Fall. Thoughts of the World Series, football, colorful foliage,and a new season of employee benefit enrollment abound.

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OK, benefits enrollment is unlikely to generate quite the stiras some of the season’s traditional activities and benchmarks. Butemployers that take simple, but important, steps to increaseemployee enthusiasm for their benefits programs will maximize theirbottom-line benefits investment and improve worker loyalty andoverall job satisfaction.

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There is ample room for improvement, with better employerengagement and communication with employees being essential steps,according to MetLife’s 12th Annual Employee BenefitsTrends Study. While half of employees surveyed stated theywere happy with the benefits offered, nearly 40 percent didn’t feelconfident that they’re making the right decisions in choosingthem.

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Conversely, only 36 percent of employers said they were verysatisfied with employee participation in their voluntary benefitprograms. Fortunately, employers are more strongly recognizing theneed to deliver better education, with 64 percent citing improvedbenefits communications as an important goal to increase workerparticipation.

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The timing is right. Employees who are confused or even unclearabout their benefits options are likely to throw up theirhands and simply rollover previous year program selections,possibly missing out on advantageous new coverage choices andleaving money on the table.

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In fact, employees on average spend only 20 minutes[1] makingtheir annual enrollment selections. Only 20 percent carefullyreview benefits options before finalizing their choices.Alarmingly, 61 percent race through the process upon HRnotification by immediately enrolling as if to check the task offon their to-do list.

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This almost cavalier approach benefits no one. Improved employeeengagement and education, combined with regular, year-roundcommunications, as opposed to once- yearly benefits-relatedcommunication, fosters improved job satisfaction and overallemployee loyalty.

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What are employers to do?

Greater employee participation in the enrollment processinvolves five key tactics and strategies:

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1) Focus on tools and tactics thatmatter most to employees

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While the tools and tactics employees value may differ based onthe size of the company or other variables, the overarching goalfor employers should be to deliver benefit tools that most closelyaligned with their workers’ preferences and expectations.

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For example, the MetLife Study reveals that at companies withfewer than 500 employees, 70 percent of workers value one-on-onemeetings to discuss programs and options. Only 43 percent ofsurveyed employers offer these. Significantly, at companies withmore than 500 employees, 79 percent of workers find receivingconfirmation of benefits enrollment elections to be most helpful.Only 48 percent of employers provide these.

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2) Boost communications by performingthe basics better

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In life, there is nothing more basic than communication.Employees at firms adept at delivering easily understood benefitsmaterials are five times more likely to find enrollment simple andstraightforward. “Easy” translates to higher participation andgreater employee loyalty.

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Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the surveyed workersreporting that their employers effectively communicate benefitsinformation say that they are very loyal. On the other hand, only34 percent of employees who report that their companies do noteffectively communicate about their benefits described themselvesas very loyal.

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Employers can easily improve benefits-related communicationthrough simplification; relating programs to workers’ individualsituations; personalizing it to age and circumstances; leveraging avariety of visuals; and delivering information at various timesthroughout the year.

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3) Deliver benefits education when andwhere employees want it

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Having the time to discuss options with a spouse or partnerwhile referencing the company’s benefits website at home ispreferred by 60 percent of those surveyed. Nearly 70 percent oftechnically savvy Gen Y workers prefer to explore benefitsinformation from home.

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4) Provide a variety of onlineenrollment options

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Workers across the board, even older Baby Boomers, are eitherbecoming or are fully comfortable online. Benefits enrollment is noexception. Across all age-related demographics, 41 percent ofsurveyed employees prefer to enroll online as compared to the 13percent more comfortable with a “paper ballot.” Notably, 70 percentof Generation Y workers cited online chat as a desirable option and69 percent would like to access benefits information via mobileapps.

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Companies most attuned to their employee base, those also takingsteps to address the preferences of the growing number ofGeneration Y employees in the workplace, stand to benefit themost.

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5) Formulate and deliver uponmeasurable goals

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Finally, no business can thrive without quantifiable operationalgoals. When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of benefitsprograms, only 31 percent of companies said that they’ve alsoestablished goals relating to improved enrollment and benefitscommunications. This is important; employers that have done so aremore than twice as satisfied with employee participation.

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At the end of the day, regardless of their current situation,employers can maximize enrollment in their voluntary benefits byreviewing and possibly refocusing their enrollment tools, auditingtheir company benefits communications and methods, and obtainingemployee feedback about enrollment preferences.

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To learn more about how employers can boost enrollment andprovide employees with better benefits education, access MetLife’s12th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study byvisiting: BenefitTrends.MetLife.com.

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[1] 2013 MetLife PSB Fall Enrollment Study.

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