Commentary: A number of trends are converging to drive technology-enabled employee self-service benefits enrollment from theory to reality.

Key among these is employers offering an expanded array of voluntary benefits to satisfy the needs of a diverse employee population and offset coverage gaps resulting from selection of high-deductible health plans, a popular offering in consumer-driven health plans.

Of note, among the results of the 13th Annual MetLife U.S. Benefit Trends survey is that employees in companies offering 11 or more benefits are more loyal, more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work and have a higher intent to stay versus those in companies offering five or fewer benefits. Specifically, 32% of employees in companies offering fewer than five benefits do not intend to stay, whereas 30% of employees in companies offering 11-15 benefits intend to stay.

Also see: The more benefits, the happier the employee

An increase in the number of benefits offered equals increased complexity, and the need for effective benefits education and decision support. Simultaneously, advances in technology and social networking are changing the way employees expect and want to engage with their benefits information. Employees within all age demographics are now accustomed to accessing the information they want and need from anywhere at any time; they want personalized information online, in real time and enabled for immediate action.

As a result, employees are now more ready than ever to receive and use technology-enabled benefits education and decision support tools to help them navigate an increasingly complex benefits environment.

The question concerning self-service benefits enrollment needs to shift from “Should we implement technology tools to enable employee self-service benefits education and enrollment?” to “What do we need to do to ensure the self-service experience is engaging, satisfying and effective?”

To ensure employee satisfaction with a self-service benefits experience, benefits education and decision support tools need to:

1. Deliver educational content that is personally relevant, and recommendations that align with individuals’ health and financial wellness goals.

2. Take a portfolio versus serial approach to educating employees about the benefits offered. This approach helps individuals enroll in the right mix of products to ensure the most complete and cost-effective coverage. (For example, a high-deductible health care plan with one or more critical illness, accident or hospital indemnity plans.)

3. Provide only and all the information necessary for well-informed decisions in a format that is compelling and easily digestible.

4. Be easy to access, effortless to navigate and available 24/7.

5. Enable self-paced education, driven by an employee’s previous experience and/or desire to learn more about specific products; employees are able to choose what they want to learn and the order in which they want to learn it.

6. Inspire employees to take ownership of their benefits understanding and even change health, wellness and financial behavior.

Also see: The limitations of self-service enrollment

Carriers and employers now have access to a variety of options for providing benefits education and decision support based on users’ individual and/or family needs. Technology-enabled platforms deliver information in a way that is easy to navigate and available anytime, from anywhere. These education and decision support tools are either contained within comprehensive ‘all in one’ benefits enrollment systems or typically link seamlessly with existing benefits administration systems. Most important, technology-enabled self-service benefits education and decision support tools engage with entertaining and compelling user-specific scenarios that don’t bog users down in unnecessary details.

Steve L. Adams is CEO of Navera, a provider of cloud-based education and decision support products that help employees and their dependents make well-informed choices about their health care benefits and insurance options. 

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