GEA Blog

Implementing a Succession Plan to Sustain Your Business

All Fortune 500 and small businesses need to ensure that they have the talent necessary to effectively lead their organizations in the future. The irony is that larger organizations with significant talent pools tend to have succession plans while smaller organizations don’t.

One of the most significant contributions leaders can make is ensuring their business’ continuity and sustainability – by having employees who are willing and capable of filling each key position with a plan for doing so when the need arises.

Through a Succession Plan an organization addresses – for each of its key positions – questions such as:


  • What the organization would do if it had to fill the position tomorrow 
  • Whether there is, at least, one successor who could immediately perform the duties of each position 
  • If there is no successor ready now, what will need to be done to enable the best internal candidate to be ready and by when 
  • Can the organization afford to wait, or would it be better to recruit a replacement

  • During Talent Review Succession Planning meetings, the leadership team in a disciplined fashion
  • Asks each leader to report on the status of the Individual Development Plans for each of their ‘A’ Players and High Potentials
  • Ensures that each ‘A’ Player and High Potential is receiving regular coaching and is actively involved in opportunities that will help retain them while accelerating their development

Not having a Succession Plan can be costly and sometimes disastrous. It’s expensive to recruit, interview, select, on-board and train a replacement – and significant opportunity costs are incurred when a key position is not being performed. While Succession Planning increases the levels of engagement and performance of ‘A’ Players and High Potentials – the talent most needed in the future.
By Pete Tosh, Founder of The Focus Group

Open Enrollment – 8 Questions to Ask Your Broker

By Jennifer Carsen

The NCAA has March Madness, and HR has its own brand of Fall Madness: open enrollment. It’s a busy and stressful time for practitioners, but a good benefits broker or consultant can mean the difference between a successful, smoothly executed process and months of frantic nail biting, confusion and muddled deadlines.

What’s the best way to find the right benefits partner? And how does HR best leverage and maximize that business relationship?

Businesses first must clarify their own needs and priorities, according to Donna Miracle, executive human resources consultant at HR Strategy Group.

“[A]re you a startup that will be growing rapidly? Are you an organization with a workforce that is virtual and spread across the country?” she said to HR Dive in an email. “In the marketplace today, brokers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. Some are focusing on technology, others wellness, others employee engagement, etc. What is most important to your organization? What value added service will be the most beneficial to your employees?”

8 Interview Questions

Once an employer is clear on the top priorities, research is crucial. Shelley McLean, principal at OneDigital Health and Benefits, said it’s important for employers to interview multiple firms and ask a lot of questions.

Miracle suggested employers seek out a broker that specializes in employee benefits — you don’t want it to be their “other thing,” she noted via email. “Just as you would want a professional accountant, you want a professional broker.”

She advised handling the broker selection process like an employee interview, with prepared questions such as the following:

  • Describe for me the renewal process with your firm. When should I expect to begin the process? What information will you need from me and when? How do you approach the marketplace? What tools do you have in place to help us make a decision?
  • How does your firm handle problems? Is there a team assigned to our company? Can employees contact your firm directly?
  • How often should I expect to hear from your firm before and during the renewal period?
  • What resources do you offer to help us stay informed about changes and reporting requirements?
  • How often should we expect your firm to be in touch with us when we are not in the renewal season?

McLean offered these questions to ask:

  • Do you provide the backbone to look at a benefits package with a holistic approach? How will you bring that to my employees?
  • What resources do you provide outside of benefits? Is there an expanded footprint?
  • How are you, consultant, going to help us build a strategy?

Both McLean and Misty Guinn, director of benefits & wellness at Benefitfocus, mentioned the importance of long-range, multi-year strategic plans.

“When creating 1- 3- or 5-year strategic plans, can the broker help map out the strategy? Can they help model different plans with a variety of voluntary solutions to meet the overall budget number from the CFO? These tools and modeling capabilities should be a deciding factor and can be a great asset when presenting your benefit plan designs to your executive team,” said Guinn via email.

McLean noted that a data-driven strategy is a key differentiator: “Everyone can say they have data, but do they have data that can provide an actionable plan, and understand what the data means?”

It’s also important to find a broker that knows the days of cookie-cutter benefits are over. “Employers should find a broker partner that offers creative solutions to make sure the company is maximizing their current offerings through plan designs and carrier programs and offer new solutions as part of the overall benefits strategy, rather than just another shiny toy to add on top of the benefits package,” said Guinn.

Executive Benefit Series: The Disability Insurance Unknown

By Brett Virgin, GEA Board Member
Unemployment is low and the stock market is high. On the surface, the U.S. economy is doing quite well, however, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see a slightly different picture of how financially fragile many American workers are today. Despite the overall economic gains made in recent years, many families may not be financially prepared should an unexpected illness or injury occur.

According to a 2018 poll of U.S. workers, 49% have less than $1,000 in savings and could only pay bills for about two months before needing additional assistance. The poll also pointed out that of the workers earning more than $100,000 per year, 40% are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Alarming in many respects, but particularly so in the context of a disability. When the breadwinner of a household can’t earn a paycheck, it can be difficult for a family to keep up with everyday expenses.

Unfortunately, suffering a disabling injury or illness is more common than many people think: according to the Social Security Administration, one in four U.S. workers will experience a disability requiring more than a year away from work during their career. 

Disabilities can be the result of an accident or injury, but they are more often due to an illness or health issue such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, or musculoskeletal problems. Disabilities can last months or even years, and may prevent the employee from earning an income, potentially impacting the family’s ability to pay bills, their kids’ tuition or maintain their existing lifestyle.

Employers often offer group disability insurance, which covers a percentage of base income (usually around 60%) but often excludes income from bonuses or commissions. For higher-wage earners this can leave significant gaps in financial protection should they experience a disability which prevents them from earning their income.

While a basic group long-term disability (LTD) insurance policy may cover 60% of a base salary, many policies have a monthly benefit maximum of around $5,000 per month. For those earning more than $100,000 a year, they’ll see a significant gap between their pre and post-disability income. And if the LTD insurance is employer-paid, the benefits are taxable, bringing that maximum payment down to around $3,600 after tax. 

If your workforce earns higher salaries, or depends on bonuses or commissions, you should consider additional income protection to provide for them and their loved ones. Group LTD insurance is an excellent foundation for income protection; but benefit maximums, uncovered compensation, and taxable benefits may leave higher income earners with a considerable gap in coverage.

Individual disability insurance (IDI) can insure a greater portion of income – often 75% or more – to help bridge this income gap. IDI also replaces a portion of total compensation – including commissions and bonuses – so employees receive benefits that come closer to their actual pre-disability income. This type of insurance is also portable, meaning if an employee changes jobs, they can take their IDI policy with them.

IDI policies can be purchased anytime during the year, meaning you may not have to wait until the standard open enrollment period. While many companies cover premiums on these policies for their top earners, there are a variety of strategies to fund an IDI program for your workforce.