Voluntary marketers should keep in mind that voluntary benefits provide a year-round opportunity. Yes, tying voluntary benefits management to the annual open enrollment process is appealing because all elections are made at a single time. However, this may not always be the best method, especially when new and possibly different voluntary products such as accident or critical illness are being introduced. The best way to introduce these newer benefits may be through a two-phase approach: An off-cycle introduction, followed in the fall by incorporation into the core cycle enrollment as well.

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Here are several reasons to consider off-cycle enrollments:

  1. They can create meaningful benefit planning discussions with employers. Year-round strategic benefit planning can drive much more than voluntary enrollment. Enrollment meetings can include reminders about wellness initiatives, and the value of the employer's overall benefit program can be underscored by distributing "total compensation" documents during the discussion.

  2. If the employer is installing or updating benefit administration or exchange technology, the worst time to roll out a new system is during open enrollment, when a smooth and proven process is essential. Why not roll out the system earlier, so new products can be introduced and the process will ready by annual season?

  3. Off-cycle enrollments also allow employees to have a better understanding of new benefits. Employees get much more benefit from focused communications.

  4. Rollout of new voluntary products can also be a good time to answer questions about other benefit plans, and to remind employees of life event enrollment opportunities on employer-provided products.

  5. Adding new voluntary products can be a good companion strategy to roll out financial wellness packages. The new products can help eliminate risk-related stress, while financial education and support can reduce financial stress.

  6. Of course, the new voluntary products will help build the marketer's income stream on the case. They also help lock in the employer by making it less likely that a competitor will try to get a foot in the door by bringing in these new products.

Adding new voluntary products off-cycle can help build total benefit value. They are compatible with installing technology, and can actually improve the process. They help employees understand their benefits better.

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Think off cycle. You'll find it creates great opportunity and great results!

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