Today’s benefits consumers have high expectations about how they’ll engage with their benefits provider, based on purchasing experiences they have with top retailers. They want to be able to talk, type, text, and tweet their questions, concerns, answers, and reviews. And they demand not only high-quality products, but also accessible information and support at the click of a button.
At the same time, the overall benefits landscape is also changing: from health plan consolidation and foreign entrants into the U.S. marketplace, to a shift in benefits spending between employers and employees.
Luckily, advances in technology expand the traditional one-to-one benefits enrollment in ways no one even imagined just a decade ago. From decision-support tools to active enrollment capabilities, you have the opportunity to stay relevant in this fast-changing market and make enrollment more simple, modern, and personal than ever before.
Envisioning the future of workplace benefits can be difficult, with progress coming quickly to some areas, in fits-and-starts to others, and not at all in some. That future may very well include integrated HR, benefits, compliance, and payroll systems. For many, this nirvana sounds like a dream come true.
But it won’t come without bumpy transitions. Benefits providers and marketers need to take steps now to prepare themselves for this future. Some providers are partnering with high-tech startups to improve the enrollment and benefits communication process. Some remain committed to one-to-one counseling to help employees make the right decisions.
Some are doing both. But only by understanding key changes to employee demographics and demands can we develop and understand new best practices in enrollment.
Changing employee demographics
U.S. businesses are changing by the day, especially in age and ethnicity.
America’s businesses now include as many as four generations, with millennials now comprising the largest group, and that requires you to employ a variety of tools to communicate and educate. Employees can find most forms of enrollment support to be helpful, including personalized pre-enrollment information, one-to-one sessions, group meetings, online decision-making tools, and ongoing education after enrollment.
You need to be able to communicate effectively about benefits with multiple generations over a variety of high-tech and high-touch platforms. Make sure your benefits provider can speak old-school and new-school.
The minority population across the country is also booming — and will continue to do so. By 2060, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates there will be more than 110 million people who consider themselves Hispanic, black, or Asian.
Changing employee demands
America’s workers want benefits that are customized for their age and circumstances. They want a greater variety of benefits. They want to be engaged how, when, and where they choose. And they’re not easily satisfied, but they are willing to help pay as long as they get more choice.
Nearly universally, America’s workers say that understanding their benefits is important. But we’re missing the mark, as fewer than 60 percent of employees say they understand their benefits well. Seven percent say they don’t understand them at all.
Work with your clients to improve employee education by ensuring they have a variety of communications tools and enough time to review and understand them. The number of employers providing an enrollment period of at least three weeks declined from 2009 (55 percent of employers) to 2012 (47 percent).
But the extra time can make a huge difference, according to the 2014 Colonial Life Employee Education and Enrollment survey. It found employees were more satisfied with their benefits education and overall benefits package when given more time.
Developing new best practices
Changes in employee demographics and employee demands continue to impact the way benefits providers, marketers, and professionals will conduct business. It forces us to develop new best practices as we go. Here are my four suggestions:
Focus on maximizing the health of your clients’ benefits and wellness plans through a life cycle approach;
Provide your clients with tools that engage employees;
Provide access to platforms that allow employees to engage how, when, and where for benefits education and enrollment;
Provide administrative capabilities that maximize value to the organization’s talent management professionals.
Following these best practices can help guide tomorrow’s leading benefits marketers because they’re not focused on particular platforms or services or hot “apps.” Instead, they are focused on providing the best value and service to America’s workers and their employers.