By Kyle Addy
When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses across the country this spring, it may have shut the doors on some of your clients’ benefits enrollments, too.
Many employees were no longer at the workplace to enroll, and even for businesses with essential workers, large gatherings to talk about benefits weren’t possible. Neither were in-person, face-to-face enrollments — the method we believe creates the best experience for customers and drives the highest benefits participation levels.
Even as businesses gradually open back up, your clients and their workers are still understandably concerned and cautious about human interaction. And your clients who may be struggling in the economic downturn are being forced to make tough choices to manage employment costs.
But there’s good news, too: Employee benefits are top of mind for many businesses. An April study of companies on behalf of Colonial Life and Unum indicates employers remain concerned about easing the financial burden on their employees and protecting their financial safety nets.
Nine in 10 employers surveyed say they have no plans to eliminate or reduce employer-paid insurance benefits to hold down employment costs. And more than half of organizations say they’ll fully cover the employee-paid share of medical (52%) or life (54%) insurance premiums to avoid a lapse in coverage for their furloughed employees.
Slightly fewer than half say they’re doing the same for dental (46%), long-term disability (45%), vision (44%) and short-term disability (41%) insurance premiums.
That doesn’t mean your clients won’t be considering some changes to their benefits plan design, or how they communicate and enroll workers it. A third of employers in the same study say they foresee changes, including reducing the variety of benefits offered or shifting more of the premiums toward employees.
But even here, there’s good news. Some organizations say they’ll go the opposite direction, boosting coverage to be more comprehensive, increasing benefit options or adding telehealth coverage. And the greatest number of employers — nearly half at 46% — say they don’t plan to make changes to their benefits plans in the coming year.
It seems what’s most likely to change for your clients is how they communicate and enroll those benefits. The ideal solution may be using high-tech tools that still provide high (virtual) touch capabilities.
A silver lining in the pandemic environment is the realization high-tech tools aren’t separate capabilities to people, but rather something that can be packaged for a more cohesive, personalized enrollment strategy for your clients.
Some solutions to consider include:
- Virtual meeting technology. Web-based meeting tools offer the opportunity for employees to meet with a benefits counselor to better understand their needs and gaps in coverage, benefits options available to meet those needs, and complete their enrollment.
- Co-browsing capabilities. This technology allows an employee and a benefits counselor to review information together, then for the benefits representative to hand over control to the employee to create a secure log-in and sign insurance applications.
- Call center resources. This is a convenient option for employees without good internet access or who prefer a phone call to an onscreen experience.
- Online scheduling. These tools allow employees to schedule a virtual or telephonic one-to-one meeting for the day and time most convenient for them.
- Digital communications. Your clients’ employees have unique needs and preferences, so it’s important to use a variety of benefits communication methods to reach them when, where and how they like. These can include emails, digital postcards, custom websites and mobile apps, and digital benefits booklets.
The right combination of high-tech/high-touch tools can deliver remarkably strong results for you and your clients. One recent example for our company was a veterinary clinic group with 6,000 employees in 300 different locations. The benefits counselors in the account switched on a dime to a 100% virtual enrollment when the pandemic hit. The client ended up with excellent participation in the voluntary products and we wrote four times the premium expected under the circumstances.
With the right benefits partner, you’ll be ideally positioned to bring a package of enrollment solutions to your clients to help drive the most successful benefits delivery experience possible.
Kyle Addy is vice president of enrollment solutions at Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co. Kyle may be contacted at [email protected].
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