Not only does the arrival of fall mark the end of the summer, but it also kicks off one of the busiest decision-making times of the year.
Related: Why I dread open enrollment
In addition to back-to-school supplies, holiday travel, and Black Friday deals, employees across the nation will be gearing up for open enrollment.
Choosing the right benefits is arguably one of the most important decisions employees will make for the coming year, and they should feel assured and confident in the process. That being said, enrolling in benefits can cause anxiety.
According to MetLife’s 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, nearly half (44 percent) of all employees report feeling stressed by the enrollment process, and 42 percent say they are confused about some or all of the information they received regarding their benefits. Of all generations in the workforce, millennials felt the most stressed and confused by the benefits decision process, according to MetLife’s study.
The good news is that there is a significant opportunity for brokers to help employers and their employees successfully navigate open enrollment, particularly when it comes to benefit communications.
This is especially true as only 37 percent of employees said their employers’ benefit communications effectively educated them so they could choose options that best meet their needs, according to MetLife’s study.
During the busy enrollment period, brokers can be meaningful resources to employers. It is important that brokers recommend benefits strategies to help employers successfully engage employees in benefit conversations. Here’s how:
Provide one-on-one consultations. In a world that is increasingly digital, it may be surprising to learn that employees find one-on-one consultations with enrollment representatives to be the most effective resource in helping them make benefit decisions—surpassing mobile apps, text messages and benefits websites. MetLife’s study found that nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of employees are interested in one-on-one benefit consultations, but only 23 percent of employers say they offer them. Brokers should equip themselves with this information and counsel employers accordingly.
Communicate clearly and concisely. According to MetLife’s study, only one-third of employees find their companies’ benefit communications easy to understand, underscoring the confusion and stress that employees feel during open enrollment season. To address this, employers must clearly and concisely convey their benefit offerings. For brokers, this presents a key opportunity to help employers put processes in place to better communicate their benefits and how they can make a difference in their employees’ lives.
Articulate the practical and financial value of benefits. Along with clear and concise benefit communications, employers should articulate the practical and financial value of voluntary benefits for their employees. Currently, only 47 percent of employees agree that non-medical benefits can help limit their out-of-pocket medical expenses, according to MetLife’s study. This highlights a need for employers—and an opportunity for brokers—to help employees better understand how voluntary benefits can reduce financial concerns.
Provide a variety of resources. While one-on-one consultations are regarded as the most effective resource for helping employees learn about their benefit options, it shouldn’t be the only one provided. Employers should provide a variety of decision-support tools and personalized offerings to help employees learn about their benefit options and make informed decisions about which benefits best suit their specific needs. Brokers can help employers decide what diverse mix of benefit communications resources — mobile app, text messages, website, one-on-one consultations — are right for their employees.
Communicate year-round. To ensure employees fully understand their benefits offerings and the value they provide, it’s important that employers communicate their offerings year round – not just in the weeks leading up to open enrollment. By creating a steady stream of messages, employees will be well-equipped to choose the benefits that best meet their needs as opposed to starting from scratch during enrollment. In fact, nearly two-thirds (61%) of employees say they want their employers to communicate about benefits year-round, according to MetLife’s study.
Ultimately, brokers that arm themselves with this information will gain a competitive advantage. By helping employers put a plan in place to better communicate their benefits, brokers will not only help employers build stronger employee relationships, but in turn, they will strengthen their client relationships as well.