Ask anyone in the industry and you’ll hear the consensus that voluntary products are increasingly popular.

Why are they so big? Basically, everyone from employers to brokers is realizing that offering the products is the “right thing to do.”

That’s what Bob Patience, vice president of voluntary benefits at Prudential Group Insurance, says about the increasing presence of the products in the marketplace.

“Employers realize that a robust voluntary benefits offering is the right thing to do for themselves and for their employees’ overall financial wellness,” Patience said.

Nearly half of employers who have ramped up their voluntary benefits offerings say they’ve achieved desired cost savings, according to a survey out from Prudential Thursday.

See also: PPACA spurring voluntary interest

And all parties need to be prepared for more growth. According to the survey, 65 percent of brokers say they expect voluntary sales to increase over the next five years. More than half of employers said they are currently implementing, or have already implemented, more voluntary offerings, up from 32 percent in 2012.

One way to prepare, as well as achieve even more growth, is to ramp up benefits education and awareness activities —and not just during open enrollment, Prudential executives say.

“Use of targeted off-cycle enrollments allow employees the opportunity to clearly assess their needs and carefully consider the products being offered,” Patience said.

In fact, the survey reveals, 46 percent of brokers say they prefer multiple enrollment opportunities for different benefits during the course of the year outside of the annual enrollment period, up from 33 percent in 2012. And 67 percent of brokers say they believe employees would “probably” or “definitely” make better benefit decisions if their life and disability insurance enrollment period was separate from their medical insurance.

The survey also found:

  • Two-thirds of brokers, most employers and nearly half of employees consider the provider name an important factor when considering enrollment in voluntary plans.
  • 71 percent of employees said voluntary benefits offered at work increases the value of their company’s overall benefits program, up from 63 percent in 2012.
  • Employers said they’re open to the idea of sharing information through a TPA to the carrier on an employee’s life event so the carrier can reach out regarding evolving benefit needs. Employees agree, with 63 percent reporting they would be very interested in this type of communication.

Also read: