The days of employees crowding into the company cafeteria for a benefits fair are over for now – and maybe even for years to come. The coronavirus pandemic has significantly changed many aspects of daily life, including traditional open benefits enrollment. Fortunately, technology has been able to step into the breach.
Employers had begun introducing more technology into their enrollment process in recent years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic sped things up, requiring more companies to switch to online communications and virtual gatherings. Now, employers across all industries are looking to move their benefits enrollment and education to be 100% online.
Laura Bongiorno, voluntary benefits practice lead for Group Benefits at The Hartford, says the pandemic’s impact on enrollment activities has been transformational.
“Requests for virtual events have skyrocketed,” she says. “The demand for digital materials has increased three-fold, while requests for printed material is down 63%. Digitalization is absolutely front and center in enrollment activities this year and I believe this trend will continue.”
Enrollment counselors who flew around the country to in-person benefit fairs in 2019 and held one or two a day, now can easily cover five or six a day.
“They have much greater access to people,” Bongiorno says.
This also comes at a time when an increasing number of employers believe it’s their responsibility to make sure their employees understand the benefits being offered. The Hartford’s 2020 Future of Benefits Study found that 69% of employers said they were mostly or fully responsible for making sure employees understand their benefits, compared to 63% just before the pandemic escalated in the U.S. 1
Finding a Comfort Level With Technology
The Hartford’s research found that 63% of employers agree that their open enrollment strategy will depend more strongly on online resources this year due to COVID-19.2 More than half (52% of employees) say they want an all-online benefit education and enrollment experience.3
According to the study, some employees said they are more comfortable learning about benefits and enrolling online than they were before the pandemic. In fact, 13% said they are more comfortable enrolling online than they were before the pandemic, and 17% say they are more comfortable learning about benefits online.4 More than one-third of employees surveyed (36%) said they want benefits education year-round.5
Employers can ensure an optimal benefits education and enrollment experience. To do so, they need to partner with benefit providers who are invested in and committed to the technology and digital tools that deliver an easy, educational and empathetic user experience. Employees should be able to have, at their fingertips:
- 1-on-1 personalized online benefit counseling
- Interactive and personalized benefit decision support tools
- Live access to benefit counselors and product information through webinars
- Plan documents detailing their benefit offerings
- Easy-to-understand educational content, including videos and product materials
Education Doesn’t Stop At Enrollment
Beyond the enrollment experience, employers have an opportunity to provide their employees with year-round benefits education through the same online and virtual channels.
This ongoing outreach has the potential to address an employee’s unique needs. Enrollment technology now includes persona-based campaigns with messages tailored to employees based on their life stages, benefit needs, buying habits and mindsets.
The pandemic may have changed the delivery model, but the need for employees to understand the benefits and programs is more important than ever. For example, knowing the details for Life and Disability Insurance, which provide financial security and well-being, can be crucial for an employee’s future. For employers, having technology that is easy to use and delivering benefit information that is easy to understand is critical for the success of their benefits enrollment.
Más información sobre Online Enrollment Fairs from The Hartford.
1-5The Hartford’s Future of Benefits Study, March and June 2020.