Adopting virtual enrollment in the COVID-19 era

Aired August 4, 2020

HR Trends Episode 18 hero image

With the reality of social distancing needs in the COVID-19 era, many employers are wondering what benefits enrollment will look like for the rest of the 2020. Numerous organizations have already shifted from in-person enrollment to virtual tools for 1-to-1 benefits counseling with tremendous success.

And more companies are considering shifting to virtual enrollment this year, according to a recent employer survey.

In this episode of the HR Trends podcast, benefits expert Shawn Ferguson joins Colonial Life’s Richard Shaffer to share insights on how to shift from traditional in-person enrollment to virtual enrollment. They also discuss how employers can help prepare and encourage employees to use virtual tools for their 1-to-1 benefits counseling sessions.

Top takeaways
  • Before implementing a virtual enrollment strategy, make sure your organization has an online platform and a plan to engage employees on this platform. [03:45]
  • Mandatory group enrollment meetings can be held virtually using a variety of methods. These meetings are important for educating employees about their benefits offering, including additions or changes to coverage. [04:02]
  • Employees are more likely to research and learn about their benefits when an active decision-making process is applied. [05:01]
  • Present a comprehensive benefits package in a logical order, and make sure employees have a consistent experience in all benefits communications and across platforms. [05:33]
  • Employees will have very specific questions this enrollment season, as the pandemic has made workers more worried about their financial fragility. [08:00]
  • Virtual tools have seen rapid adoption since the COVID-19 outbreak. Some insurance carriers and brokers have retooled and reinvented benefits communication and enrollment to approximate a face-to-face experience in a virtual ecosystem. [09:03]
  • For the average American worker, benefits enrollment and selection is going to be the one of the most — if not the most — significant financial decision they make over the course of the year. The focus of enrollment meetings should be on benefits education, making sure your employees understand their benefit options and their financial decisions. [13:21]

Adding benefits doesn't have to be complicated. Virtual enrollment gives employees a simple, personalized experience, wherever they’re located..

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Shawn Ferguson headshot

Shawn Ferguson

Senior Vice President, Voluntary Benefits, Acrisure

Shawn Ferguson is the Senior Vice President of Voluntary Benefits at Acrisure, one of the world's top 10 insurance brokerages and the fastest growing in the world over the past six years. He is responsible for implementing successful voluntary benefits strategies for Acrisure across the U.S. For the past 15 years, Shawn has worked solely in the voluntary benefits and enrollment segments of the industry. Prior to joining Acrisure, Shawn gained his benefits and enrollment experience with various firms, starting his career as a per diem “Road Warrior” shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree in international business from the University of Akron. He climbed the enrollment-firm ladder, and eventually opened his own firm, Bayside Benefit Solutions, in Tampa, Florida. He also oversaw the voluntary benefits and enrollment division at Alltrust, where he worked closely with brokers and account managers to make voluntary benefits part of the agency’s culture and strategy. Shawn attributes his success to using a carrier-agnostic approach to find the best solutions for each individual client.
Richard Shaffer headshot

Richard Shaffer

Senior Vice President, Field and Market Development, Colonial Life

Richard Shaffer is the Senior Vice President of Field and Market Development for Colonial Life. He oversees corporate strategy and planning, business development and the teams leading the company’s enrollment, client management and retention programs. Richard has held various positions throughout his 22 years with the company. In his previous roles with Unum US, Richard was responsible for leading a benefits account management team, serving as a large employer group and voluntary benefits specialist, and leading innovation for Unum’s 2000+ employees customer segment. Prior to joining the company in 1998, he worked as a family therapist — his knowledge of family dynamics has helped his approach to employee benefits communication and enrollment. Richard holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from East Carolina University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from George Mason University.

About the host

Clare Morin headshot

Clare Morin

Clare Morin is the Content Marketing Manager at Unum and a journalist who’s spent the last 20 years interviewing hundreds of thought leaders on topics ranging from wellness to culture, finance, human resources and technology. Born in the UK, raised in Hong Kong and based in the U.S. since 2009, she brings a global outlook to the HR Trends studio.
Colonial Life products are underwritten by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, Columbia, SC. Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company is not licensed in New York. In New York, insurance products are underwritten by The Paul Revere Life Insurance Company, Worcester, MA, and administered by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company.