Jul 02, 2013

At my firm, TRG Group Benefits, we’ve come to believe that the first step to a best practice for the management of any benefit plan is the Discovery* stage. That’s what we call the initial stage of working with a new client. And it’s an important phase in our relationship with all clients. Everything in the future management of a benefits plan depends on where you start. It provides the best foundation to have excellent results and outcomes. Where you start and how well you start often determines where and how well you end up.

So what is Discovery? It’s all about getting great clarity on both the current state of your benefits strategy, and the vision of the future goals of the benefits plan – clarity for both the plan sponsor and for the consultant. The first step is getting clarity on the current state:

• Determining the competitiveness of the current plan – both from a funding or price perspective and in terms of the appropriateness of the plan’s design.
• Determining, how well the plan is aligned with the plan sponsor’s values and vision of the organization.
• Determining how well the employees understand and appreciate the current plan.
• Assessing if there any significant risk management liability issues that should be eliminated.

These are just a few issues that are addressed in the Discovery stage..

Once the current state is clearly understood, then the important next step in Discovery can be completed – that is, what does the plan sponsor wish the future state of the benefits plan to be? I find a that a good starting point to ask, “If we were meeting here 3 years from today, and looking back over those 3 years, what needs to happen for you to be happy with your progress?” We have found, from direct experience, that 3 years is a perfect interval – it’s long enough to have some great outcomes and deliverables and not too long to make tracking progress difficult.

The act of Discovery, in its broadest definition, is proactive. Without it, plan sponsors tend to be more reactionary. Making important strategic decisions on benefits become much easier after going through Discovery. Through this process, objectives and goals become obvious and are the basis for all decisions. Without the future state of the benefit plan fully determined, the old adage, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know if you are there?”, becomes a reality.

Discovery can take a little longer at the start of managing a benefits plan, however it will likely save lots of time in the future and most importantly provide the best foundation to have the best outcome with the benefits plan.

Craig Hewson

*Used with permission from Dan Sullivan and The Strategic Coach

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Learn how Craig can help with your group benefits.

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