Have a Strategic Advantage...Have a Strategy!

“Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things”

– Peter F. Drucker

Strategic planning is a strength of almost all successful organizations. Without a clear business strategy or plan, what and how does the team execute in order to accomplish the company's objectives? How do team members know which of their competing priorities should take precedence? An organization can have the best operators and executors, but without a clear strategy there is no path for them to follow. All the skill and talent cannot replace having a strategy, at least it cannot for long.
This got me thinking: why is it that so many companies we talk to have a strategy to tackle just about every aspect of their business from talent to distribution and real estate but when asked what their benefit strategy is, there is none to speak of. If the organization does not have a strategy, they are bound to a fire-drill mentality and likely to overreact to market forces, no matter what aspect of their business. Having a formal benefits strategy can give your organization an advantage over its competitors in multiple aspects of your business, whether it be attracting and retaining top talent or the controlling of long-term costs.

While the benefit programs of many companies have been able to survive without a clearly defined benefits strategy, the question remains: How much better could they be doing if they had a clearly defined benefits strategy? I do not think any company’s goal for one of their largest spends on their ledger is to merely “survive”.

When we think of some of the most basic strategies, they all do at least three things:

    • Create a clear purpose
    • Guide future work
    • Provide a unity of effort

Now, think about your own benefits program and whether or not the three things above would help you be more successful.

One of the most helpful things about having a strategy is that when the unforeseen happens both you and your team are able to manage the issue and turn it into a speed bump because you have a clear purpose. It is this clear purpose, or vision, that allows for the team to deal with unplanned events and stay on track. Thinking about how a benefits team without a strategic outline handles unplanned events is not a pleasant thought.  A good benefits strategy should be fluid and will change with the organization’s needs and goals.

The ability to guide future work is essential, because it helps the team with what to focus on. There are many resources available and consistent change in the benefits space that sorting through it all can be a job in itself. The strategy may not show individuals on the team how to get there, but knowing where you are going (purpose), will guide their choices.

Lastly, simply having a strategy allows for unity of effort. Having a clearly defined strategy, no matter how simple, helps to pull the team together. Knowing where you are trying to go, builds the team and allows for members to focus on their responsibilities. This creates accountability and cuts down on duplication of efforts among the team. When I think about the "fire-drill mentality" besides gross inefficiency, I specifically imagine the duplication of effort that has multiple second and third order effects on the business.

At Brio the first thing we do with a company we engage (client or not) is help them create a strategic vision for their organization's benefits. This groundwork often serves as the basis for all future decisions and plans, whether the group chooses to hire Brio or not. What we do know, is that long-term these organizations are better off than those without a clear benefits strategy to handle the future successfully.

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