Benefits enrollment success depends on communication, technology and cost

A new white paper released by Colonial Life contains recommendations that could help employers and brokers strengthen worker satisfaction with benefits during the upcoming open enrollment season. Citing “rising health costs and the increasing financial fragility of America’s workers,” Steve Vermette, vice president, Growth Market Solutions at Colonial Life, advised that “brokers play a critical role in helping employees understand and participate in the benefits programs they need to protect themselves and their families.”

Start with strong benefits communication. Nearly all employees (98 percent) agree it’s important to understand their benefits — yet only a third say they actually understand them well, the report shows. That’s a big disconnect with employers: 90 percent of them think their benefits communication is effective. In addition, many employers don’t make the connection between effective communication, good participation in the benefits program, and overall benefits costs. “Lower participation rates ultimately weaken employers’ ability to control overall benefit costs, resulting in higher long-term benefit expenses,” said Yuliya Babushkina, assistant research director at LIMRA. Best practices in benefits communication include starting three weeks before the enrollment, using at least three different communication methods, and personalizing messages, the report says.

Combine high-tech with high-touch. Employers and workers have different enrollment preferences, too, the report points out. Half of employers prefer self-directed, online enrollments, while employees who participate in one-to-one sessions with a benefits counselor nearly unanimously say they’re important and helpful. Studies show individual meetings also generate the highest participation levels. The answer is to offer multiple options, including the ability to seamlessly integrate core and benefit enrollments, Vermette said. He recommended that brokers could maximize value for clients by “partnering with benefits providers that can connect different enrollment methods and benefits administration platforms, eliminating the need for a separate enrollment system and additional vendors,” he said.

Consider costs to maximize compensation. Effective communication and enrollment tools will drive stronger participation, leading to higher commissions. But commissions are only part of the equation, the report shows. “Brokers need to carefully compare the long-term total commissions revenue along with the costs of using carrier enrollers, in-house enrollers and enrollment firms to maximize their income potential, now and in years to come,” Vermette said.

SOURCE: Colonial Life press release, September 26, 2016.

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