November 29, 2022
Along with engagement of the appropriate internal stakeholders, an employer can leverage the RFP and SOW processes to select the global broker partnership that works best for their workforce needs and/or benefit strategies.
What is the Role and Value of an Employer-Driven RFP?
Regardless of the broker arrangement approach or internal structure of a company, putting in the time and effort early on to create a strategic RFP with meaningful, targeted questions that reflect key areas of importance to the employer is a worthwhile investment. As such, companies may consider the following components as they approach the RFP process: strategy, SOW, criteria and interviews.
Generally, the RFP includes:
- 1 | Information on the company’s strategy, vision, guiding principles, key global initiatives, organizational structure and governance framework;
- 2 | A clear outline of the company’s needs (geographical footprint, volume of policies), as well as expectations [both general and service-level agreements (SLAs)] that the company has for services provided by local, regional and global contacts;
- 3 | Detailed questions the company wants to see in the response regarding capabilities and technology (including data inventory and analytics systems);
- 4 | Top competitive advantages;
- 5 | How a particular broker’s approach differs from competitors; and
- 6 | What consulting, technology and other value-added advantages a particular broker can bring to support company priorities.
What Is an Employer Trying to Achieve?
As companies build out their RFP and SOW, it is important to share the company’s strategy and guiding principles to ensure that both parties are coming to the partnership with the right vision. These principles assist the company and global broker in aligning expectations surrounding benefits and business strategies. Using the guiding principles, companies can articulate priorities—what is a must have vs. nice to have—as well as what the company’s key markets are.4 Company priorities go beyond employee benefits, but there is often a connection. It’s important to think broadly when outlining guiding principles to potential global brokers.
What Are the Role and Purpose of an Employer-Driven SOW?
When looking to establish a global broker relationship, taking the time to build out a detailed and clear SOW can be extremely beneficial. The SOW is an agreement between an employer and broker that outlines what is included in the broker contract and what the fees/commissions are. Having a sufficient level of detail included in the SOW provides reassurance to the company regarding what services will be provided and establishes a shared understanding for both parties on deliverables and expectations.
A SOW can:
- Identify what is in and out of scope (out-of-scope work can identify projects that could be added later via a change order, including corresponding additional fee for service);
- Contain deliverables and processes;
- Clarify price, criteria, requirements, timeline and invoice schedule; and
- Provide flexibility as business priorities and strategies evolve.
Clearly state in the SOW what services are expected of the broker, detail the commissions (or fees) payable, thus allowing an employer to regularly audit the broker to ensure they are delivering the services promised and only receiving the agreed-upon compensation.
Based on employer best practices, key areas to highlight in the SOW include:
What is the biggest differentiator for a successful global broker relationship? According to employers, it’s an effective arrangement with their account managers. The importance of this role(s) should not be underestimated. This person is an extension of the team, and therefore must be aligned on strategy and priorities and be positioned to build relationships to coordinate messages across regions and communicate effectively between their internal stakeholders and the company, their client. Having the right account manager can truly make or break the partnership. Depending on the organizational structure, some companies have both global account managers as well as regional account managers. With personnel changes on either side, it is critical to have an effective transition plan that enables an uninterrupted experience.1 The SOW should identify the employers expectations of a broker partner.
Benefits Inventory Database
Often, better governance, including improved access to data, is a prime business case for using a global broker. However, while this is a key business need, even with a global broker maintaining the benefits inventory database, it is a recurring challenge for global employers. Employers have found the update process much easier than the initial data load process. A major problem noted for database inventories, however, is that the project tends to lose priority in light of other competing demands. Also, turnover among HR staff and/or the local brokers may result in both parties not realizing the database even exists. It can take a full annual cycle to get the database initially loaded with updates being made when renewal dates take effect. Employers struggle with the accuracy and limitations of cost data included in the database. For example, if an employer requires having more specific information (such as company and employee cost vs. just total benefit cost), indicate that in the SOW. Please note that some companies incorporate this information in the RFP process.
For more details on what to include in the Scope of Work, see the next section, Ongoing Relationship Management.
What Criteria Is Most Important in the RFP Selection Decision?
Internal stakeholders involved may want to identify and agree upon a scoring process/score- card before reviewing any RFPs. Doing so preemptively helps ensure that all involved parties understand how they will evaluate RFPs so that they can weigh criteria based on agreed-upon priorities. When drafting the RFP, consider the key criteria (e.g., geographical presence, cost, benefits inventory database, technological platform, business alignment, prior relationship, consulting capabilities) and ensure that the company is asking for enough information in each of those areas to be able to effectively compare and evaluate responses. This will allow all parties to arrive at a consensus on which global partnership to choose.
What Are the Key Elements of the Interview Process?
After the RFPs are reviewed, typically the internal stakeholders/decision makers involved will then move on to the interview process. During the interview, bidders will share evidence and anecdotal examples; this serves as an opportunity for the interview team to react, ask questions and gather more specific details on areas of importance to the employer. The interview portion also serves as an opportunity to ensure that vision, strategy and expectations align between all parties, both externally and internally.
- 1 | Business Group on Health. Creating a Globally Consistent Benefits Strategy. February 22, 2022. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/resources/creating-a-globally-consistent-benefits-strategy-intro. Accessed April 25, 2022.
- 2 | Quinn B, Mathieu B, Buckley A. Panel discussion: How can global financing solutions support the future of benefits? Utilizing financing solution for cost containment and DEI. Zurich Global Employee Benefits Solutions Conference. Jersey City, NJ. June 28-29, 2022.
- 3 | Business Group on Health. Global Benefits Governance Guide. April 21, 2022. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/resources/global-benefits-governance-guide. Accessed June 1, 2022.
- 4 | Business Group on Health. Employer-Sharing Discussion: Global Benefits. May 13, 2022. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/en/resources/key-insights-global-benefits-5422. Accessed May 19, 2022.
- 5 | Business Group on Health. Employer-Sharing Discussion: Global Benefits. July 19, 2022. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/en/resources/key-insights-global-benefits-7622. Accessed August 2, 2022.
- 6 | Business Group on Health. Utilizing Financing Mechanisms to Implement a Global Consistency Strategy. February 22, 2022. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/resources/utilizing-financing-mechanisms-to-implement-a-global-consistency-strategy. Accessed April 25, 2022.
- 7 | Business Group on Health. Employer-Sharing Discussion: Captives and Other Financing Mechanisms. September 29, 2022. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/resources/key-insights-global-benefits-9622. Accessed October 1, 2022.
- 8 | Business Group on Health. Globally Connected: Focus on the Future Workforce. 2021 Global Summit Insights. Business Group on Health. November 5, 2021. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/resources/2021-global-summit-key-insights. Accessed January 23, 2022.
- 9 | Business Group on Health. Breaking Down Borders. 2022 Global Summit Insights. Washington, DC. August 2, 2022. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/resources/key-insights-2022-global-summit. Accessed November 3, 2022.
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