It’s that time of year again, when HR managers force employees to choose their benefits packages for the coming year. Despite all the hullaballoo created by state insurance exchanges and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, most employees will just sign up for whatever they had last year without looking at their options.
It doesn’t have to be that way, says financial services giant MetLife, which just released findings from its 11th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study.
“When employees simply roll over the previous year’s selections, they are often missing out on important new coverage options and potentially leaving money on the table,” said Michael Fradkin, senior vice president of Voluntary and Worksite Benefits at MetLife.
“There are also significant advantages for organizations when their employees take a more active role in their benefits enrollment. Employees who actively engage in reviewing and evaluating their workplace benefits options are three times more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, and more than twice as likely to recognize and value the benefits offered through their employer.”
One big number that emerged from MetLife’s study: One-third of the employees interviewed don’t engage in the enrollment process. Further, it found that just 42 percent found the enrollment experience satisfying.
Grinding more finely through the data obtained from nearly 3,000 interviews with corporate benefits decision-makers and their employees, MetLife zoomed in on six strategies for engaging more employees in the crafting of their own benefits plans. They are:
1. Upgrade the enrollment experience: Make the enrollment experience closer to online shopping than whatever it now is for your workers. Employees say that’s what they want, and if it gets them to take more control of their benefits selection, give your process the online shopping makeover.
2. Use a simple and straightforward enrollment process: Too many steps, too many choices, and too many “you missed one, start over’s” can kill an employee’s enthusiasm for the selection task. Complicated processes can deter employees from participating in benefits enrollment. Fewer and easier-to-use decision-making tools can pay off in greater engagement.
3. Aim for online enrollment: Get into the 21st century and offer online enrollment. Only 35 percent of employees interviewed said online enrollment was available to them. Put it online and watch participation grow.
4. Communicate clearly: More than half of engaged employees say they are engaged because benefits materials are easy to understand, offer examples that reflect their own lives, and are personalized whenever possible. Get a wordsmith to put the mumbo-jumbo into everyday language.
5. Communicate frequently: Nearly half of engaged employees report that they would value ongoing education about how to use their benefits. Don’t make the enrollment period the only time you talk to them about benefits. Make it part of your regular internal communications strategy.
6. Foster feedback: Give your employees a chance to talk to you about your benefits package and the enrollment process. Four in 10 engaged employees reported that their employers solicit their feedback on improving benefits and the enrollment process. Ergo, soliciting input leads to employees taking an active role in the benefits process.