Empowering Enrollmet

See the People

Successful worksite marketing still requires you to meet face to face

by Jeffrey Erving

Mr. Erving is Vice President, Worksite National Accounts for Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. Connect with him by e-mail: jerving@smlny.com

The call from the broker seemed straightforward enough – a large national company looking to introduce voluntary life insurance to its stable of core benefits.

It had everything a potential voluntary home run should have: employees and lots of ’em, actual locations where they worked, national name recognition and an HR department who seemingly understood the value of permanent life as an optional benefit.

What was left unsaid was the permanent life insurance offering was a condition of providing an HRIS system to the employer. The employer further thought that the enrollment capabilities inherent to that system would be just the ticket for communicating and enrolling their people in the voluntary life insurance offering – along with all the other core and supplemental benefits.

And to top it off, the employees could go online and self-elect at their convenience the voluntary life insurance product being made available.

The broker thought this was a swell idea. After all, their provision of the benefits platform would nicely ingrain them with a name-brand company and likely earn them at least a portion of the overall benefits being offered. The employer gains a nice tool in the management of their employee benefit structure.

And yet if the intention is to really provide employees access to a quality life insurance option, what is actually gained? Not much, if anything.

A dreadful result

What we now know is that the results of self-elected permanent life insurance are, in a word, dreadful. The broker may not care, because a small percentage of thousands of people may still make for a decent payday, and the potential for additional benefit business is there. The employer can point to their shiny new HR tool. It’s the employee who gets the short end of the stick.

There’s a reason the numbers for self-elected life benefits – as well as some other voluntary plans I might add – are so low.

A combination of education and direction needs to be provided for an effective enrollment. The vagaries of Universal Life or Whole Life insurance coverage are not easily recognized by most people. In fact, just navigating most application processes poses a challenge. To think that a meaningful percentage of people can or will, after viewing a video or reviewing marketing materials, run the online benefit platform gauntlet to enroll in a plan they struggle to understand is unrealistic.

And the poor results come at a cost. Part of the price that’s paid is in the employer not maximizing the bang for their buck in either the implementation of the system or the employees’ understanding, valuing and appreciating the product offering. The greater price paid is in denying the employee a true understanding of what is being offered and providing the appropriate hands-on approach to help ensure the best outcome for them and their families.

There’s no doubt the path of least resistance can make a voluntary sale easier but eventually it leads to dissatisfaction by one or more of the parties involved. And in the current dog-eat-dog worksite environment, the most disturbing trend is that to some it doesn’t seem to matter.

Most new business is replacement business

According to LIMRA, in 2014 replacement sales comprised 51 percent of new worksite premium. There is little doubt this was almost entirely the replacement of big blocks of disability, critical illness and supplemental term plans.

According to LIMRA, in 2014 replacement sales comprised 51 percent of new worksite premium. There is little doubt this was almost entirely the replacement of big blocks of disability, critical illness and supplemental term plans

In many instances there was no need to see employees at all – spreadsheet replacement of in force voluntary products is the ultimate path of least resistance. No fuss, no muss­ – for the employer and broker. The employee often knows little more than the carrier is changing, the premiums may be a little lower and the benefits are “largely” the same. Education and direction are not an integral part of the equation. There is a better way. It’s not an easier way, but it’s a better way. See the people.

The notion that employers won’t allow their employees to be seen under any circumstances is simply not a universal truth. Without a doubt, there are industries and circumstances which present challenges to the traditional one-on-one enrollment process. There will be employers who will indeed not allow it. But presented correctly, with the employer and employees’ best interests at heart, I have no doubt as an industry we could be doing a much better job in advocating the value of and enhancing the participation in voluntary benefits – especially permanent life insurance.

In the above example, there is no doubt in my mind that the new system would be best served by a one-on-one tutorial with eligible employees and a subsequent overview/review of core and voluntary benefits. Is it more difficult to convince the employer to not only establish the new system but to let you see each employee? That’s a distinct possibility.

But it’s also our job to do what’s in the best interest of all involved. The right way isn’t always the easiest way. We’re not order takers. We consult, advise and sell. Ultimately, we lead. We demonstrate that by seeing each employee – the employer gains added appreciation for all they are providing, along with renewed and contemporary employee data and increased participation in plans across the board.

The employee benefits tremendously from the education and direction resulting from individual meetings. It’s a fact that many will not know what benefits they have or how to best take advantage of them. You can be a meaningful factor in their ability to help manage their families’ most pressing concerns. So . . . just how do we see all these people? The simple answer has been around for years.

Cut from the same (specialized) cloth

It has been my good fortune to have worked closely with many of the industry’s most successful benefit and communication firms.

A generation later I still work with many who have been part of the worksite marketing fabric from the beginning. These are organizations cut from a highly specialized cloth. They know their job and do it exceedingly well, keeping up with every technological trend, paying special attention to training and development and maintaining the highest standards of ethics and professionalism. They provide the kind of employer and employee support and service that creates the best chance for success in not only the initial enrollment but for years to come.

And the results they get will dwarf that of the typical brokerage operation that attempts to do it on its own.

Their existence is to provide that one invaluable function that is sadly lacking all too often these days. They exist to see people.
In the example above, the case was being prepped to proceed via self-election with call center support. There is every likelihood that the addition of call center resources will help the cause (call center functionality and support are also part of the toolset of a number of benefit communication firms). It will still be a far cry from one-on-one enrollment and tutelage.

There’s no substitute for seeing the people. And really, this is one employer who should know and could have been open to considering individual enrollment. As one carrier can ruefully attest to, they tried offering voluntary permanent life insurance via self-election a number of years ago and now have 65 participants out of almost 30,000 employees.
Live and learn. ◊