They say the way for a musician to get to Carnegie Hall is “practice, practice, practice.” In the voluntary benefits world, I say the recipe for ongoing enrollment success is “planning, planning, planning.” Just as you can’t show up and expect to play at Carnegie Hall without having mastered your craft, you can’t schedule enrollment without advance preparation. 

Creating an ongoing enrollment strategy is a prime example of planning that enables success. And it isn’t just about enrolling employees, either. As with any good solution, it has to work for all parties involved — and brokers, enrollment organizations and employers can reap the benefits of a multi-year employee communications or engagement enrollment strategy just as much as the employees. 

The three elements of a multi-year enrollment strategy

So, what is a multi-year enrollment strategy? It involves laying the groundwork for what you want to accomplish year-over-year when it comes to an employer’s benefits package, their employee communication and engagement needs, and actual enrollments. I’ve found that an effective enrollment strategy incorporates all three of these elements.               

Any effective enrollment strategy requires solid communication, and a multi-year enrollment strategy is a great way to deliver. Simply put, employees don’t think about enrollment year-round. They research and make elections during enrollment and then don’t dedicate much thought to their benefits unless they need the coverages. To help employees maintain familiarity with their benefits, brokers and employers need to ensure that employee communication is given attention throughout the year. Regular communication about the benefits, the enrollment dates and, perhaps most importantly, the synergy between their core and voluntary benefits will create more informed, more satisfied and better protected employees. 

Higher employee satisfaction and benefits appreciation are perks for employers with a multi-year enrollment strategy, but not the only benefits. Employers can use this ongoing communication as a vehicle to communicate on other important corporate initiatives, such as 401(k) participation, well-being programs or customer-service initiatives that impact the organization’s revenue. For employers, it’s a great way to maintain communication with employees on critical HR initiatives. And for brokers, partnering to provide this communication is a great way to demonstrate that you are a valuable resource throughout the year; not just at time of enrollment. One of our partners, Frank Shimsky, President at Personal Communications Inc., has seen this in action. “Across the board, we see stronger results with a multi-year plan for enrollment,” he says. “More employees enroll and employers have more opportunity to engage with their employees.” 

Brokers and employers should also ensure they are offering plan members a chance to actively enroll on a regular basis. This doesn’t have to be every year, but rather than allowing employees to enroll passively, they should ensure they are providing one-on-one communication resources to help enroll employees. Research we conducted found that 90 percent of employees who enroll one-on-one with a benefits counselor express high levels of satisfaction with enrollment. This kind of communication is essential to providing the information that employees need and in helping them make the best decision for themselves and their families at time of enrollment. 

A process; not an event

Employers can also apply a multi-year enrollment strategy to their employee benefits. If, as we noted, employees are often under-informed at time of enrollment, approaching them with a lengthy list of benefit options may be overwhelming. Instead, brokers, working in partnership with employers, can map out a plan to start with just a few voluntary benefits and then roll out more benefits year-over-year. This kind of preparation gives the employee time to mentally digest the benefits, the way they work and how they apply to their unique situation. Especially when paired with ongoing communications, it gives an employee time to weigh their options and prevents them from overlooking benefits they need or enrolling in more than they can afford. 

For employers, this approach helps ensure that employees are making the right benefit decisions, in turn making them more likely to appreciate their benefits and their employer. It also shows that the broker and employer are dedicated to improving their benefits year-over- year with new options for coverage. 

Generally, we tend to think of enrollments as an event. But we need to get out of this mindset. Rather than an event, enrollment should be seen as a process, one that goes on throughout the year. Brokers, employers and their employees all want enrollment to be a success. And the best way to get there? Planning, planning, planning, in the form of a multi-year enrollment strategy.

Dan Johnson is vice president of sales and marketing for Trustmark Voluntary Benefit Solutions and has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance industry. Dan has spoken to various industry groups such as Voluntary Employee Benefits Board, National Association of Health Underwriters, and Million Dollar Round Table. Dan was elected into the Workplace Benefits Hall of Fame in 2013. Dan can be reached at dan.johnson@trustmarksolutions.com