Voluntary benefits are a hot topic. In last week’s article we talked about the growth of this industry and why it’s important to obtain and retain talent. The variety of voluntary benefits (being offered) also addresses the expectations of today’s workers, said Wendy Herndon, second vice president of product development and implementation for insurer Aflac. “People today want to customize everything in their lives, and benefits are no exception.” But whereas in the last piece we talked about the market opportunity, trends in product design, and customizing your product offering and pitch to employers (check it out here if you missed it), this time we will be talking about employee adoption, why it’s critical and how to improve it.

Increase adoption through thoughtful marketing communications

In terms of adoption, expanded benefits choices are resonating with employees. “We’re seeing an increasing number of employees elect voluntary benefit products,” concluded Sherri Bockhorst, managing director, Benefits Delivery and Administration, Willis Towers Watson.

So, the question remains, how do you market such an extensive product offering without thoroughly confusing employees?  Just over one-half (52 percent) of employees say they understand their health benefits and 43 percent indicate they understand their non-health benefits very/extremely well.

So what are some things you can do? It’s really a question of marketing, technology and customer service. All three must be top notch in order to optimize enrollment adoption success.

The most frustrating thing is when HR makes the effort to provide these programs then does passive enrollment. It’s like saying you don’t care if people use them or not.

Open enrollment communication

He believes HR should run open enrollment for voluntary benefits and provide employees with educational materials, reminders and workshops to help them choose the benefits that are appropriate for their needs. “It is the number one thing employers can do to encourage enrollment,” The more employees are aware of these programs, the more value they bring to the business, he added.

In terms of the marketing materials, that is an area we know quite well. We are skilled at design enrollment packages that (1) simplify complex information; (2) look uniform to put employees at ease that an often disjointed product spectrum actually belongs together; and (3) design follow-up communication via email or print, to ensure that people are aware of their options. We have even designed unique communication programs that are specifically targeted to the needs of that demographic group, addressing their concerns head-on—i.e. the pressing concern over student debt with millennials, or saving for college with new families.

The technology part of enrollment is also very important. Providing a single interface to manage multiple service offerings is important, so employees can find and access any benefit through a single portal or platform. In the case where there are multiple back-end systems that may not communicate, TLF has designed clear front-end pages to help streamline redirects.

Now let’s talk education and service. Providers are also expanding into more digital education and enrollment options, providing clients with apps, online portals and videos. TLF has successfully helped numerous clients with enrollment videos that help engage employees.Capture33

Our favorite and most successful? Video that is customized to the recipient and their unique situation based on profiling. And in terms of service, online chat and click-to-call are winning over traditional phone and face-to-face support. This is all part of the personalization of voluntary benefits, “The insurance industry is focused on creating the best customer service by providing an omni-channel user experience, meeting the customer where they are, is the biggest challenge,” according to Herndon.

Once companies choose their voluntary benefits options, they should actively promote them and educate employees about their value. It behooves them to do so, you want your employees sticky in your benefits programs. The more products they have with you, the more they feel comprehensively covered, secure and less likely to move everything if they are considering switching employers.