By Richard Shaffer
For nearly 20 years, we’ve been discussing this day. Now it’s here.
Millennials have taken over the working world.
They’re the largest generation in history and already comprise the largest share of the U.S. labor force at 56 million strong. And in many organizations, they’re not just the worker bees, they’re already the decision-makers. Millennial benefit and enrollment preferences matter tremendously is because when we talk about millennials, we’re really talking about the future of the workplace.
Are you ready? More important, are your clients ready?
If you want to continue meeting the needs of your clients now and in the future, it’s worth the time to reconsider your enrollment strategy to make sure it hits the mark with millennials.
Even though millennials may seem dramatically different in some ways, that doesn’t mean they don’t need valuable income protection. In fact, many successful benefits providers are already well-equipped to inform, educate and enroll your clients’ youngest employees. To help you accomplish those valuable goals, here are four ways to maximize your millennial enrollment.
- Understand the knowledge gap
Millennials may understand technology, but they do not know all they need to know about finance. One recent study from the TIAA Institute, The George Washington University School of Business and Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center showed a significant financial literacy gap between millennials and their coworkers: American adults answered 50 percent of questions correctly, while only 44 percent of millennials could do so — and that number dropped still further, to only 41 percent, for younger millennials.
Even more troubling — especially for the benefits business — is financial literacy among both younger and older millennials is lowest in the areas of comprehending risk and insurance, the study showed. Insurance, in particular, was the topic where the biggest knowledge gap between older and younger millennials could be found.
- Talk or text?
A strong benefits education and communication strategy is essential to a successful enrollment. So what’s the best way to reach employees?
It’s true older workers are much more likely than younger workers to prefer printed materials to educate themselves about benefits, according to a study commissioned by Colonial Life and Unum. Employees over the age of 50 are two to three times more likely than workers between the ages of 18 and 34 to prefer printed material.
But here’s where it gets surprising: The younger workers are much more likely than their Generation X and Baby Boomer colleagues to prefer speaking to a benefits advisor in person or on the phone. In fact, more than a quarter of 18-to-24-year-olds and more than 30 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds cited this preference. That compares to slightly more than 20 percent of the older workers.
There’s no better place to learn about benefits than in a personal, individual one-to-one conversation with a benefits expert. But most employers don’t have the time or energy to meet individually with each employee. Working with a benefits partner who will handle those conversations can be valuable for you and your clients.
- Address their unique needs
Many younger workers have delayed marriage, delayed childbearing and delayed home-buying, making their protection needs different from previous generations at that age. But they still have insurance needs.
As active as many millennials are, accident insurance is always a compelling benefit to offer. Millennials are also snapping up dental coverage. And they are responding favorably to programs that offer pet insurance and that allows employers to contribute to student loan payments. Such tailored programs provide a recruitment tool for employers while also increasing the number of employees who attend benefits presentations at their workplace.
A benefits partner will help you identify a product set that is relevant for your employees – regardless of their age. Having a more relevant product set that meets employees where they are is the best way to ensure successful enrollments.
- Reduce the stress
Younger workers also report significantly higher levels of stress, anxiety and confusion than other workers when enrolling in their benefits:
18-to-24-year-old employees Total employees
Stress 28 percent 21 percent
Anxiety 32 percent 20 percent
Confusion 29 percent 22 percent
Clearly, workers of all ages — but especially younger millennials — are crying out for a simple, modern and personal way to understand and enroll in their benefits. You can help meet that need with the right mash-up of high-tech and high-touch tools and strategies. Remember, technology is never an end in itself: It’s simply an enabler that makes enrollment and ongoing benefits administration easier.
Whether you conduct the enrollment yourself, use an enrollment firm or partner with a benefits provider that offers benefits communication and enrollment as part of its services, you’ll get better engagement if employees have the option to meet and talk with a benefits expert. Even if your clients use online tools for the actual enrollment, personal access to experts for questions and advice through personal conversations or telephone calls can drive stronger engagement and participation.
You don’t have to be an expert in benefits communication and enrollment to pull this off. Take advantage of benefits partners with the expertise you need to round out both your portfolio and your toolkit. Look for a partner that can provide experienced, licensed, knowledgeable benefits counselors with high business quality scores.
Millennials want a personalized, seamless communication and enrollment experience that works across multiple channels — but so do all of the employees at your clients’ businesses. No matter which generation or demographic you’re trying to reach, it’s important to meet them where they are with relevant information that addresses their unique, personal needs.
Richard Shaffer is senior vice president of growth markets and enrollment solutions at Colonial Life. Richard can be contacted at [email protected].
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