How to crush your next employee benefits enrollment

The benefits tech, communication and inclusion trends you'll need to incorporate next season

February 22, 2023
A white man and black woman stand over a table laughing as the man gestures toward a laptop device on the table. The woman is holding a coffee mug.

So, how was your most recent benefits enrollment? Did you meet your goals, sail through without a hitch, see an uptick in uptake?

Or do you hope to get better results next time?

Most benefits administrators are constantly looking for ways to improve enrollment. And with employee needs and expectations rising, now is a good time to gain some insights from our review of 2022 enrollment trends. They can help your next enrollment be all you want it to be.

Trend 1: Rethink communication

The more employees understand their benefits, the more they value those benefits — and their employer. But the battle of understanding has not yet been won. Almost two-thirds of employers think their employees don't understand their benefits.1

And they're right: Less than 50% of employees say they understand the disability and supplemental health benefits they are offered extremely or very well.2

The key to understanding is communication. You have three main levers to pull to improve your communication strategy:

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    Think beyond the annual enrollment process. Nearly half of employees say their employers communicate about benefits only during annual open enrollment, but close to 70% say they would prefer to receive benefit communications all year round.2

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    Preserve the human touch. Yes, it's an online world now, and people want communications delivered digitally in easily accessible ways, like an email sent to work or in an online benefits portal. But group meetings, one-on-one sessions, and phone conversations are still among the most-preferred communication methods. To make sure you're engaging all your employees, consider a hybrid approach.

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    Make communication a two-way street. You can increase benefits engagement by regularly asking employees for their feedback on things like the benefits you offer, the enrollment process you use, and the communication methods you employ. According to a Colonial Life survey, 94% of employees whose employers sought their feedback said they felt their needs were taken into consideration.1 And that kind of positive employee experience helps boost retention and productivity at work.

Trend 2: Right-size your tech

Enrollment technology gets more important every year. That's because it is the great enabler, making it easier for employees to engage with and enroll in benefits, and easier for HR to administer benefits accurately and efficiently — freeing them to focus on other things. 2022 enrollments provided these three top insights:

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    Use technology to empower, but not replace, human beings. As with communication methods, employees still need to talk things through with a human when they get stuck or confused. Make sure they always have that option. Even the "digital native" generation values person-to-person help with benefits, because they're often less familiar with insurance concepts than their older counterparts.

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    Take an "always on" approach. If you keep your enrollment tech humming throughout the year, you can enroll new employees in the normal course of business without having to invent a separate process outside of open enrollment. You can also keep your benefits education materials live for employees to review all year long.

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    Look beyond enrollment. Make your tech dollars work harder by using platforms that address more than one need, like onboarding, employee recordkeeping, timekeeping and performance management.

Live assistance is essential

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63% of employees said they would prefer having a meeting or 1x1 interactions to ask questions about benefits3
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87% of employees who met with a benefits counselor said they understand their benefits3

Trend 3: Create an inclusive benefits culture

A successful enrollment is one that gives everyone in your organization the best chance to get the protection benefits provide. Creating an inclusive culture depends on three main factors:

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    Recognizing that one-size-fits-all actually fits no one. Try to offer benefits and plan designs that meet the needs of a variety of people, in a variety of life situations. The employee feedback we mentioned earlier? That's the place to start.

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    Addressing every generation. If you're like most businesses, you've got people from five generations working to serve your customers. They have different benefit needs, different communication preferences, different comfort levels with technology and different understanding of benefits. Successful companies are keeping all these factors in mind when planning enrollment.

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    Calling in the experts. Building an enrollment that meets needs across technologies, generations, benefit plans and communication methods is like playing 3-D chess in the dark. Why would you go it alone? Talk to your carrier or other benefits enrollment partner to get expert help in crafting and implementing an inclusive program.

Get started now

Your next enrollment season will be here before you know it. Take the time now to review your 2022 enrollment and assess how well you met your goals. Then evaluate your communications, tech and culture to see what you can tweak, change or revolutionize so that, come next enrollment season, you're ready with a strategy that will help you rock benefits enrollment — this and every year.

1 Colonial Life, Market Survey, 2021.
2 LIMRA, Benefits and Employee Attitude Tracker (BEAT) Study, 2022.
3 Colonial Life internal data, 2021.