stick around for the long haul. 

Just how important are health benefits to the workforce? A 2016 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) showed it’s the most valued employee benefit by far, according to HR professionals1. A 2018 survey by American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) showed that 56% of employees with health benefits say the quality of their insurance impacts whether they will stay with their employer. Another 46% said health benefits were a deciding factor in accepting their current job2.


While SMBs may want a strong employee benefits package to acquire and keep talented people, they have to work within a budget. Providing flexibility to your clients — in terms of plan options, lines of coverage, and cost — can help employers control costs while keeping employees happy. For instance, many companies offer voluntary benefits to their teams. This passes some of the premium expense to employees, who are often willing to take on some of the cost for strong coverage at discounted rates. Bundling different lines of coverage — dental and vision, for example — can also help you pass on savings to your clients and give employees the benefits they want and need.

Ease of use

Benefits can be difficult for employees to understand. According to a 2019 survey by Aflac, 65% of employees didn’t understand at least some of their healthcare plan3. Forming a strong plan of communication with your clients can help members make informed decisions during open enrollment and use their benefits advantageously. This may take the form of emails, flyers, blog posts, newsletters, or information sessions with Q&As.

You can also make employee benefits easier for groups. Traditionally, benefits are a hassle for HR managers to administer — not only do they have to worry about choosing plans and communicating them to employees, but they also have to manage the paperwork and enrollment. Working with a tech-forward carrier who understands small business needs can make an enormous difference for your clients. They can provide tools, such as BenAdmin software, that cuts down or eliminates paperwork and makes enrolling members simpler and quicker. A digital approach can also make it easy to make changes to benefits, whether it’s adding a new employee or updating coverage after a qualifying life event.


For informational purposes only and not intended to be relied on as complete information, or to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not a sale of or an offer to purchase a benefits plan from Beam. For more information about your benefits plan, contact support@beam.dental.

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Matt Wilkes

Author Matt Wilkes

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