When done poorly, frustration can scuttle the entire porcess
The popularity of voluntary benefits continues to grow. These insurance plans enable employers to cost-effectively supplement core health coverage and address the needs and interests of an increasingly diverse employee population.
They provide employees with the opportunity to assemble a portfolio of insurance products that best fit employees’ particular wants and needs.
Ensuring successful participation, however, requires that employers understand and effectively address the challenges associated with enrolling employees in voluntary benefits.
As Reed VanOrsdel notes in a recent editorial in Employee Benefit News, “If done poorly, the introduction of voluntary benefits can lead to a frustrated workforce that doesn’t have the right insurance.
Done well, a voluntary program can invigorate the culture and help to provide a feeling of security. Success depends largely on how voluntary benefits are framed for the employee, and delving into the world of insurance can be perplexing for employees, leading to concerns about choosing the right coverage and having to live with the consequences of their selections.
The key is to deliver product information in consumable portions. A fire hose of benefits information is not going to help the employee, and it’s probably going to be a waste of time for the employer . . . .”
Steve L. Adams, CEO of Navera, a cloud-based benefits service, agrees. “Beyond the challenge of acclimating to their newly expanded decision-making responsibilities, employees often find benefits selection challenging," he said. "The sheer volume of information—not well understood, full of technical jargon, discussing anxiety-laden situations—increases the risk of overwhelming employees."
Simply put, information needs to be provided in a manner that makes benefit options easy to access, easy to understand, easy to select, and easy to enroll. Employees of all ages are using technology to access the information they want and need.
These tech-savvy users are ready to use self-service benefits education and decision support tools to help them navigate an increasingly choice-filled benefits environment. To ensure a successful voluntary benefits enrollment, Adams recommends that employers select benefits education and decision support tools that:
- Deliver educational content that is personally relevant and personalized decision support tools that match an employee’s health and financial wellness goals to the plans being offered.
- Educate using a holistic, portfolio approach vs. a linear, serial process to benefits selection; that is, education that explains how products work together to provide more complete and cost-effective coverage. (For example, present a high-deductible healthcare plan along side one or more critical illness, accident, or hospital indemnity plans.)
- Engage the employee in an interactive way, increasing comprehension and retention of information.
- Enable self-paced education, driven by an employee’s previous experience and/or desire to learn more about specific products, enabling employees to choose what they want to learn and the order in which they want to learn it.
- Inspire employees to want to learn more.