Editor’s note: Today’s guest blogger will be participating in a panel discussion, “Don’t Wait to Implement Tomorrow’s Enrollment Technology,” during this week’s Benefits Forum & Expo and Workplace Benefits Summit in Orlando. Follow us on Twitter @EBNmagazine and @EBAmagazine for updates from the show or search using the hashtags #BFE15 and #WBSummit.

Commentary: Enrollment season is upon us, making it prime time for benefits carriers to unveil new and different ways to engage employees and help them make their benefits decisions.

For most employees, gone are the days of one-on-one enrollment meetings with benefit advisers; nowadays, employees are responsible for gathering information on their benefit offerings and making choices on their own. Although employers offer benefits for the health and well-being of employees and their families, employees often wind up devoting very little or even no time at all to benefit choices aside from health, dental, and vision.

As many employers scale back on high-touch enrollment services, they are also shifting from full-coverage health plans to high deductible health plans. With out-of-pocket costs for health plans rising, employees are less likely to consider other important benefits due to their shrinking benefits budgets. In the absence of proper communication and education, employees can so easily overlook their need for disability insurance to protect their income and for benefits like critical illness and accident insurance to fill the gaps left by their high deductible health plans.

Also see: Be selective about communication technology

Both of these shifts — more manageable enrollment programs and high deductible health plans — are almost necessary in the wake of the Affordable Care Act and are now making innovative, engaging benefits education even more critical.   

How can we provide employees with the tools and resources that will allow them to give their benefits the consideration they deserve and help these employees make informed decisions? Technology, technology, technology.

Perhaps the most important feature of enrollment technology is the inclusion of decision-support tools that can help employees determine which benefits are right for them based on their unique needs and budgets. Decision-support tools that analyze a multitude of personal data as well as industry stats are a good start, but they also must be user friendly and able to turn that wealth of information into something that the employee can easily act on.

Also see: Employers out of touch with employee perception of benefits

Also, enrollment technology must be versatile and able to give employees access to a variety of educational materials, such as avatars, videos, and simple decision trees, to meet the needs of both the tech savvy and those who are more traditional. Recent LIMRA research has shown that although the majority of employees (70%) favor online enrollment, there is still a substantial number who favor the more traditional approaches. No one has really solved for the one-size-fits-all enrollment process, making a multifaceted technology approach that accounts for the diverse workforce population even more important.

For benefits communication and education to be effective in today’s world, it needs to be dynamic and innovative — and certainly not more complicated. This is where technology plays a huge role. With the interactive technological possibilities available today, benefits enrollment can be overhauled into a process that promotes engagement, simplifies how people come to understand which benefits can address their needs, and helps employees protect what is most important in their lives.

Alvin Heggie is director of worksite market development for Sun Life. He will be discussing the importance of technology in benefits enrollment on a panel titled “Don’t Wait to Implement Tomorrow’s Enrollment Technology” at the Workplace Benefits Summit, on October 1, 11:45 a.m., as part of the Summit’s growth and innovation track.


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