In The Worksite

Quick… How Well Do Your Clients Understand Their Benefits?

How slowing down can boost enrollment season satisfaction

by Steven Johnson

Mr. Johnson is vice president of Enrollment Solutions at Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company. He can be reached at 803-678-6599 or

During a busy enrollment season benefits experts and their client’s employees can completely miss out on a satisfying enrollment experience. It’s understandable. Managing teleconferences to learn more about a provider’s products, meeting with clients to ensure a smooth employee experience, and finalizing educational materials to lead participation and sales can be quite the handful. All while you’re desperately working to finish the year strong while working towards 2020.

Sometimes it’s necessary to slow down and encourage your clients and their employees to do the same.

A Colonial Life survey of 1,500 full-time U.S. employees earlier this year showed that 33% spend less than 30 minutes considering their workplace benefits at enrollment time. And an additional 36% spend just 30 to 60 minutes learning about their benefits choices. However, speeding through the crazy enrollment season is not the way to create a satisfying enrollment season for your clients, their employees or your sales. Here are some ways to discuss slowing your role during this fall and winter:

Employees need more time to consider options

You may all there is to know about benefits, but not everyone does. A lack of benefits education and consideration significantly impacts the workplace, according to the study. Not only are those who speed through their benefits choices 23% less likely to understand their benefits moderately or very well, according to the survey, they also are:

  • 55% more likely to leave their jobs in the coming year;
  • 32% more likely to feel dissatisfied in their jobs; and
  • 18% less likely to feel cared about by their employer.

Other key notes from the research include:

  • Women are more likely than men to speed through benefits.
  • Single and divorced employees are less likely to take valuable time considering their benefits.
  • Employees without children are more likely to think less about their benefits.
  • And employees at smaller companies (less than 250 employees) are less likely to take more than an hour on their benefits.

We recommend giving employees at least 3 weeks to consider their benefit options each year. They should consider the changes that have taken place in their lives that may require making different benefits decisions (think marriage, divorce, adoption, childbirth). They should also think about how the additional year has changed the health concerns of their families and dependents (consider another year closer to retirement, added financial fragility due to a job change, older children getting more involved in sports).

as their advisor, you should be encouraging deeper thinking about their engagement and the education they’re providing about benefits during this critical time. It’s not enough to just craft a quick email and hit “send”

Employees who have more time to consider their needs prior to enrolling will make better benefits decisions. Better benefits decisions lead to lower stress. And lower stress means higher job satisfaction.

Clients can’t afford the one-size-fits-all-approach

Many of your clients probably view benefits education as the simplest thing they do on their schedules. They may send off an email with a link to a benefits portal. Or they send out an order to bulk mail enrollment packets to every employee. Or they may just post a link to their company intranet stating, “It’s Enrollment Time!”

But as their advisor, you should be encouraging deeper thinking about their engagement and the education they’re providing about benefits during this critical time. It’s not enough to just craft a quick email and hit “send.”

According to our research, the average employer uses two methods of communicating about benefits each year. These can be a combination of emails, flyers, websites, mailings or in-person meetings. Depending on your clients and their employee mix, it’s not always easy to understand the best way to engage them.

When we asked employees to tell us their preferred way to learn about benefits, most employees said email and in-person meetings (either 1-to-1 or group meetings) were their top 2 preferences for benefits education. Nearly one-third ranked a mailing to their home in the top 2, and nearly 40% said a website.

Only your clients know their employees well enough to decide on the best way to reach them. The location of their employees, the employees’ comfort level with technology, and their business traveling tendencies are all factors to consider when choosing the most effective way to reach them.

So, encourage your clients to think differently about benefits education this year and discuss how they can engage more of their employees.

Advisers to evaluate their enrollment success

Which brings us back to you.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking: “This would have been great information three months ago, or even six months ago.” I’m sorry I didn’t share it with you earlier.

But looking at it from a different perspective, now may be the perfect time for you to think about your enrollment offerings in a new way. As your clients and their employees are working through their benefits decisions this fall/ winter, take a moment to evaluate the successes and failures of each program.

Then, find the time to think through opportunities to improve each one and consider meaningful changes that can be made for next year. But don’t keep the ideas to yourself. Communicate your hard work and evaluation process with your clients and commit to making each enrollment season better than the last.