By Treg Balding
Open enrollment is an important time of the year for employees to think about their own benefit needs and financial security. However, Guardian's Workplace Benefits Study showed that 89 percent of employees say that benefits are very important to them, but only 49 percent clearly understand their benefits. This can lead to employees not taking advantage of open enrollment and a missed opportunity for employers.
With employees now looking to the workplace for more protection products, the role of the broker/consultant and carrier is more valuable than ever before. We are already seeing this in the marketplace with brokers asking carriers for more help to be able to guide their clients through the enrollment process. Not surprisingly, a LIMRA study showed that brokers believe employers now want more help communicating their benefit plans to their employees than they did three years ago.
Setting Up A Client For Open Enrollment Success
The name of the game is becoming more and more about simplification, personalization, and technology. To help guide your clients, we offer the following tips:
- Identify what has changed and what is new: It’s customary for employers to communicate what’s changed in an employee benefits package. Carriers are continually evaluating their products and making enhancements to benefit employers and employees. In addition, mergers or price changes can also be a reason why employees need to be made aware that their plan has changed. This, coupled with more employers adding voluntary benefits to their overall portfolio, make it incredibly important for employers to educate their workforce about what’s changed, what’s new and what it means to them.
- Help create a benefit communications plan: Employees want options, but they can feel overwhelmed by their benefit choices and unsure how to make the best decisions. It’s also likely that clients understand the importance of communicating during open enrollment, but they need you, as a benefits advisor, to fully execute on the right plan. A successful enrollment process starts with one simple notion – it’s about the people. Every company and its employees have their own unique financial needs and challenges. The right communications plan ensures employees have the information they need to make the right benefit choices and update those benefits as their lives change. This can be done by implementing a multi-channel approach such as a customized multi-media communications plan or access to benefits counselors.
- Personalized enrollment: The customer experience has changed forever with customers expecting a level of personalization in every transaction they have. This is also resonating in the workplace with employers looking to enhance the overall employee experience by looking at ways to boost engagement. Nowhere is this more relevant than personalizing enrollment and demonstrating to employees that their employer understands their needs. To do this, brokers/consultants should work with their clients to use data and focus groups to gain a better understanding of employee demographics, life stages, lifestyle preferences and personalizing enrollment in a way that is meaningful to the workforce.
- Educate clients on mobile enrollment options: The Guardian Workplace Benefits Study revealed that 3 in 5 millennials wish it were easier to learn about and access workplace benefits. With employees being more mobile and tech-savvy, they are seeking a better end-to-end user experience beginning with benefits education to enrolling. Take into consideration that millennials now comprise more than half of the U.S. labor force, and this year, a new generation - Generation Z - is entering the workforce. This new generation has grown up in a digital world, so they want an employee benefits experience that is seamless, 100 percent digital, with an app that allows for customization, and all the information they need at their fingertips. Our study showed that more and more employers are upgrading their benefits delivery model with new human resources technology platforms and reaping its rewards, especially when it comes to enrollment.
- Simplification: Historically, employee benefits haven’t been perceived as “simple and easy to understand.” However, with employers shifting the costs to employees and the array of available products employees can choose from, simplifying the open enrollment process is critical. As a result, what we say and how we say it is also important. Developing customizable materials that are simple and conversational will be appreciated by employees. This means avoiding insurance jargon and presenting employee benefits in a way that employees can understand how the product works and how it will provide them with the financial protection they may need.
It’s no secret that a tight labor market exists these days due to the low unemployment rate. As employers look to recruit and retain talent, maximizing open enrollment is a solid strategy to demonstrate to employees why they should be perceived as an employer of choice.
Treg Balding is vice president, group and worksite markets distribution, Guardian Life. Treg may be contacted at [email protected].
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