By Michael Estep
The digital age of benefits has arrived. Employees now look to their employers to provide an enrollment experience that mirrors their daily consumer habits. With companies exposed to more human capital management technology than ever before, employers are adopting HR technology to meet the needs of their employees who seek a more personalized and easier-to-navigate interaction with their employee benefits. This is especially relevant during annual enrollment periods when the employees’ experience can directly impact overall satisfaction with a company. For example, a recent Guardian study found that 75% of employees who had a very positive enrollment experience were more likely to stay with their current employer for at least five years compared to those with a negative enrollment experience.
To meet the needs of today’s workforce, many employers are allocating more of their budget to benefits technology, and they are turning to their brokers for insights and guidance. Brokers now play a key role in advising clients on the use of benefits technology, which requires them to stay up-to-date on the latest offerings, as well as counseling employers on how to personalize their benefit offerings.
Digital technology consultant
Today’s workforce wants an employee benefits ‘shopping’ experience that mirrors how they make online purchases, and employers are responding. According to the Fifth Annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study, Game-Changer: The Digitalization of Employee Benefits Delivery, more than 40% of all employers say expanding their use of technology will be among their top benefits strategies in the next five years. This has led a majority of employers to increase their spending on benefits-related technology, with about 50% of businesses anticipating further increases in the next three years.
While the rapid expansion of benefits technology allows employers to meet their employees’ needs, it can also lead to confusion about which vendors and capabilities are the best fit for a company. Employers are seeking advice to navigate their benefits technology, yet two out of five employers have not spoken to their broker about their benefits technology needs. There is a tremendous opportunity for brokers to not only talk to their existing and potential clients about the value of benefits technology but to establish themselves as a trusted professional on the topic. Employers that use their broker more strategically tend to place a greater emphasis on improving employee wellbeing and incorporate more technology solutions.
Employers are seeking advice to navigate their benefits technology, yet two out of five employers have not spoken to their broker about their benefits technology needs. There is a tremendous opportunity for brokers to not only talk to their existing and potential clients about the value of benefits technology but to establish themselves as a trusted professional on the topic.
Smart personalization and relevant communications can lead to ‘noiseless’ enrollment
While competitive pay certainly still influences an employee’s decision to join and stay with a company, Guardian’s “What Employees Want” study reports that 70% of respondents say they’re more likely to be loyal to a company that offers employee benefits that are personalized to their needs. Employers are responding by providing their employees with tailored benefits that include a suite of voluntary benefits, student loan debt support and mental health benefits, among others. The study also found that employees are looking for an omni-channel approach to benefits communications through expert advice, digital support on mobile apps, decisioning tools, one-on-one expert guidance and short educational videos.
Providing employees with mobile tools and personalized advice has helped many companies experience a “noiseless enrollment,” meaning a significant reduction in employee questions about the enrollment process and their benefits options. It’s no secret that benefits are complex, so the majority of questions from employees are driven by not fully understanding what benefits are available to them and how they can help bridge financial gaps. In fact, recent surveys indicate most employees do not fully understand the benefits offered to them. The average score on Guardian’s 2019 Employee Benefits I.Q. Quiz was 68%. Among millennials, scores were lowest, with 1 in 4 failing the quiz.
Poor understanding of their benefits can become overwhelming for many and lead to frustration and confusion during open enrollment. In a recent Guardian study, when asked what would help the most when learning about and enrolling in their company’s employee benefits, workers’ top suggestions were:
- Less insurance jargon and simpler explanations about how their benefits work and what needs they address
- Personalized information and recommendations tailored for their specific age, life stage, lifestyle or financial situation
- Access to expert guidance, such as an adviser or benefits specialist, to answer questions and validate decisions during the employee benefits selection process
- Online support including tools, navigation, and interactive media to more effectively educate and engage employees throughout the enrollment process.
At Guardian, we took these market insights and created highly tailored tools designed to make enrollment easier to understand and empower employees to make informed benefit choices. We deliver these resources to brokers, who work directly with their clients on the best way to make these available to their workforce during open enrollment. These tools are designed to unburden the broker from developing tailored communications and provide employees with recommended voluntary benefits that best fit their individual needs. A data-driven pre-enrollment analysis helps identify the best benefit recommendations based on each individuals’ personal needs. These recommendations are delivered via real-time chat, email, etc., so by the time an employee is able to make their enrollment selections, they feel educated about their options.
Job satisfaction = loyalty
Listening to and addressing employee needs helps drive greater job satisfaction. When an employee is satisfied with their job, they are likely to stay at a company longer. These are exciting times in our industry. With new technology options and an abundance of consumer data and insights, brokers have a wealth of information to be the “enrollment hero” their clients need. Annual enrollment has become an important aspect to an employee’s overall satisfaction with their company, and it can be one of the factors in determining if they want to stay long-term or seek employment elsewhere.
The enrollment experience can be a vital opportunity for brokers to partner with their clients to help employees make important, informed decisions that could improve employee morale and impact their immediate and long-term future with the company. Providing counsel on the right mix of personalized benefits to offer and how to implement an easy to navigate open enrollment experience will create a valuable differentiation, not only to existing clients but for potential clients as well.
Michael Estep is vice president group products and worksite leader at The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.