Wednesday, September 21, 2016

3 Steps to More Effective Benefits Communication at Enrollment

Over the years, I've noticed employer groups have tried to move away from face-to-face enrollments with employees. Instead, there's been a trend to rely more and more on email and other passive forms of electronic tools to communicate with employees and to enroll benefits.

While it would be nice to have everyone read everything you send out, understand it and enroll without any help, in real life it doesn't work that way. You know many employees don't take the time to read everything if they read it at all.

And since employees are spending a small fortune on their benefits, it only makes sense to take them through a better enrollment process than a self-service approach. We need to do this even though you and I both know they should be more proactive themselves.

So, if you find yourself saying "I've sent out 80 emails and there is only so much I can do," then it might be time to take a more active approach to enrollments.

What I've done here is list three very simple but effective steps that you can use to improve your level of benefit's communication.

Let me walk you through each of these three steps and how they work.

Step 1: Conduct face-to-face benefit presentation meetings where employees know they won't be required to sign up at that session.

The first step is to actually start meeting with employees to walk them through how benefits work. These meetings need to be done by the insurance company or brokers who are experts in how they work.

These meetings can be done with groups of employees at a time or in individual one-on-one sessions. What's most important about these meetings is that employees know that they won't have to buy anything at them. It's information only.

At these meetings, you'll have these major goals:

  • Diffuse resistance to hearing the information Many employees don't want to go through an enrollment process where they feel they will be pressured into buying something. By letting employees know up front that this part of the enrollment process is just to explain how the offer works and they can take the information home to review it, helps reinforce a no pressure atmosphere.
  • Explain the enrollment process How the enrollment process timeline works is important information. If people know what you need them to do and when you need them to do it, they are more likely to do it. This is the time to explain how the enrollment process works.
  • Explain the products and underwriting offers The next goal is to explain how the products work as well as any underwriting concessions that have been made by the insurance company and why they are important. You'd be surprised at how many employees say I didn't know you could do that and enroll in benefits they initially didn't want to hear anything about.
  • Answer questions Once you are done, employees usually have questions. You'll want to make sure that they get those answers at that meeting. That's why having experts on hand facilitates this process by making sure they get the right answers to their questions.
  • Allows them time to get documentation If employees need to find out social security numbers and things like that, you can let them know.
  • Reinforce the enrollment process At the end of this meeting, you want to reinforce the next step of the enrollment process so employees don't forget. If you don't remind them what they have to do, they won't be ready to enroll when you need them to.

That's a good rundown of the first step in the enrollment process. It's all about walking employees through what the offer is, how it works and letting them know what the next steps are.

Before I move onto step 2, here's a video of me talking about the presentation meetings.

Step 2: Give employees a day to review the information to decide what they want to do.

After meeting with the employees, your next step is to let people take it home to take a look at it so they can review it. This step is important for a variety of reasons. Those are:

  • It eliminates sales pressure When employees learn you are ok with them taking the information home, it eliminates the pressure that can materialize in the enrollment process. If you skip step 2, employees feel pressured even if you don't care what they do and are just trying to save time. It's not unusual for employees to tell you up front, if they have to decide today, the answer is no. Letting people review stuff privately is what you want even if they don't take advantage of it.
  • It gives employees time to review what they have Allowing time to review lets them check and see what they have in place already and how everything fits in with what they have.
  • It allows employees to see what their spouse has Employees will often hold up the enrollment process mid enrollment because they suddenly realize they need to check and see what their spouse has. This reduces the number of incomplete employees left to enroll.
  • It gives them time to make sure they want what they get Since they can take the information home first, they can talk with their spouse or other family members to get advice. They can check their budget. That way when they sign up for stuff, they'll generally keep it unless some strange circumstance like divorce changes it.
  • They can get personal family information If social security numbers or other family documentation is needed, employees will have time to get it.

In order to save time, many enrollments skip step 2 entirely and expect employees to sign up the day they are presented to. This subconsciously puts pressure in the process when it isn't needed even if that isn't your intent.

I typically present one day and let employees know I'll be following up on the next day. This gives them the night to check what they need to but moves the process along.

No matter what followup period you choose, whether it's a day or a week, you'll always have a few employees who need more time. I eventually settled on the next day as follow up because I noticed even if you give employees a week, some will still delay after that amount of time which makes the process take too long.

I'll discuss how to handle employees who tell you that they haven't decided when you follow up in the next step.

Before I move onto that, here's a short video I did about the review step if you have time to watch it.

Step 3: Follow up with employees individually to find out what they want to do.

Finally, your last step is to meet with all of the employees individually to see if they want to sign up. If you have done your job right, then most of the employees will know that you were coming back and have decided what they want to do.

When you followup, your focus is on the following items:

  1. You want to answer any outstanding questions The first thing I try and always ask employees is did they have any questions. If they do, then I can make sure those are answered. If not, then I can move onto the next step.
  2. Find out if they want to enroll or not Next, I found out what they want to enroll in if anything. If they want to sign up, I take care of those requirements and let them know what to expect in terms of deductions and when they will receive their paperwork.
  3. Accept the no's If I followup with an employee and they say they don't want to do anything, I accept that and move on. It's important to accept these answers and move on so that you don't pressure employees. You've presented the offer, you let them review it and they decided. Accept it.
  4. Handle the undecideds The last item on the agenda is to handle those employees who for whatever reason weren't able to decide and work out a plan to followup with them. I let those employees know that I'll be back the next day to followup and repeat the above process. After that, for the most part, those employees who don't know on the second followup day just aren't comfortable saying no to you. Not always, but most of the time. So, I just let them know how to followup with me. If I don't hear from them, I just consider them no's and move on.

The main thing about the followup process is that you live up the how you said the enrollment process was going to work and don't go trying to turn no's into yes's and start pressuring employees.

When you do that your enrollments this way, subconsciously everyone realizes that you are there just to help. And that's what you want.

Before I wrap this up, here's one last video that talks about the followup step in more detail.


While these steps are simple in nature, they are extremely important. If you try and cut corners by combining steps or by dropping the ball and not following up, your enrollments won't be nearly as beneficial to the group you are working with.

However, when you follow these steps, you'll be able to know that employees truly understood the benefits and offers that were made to them and made a decision based on real information that you wanted communicated to them in the first place.

This three step process is by far the most effective way to communicate benefits information to your employees.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. I'll be happy to help.

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Michael is a champion of guaranteed issue for employees in the workplace. He's been an insurance agent since 1992 and has worked with thousands of employees.