Commentary: An often overlooked issue that human resource managers should take into consideration is the limitations of a self-service benefits enrollment model. Despite the trend towards online enrollment, employers who deploy a self-service enrollment for their workforce often discover that it can backfire, resulting in frustrated employees. There will always be employees who want to be guided through the process, as well as those who are not ready for even the most innovative and user-friendly self-service system, causing them to stop mid-enrollment and never complete the program.

The savvy human resources manager will offer a system that engages and supports each employee according to their needs.

Most self-service assistance that is offered typically is confined to technical assistance to get on the system if there is a “login” issue. But, it neglects to offer personal decision support, guidance to navigate through the site or to help with questions specific to certain benefits.

Also see: Employers hungry for improved enrollment, communications tools

For those who need assistance, it become critical to offer a navigation specialist to help them through the program. An experienced benefits counselor can educate employees so that they understand what their benefit options are, as well as how the process works. This leads to a more sophisticated user and a more successful enrollment outcome.

Another critical factor in the enrollment process is that benefit offerings are easy to understand and navigate. More and more companies are relying on self-service with limited technical support, offering no support for employees who don’t understand their benefit offerings.

It is important that benefits are positioned in a consumer-friendly way so that they will make sense to the employee. For example, voluntary benefits are often listed at the end of the enrollment program. However, many employees may never even get to the end of the program and will never learn about the voluntary benefits available to them.

Also see: 5 must-haves for life insurance enrollment meetings

For example, why list supplemental and permanent life insurance at the end of the enrollment process? I believe it makes the most sense to explain the options together with the employer-provided life insurance benefit so employees can see how they differ and how the voluntary benefit can provide the additional coverage and protection they might require. An educated employee benefits consumer results in both increased job satisfaction and a more successful enrollment.

Louis J. Pantalone is founder and executive vice president of Univers Workplace Solutions, a benefits communication, enrollment and consulting firm.

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