A benefit is only a benefit if employees know it exists.
Worksite benefits provide critical financial protection tools for employees, and can also be leveraged to create a benefits communication strategy that improves employees’ understanding and perceptions of the plans they’re offered. As a result, employers who offer worksite benefits have varying motivations for doing so. Some are paternalistic, some are more pragmatic; but here’s what we know:
• 63% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency¹.
• Employees are increasingly exposed to the financial risks of high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.
• Only 35% of employees report fully understanding their benefits².
• People who understand their benefits are more likely to appreciate them, which leads to greater job satisfaction and, ultimately, retention.
All of these are excellent reasons for why an employer may offer worksite benefits. But regardless of why, the program will ultimately fall short of expectations if careful attention is not paid to how the plans are delivered. Securing optimal enrollment conditions will make or break a voluntary worksite benefits program.
So what are “optimal enrollment conditions”?
The answer will vary depending on the employer, but start with three key questions:
1) Does the employer endorse the product offering?
From the top-down, CFO to line supervisors, buy-in will drive an employee’s perception of the products. At an absolute minimum, an employer should payroll deduct the premium. Ideally, they believe in the products and understand how they fit into their broader benefits strategy.
2) Does the employer support an active enrollment?
If the benefits are important, then employee engagement is important. Employers who want to help employees better protect their finances, or improve retention through benefits education, undermine those objectives when the whole thing is optional. Employees shouldn’t be forced to enroll, but they darn sure better sign a waiver. If the extent of the enrollment strategy is sticking a carrier rep in a lunchroom to talk to interested employees, consider changing course. No one is really interested in talking to the insurance rep while they’re nuking their Hot Pocket.
3) Does the enrollment process add value for employers and employees?
While employers shouldn’t have to do the heavy-lifting at enrollment time, there will be some work involved. Look for ways the enrollment can make HR’s life easier. Can it be leveraged to communicate anything else? From changes in dress-code policy to dependent verification, emergency contact updates to full-blown benefit administration system launches, worksite can be an employer’s benefits workhorse. It should also give employees a reason to engage that goes beyond simply buying insurance.
If you answered “yes” to all three questions, congratulations! Chances are you have optimal enrollment conditions.
What’s next? Applying the right methodology…
You’ll notice that nowhere in the above were the words “mandatory” or “face-to-face “used. That’s enrollment methodology. Once you’ve secured enrollment conditions, you can back into an appropriate methodology in partnership with an enrollment firm and/or carrier partners. Face-to-face, telephonic, web-based self-serve, group meetings, personalized paper, mobile technology or any combination of these might be right for a particular group.
Whether an employer is offering worksite plans out of the goodness of their heart, or to secure a lower PEPM on a new benefit administration system, we can help determine the best products and the right process to ensure the voluntary worksite benefits enrollment is a success. With the right strategy, employees will not just know that their worksite benefits exist; they’ll know why they exist and how they can be better financially protected.
1. Forbes.com, Jan. 6, 2016
2. Four Seasons Financial Education 2016 Survey