Aniline Blog

Who Dominates Mid-Market Employee Benefits from Employees’ Perspectives: Not Who You’d Think...

4 Minute Read

The most coveted and hardest to reach market for insurers, brokers and advisors is the middle. There are many definitions of mid-market, we define mid-market  as any company with between 200 and 2,000 employees. For employee benefit programs, the companies in this segment tend to be highly reliant on brokers as the key advisor for development and deployment. So we decided to see who among the top brokerage firms is the most effective and dominant in this market. What we found was a little surprising. Let’s explore.

The two primary criteria.
We measure effectiveness based on two specific criteria. First is market share. Specifically, the percentage of companies in this segment who use these brokers/advisors. The second criteria is client satisfaction. But with an Aniline twist. We chose to look at the ultimate customer of employee benefit plans, the employee. We did so without any self-reporting or self-validating surveys. We got unrestrained feedback directly from employees. Feedback, based on what they say when they’re not being asked, prompted or monitored. We capture and aggregate more than 400 million data points of employee perception all from external sources on social media. Benefits is just one of nine categories of employee perception that we track and publish dashboards for over 70,000 companies.

Why focus on unrestrained employee perception?
Because surveys and net promoter scores only tell part of the story. They focus on the buyer and not the user. We go direct to employees in an environment of unrestrained and unfiltered feedback. It’s important to know what people actually say when they’re not being asked or monitored. Surveys have a place. However, direct unsolicited feedback from the people actually using benefit programs adds two new dimensions. First, it yields greater candor without fear of attribution or retribution. Secondly, people proactively set their own priorities, expressing perceptions based upon priorities set by what’s actually important to them. Not steered by the survey designer or survey sponsor. No psychometric orchestration.

How do we measure employee perception?
We start with millions of narrative employee reviews found on a myriad of social media platforms. We aggregate, scan and run them through a proprietary natural language processing (NLP) platform. Reviews are decomposed, categorized by individual perception, contextualized, scored, normalized and converted into a 100 point index. Scores are based on the combination of positive and negative polarity of the individual perceptions. The indices are completely comparable against any of the 70,000 companies we track, and include nearly all 12,000 US companies with between 200 and 2,000 employees. All perceptions are updated every month.

We divided benefits providers into two groups, the Top 10 and Next 10 based on market share. We assigned these companies to Gartner-like quadrants, combining market share (vertical axis) and market expectation (horizontal axis). Market expectation is based on the normalized scores of all companies’ employee benefit perception for the mid-market segment.

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As illustration 1 shows, Mercer is dominant in the mid-market in both market share and employee benefit perception. This is interesting because of the perception of Mercer’s dominance in the large employer market. Mercer managed to exceed by a significant margin their sister company Marsh & McLennan Agency in both market expectation and market share. This, despite the fact, that Marsh & McLennan Agency was built for the mid-market. NFP, Alliant and Corporate Synergies have the potential to improve their market position if they continue to exceed market expectations.

Why does this matter?
A few thoughts about why this should matter to HR teams at mid-sized companies. First, in this period of competing for talent, companies need to have a deep understanding of what their employees are thinking and address their wants and needs rapidly. This is especially true with millennials, now the largest single population cohort, who make it clear they want a work/life balance that includes being valued by their employer. And, many companies are now working to retain older employees and even lure recent retirees back to the workforce to make up for the current dearth of talent. Demonstrating positive employee sentiment as provided through Aniline scores enables HR teams to effectively motivate both younger and older employees.

As HR teams evaluate their benefits providers, having the ability to measure employee satisfaction comprehensively and quantitatively is a valuable capability as they work to make their organizations more attractive to prospective and current employees, and as a negotiating tool with current and potential benefits providers.  HR teams can share Aniline scores publicly as recruiting and retention solution as well as with their providers to encourage them to expand offerings employees find attractive and rework those that do not contribute to employee satisfaction.

Concurrently, benefits providers can use Aniline scores to adjust their service offerings and share results with their clients to strengthen engagement and help clients address any perceived weaknesses in how the company treats employees.

If you’d like to see more employee perceptions on benefits, visit and sign up for a 30-day free trial and see benefits and eight other categories including Leadership, Integrity, DEI, Workplace, Compensation, Work Life Balance, Career and Hiring Experience.

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Kevin Gregson

Kevin Gregson

A consulting industry veteran, technology entrepreneur, and insurance industry innovator, Kevin formed Aniline while working on the insurance vertical of Plug and Play, a technology incubator in the Silicon Valley. His vision for Aniline is based on applying the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to help organizations improve the lives of their people. Also a senior advisor to Plug and Play and a board member of Nassau Insurance Group, his past roles include senior executive positions at Willis Towers Watson, Alvarez & Marsal, and Ernst & Young.