Millennials are by far the most confident about their ability to make the right benefit decisions, with 96% feeling “highly confident” versus 66% of Gen Xers and 64% of baby boomers, according to a recent survey conducted by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. However, nearly 80% of employees spend less than two hours evaluating their group medical, dental, life and disability insurance options and those same Millennials are in danger of being uninsured, according to the survey.

Benefits & Behavior 2011: Spotlight on Enrollment Trends reveals that only 32% of all employees describe their approach to open enrollment as one where they give a “careful review” to their benefits options and details. Millennials are more likely than their older co-workers to say they carefully enrolled in available benefits options (half vs. 30% of Gen Xers and 31% of baby boomers).

Furthermore, research indicates that although Millennials think they are making the right benefits decisions they may be underinsured. Less than 80% of Millennials are currently enrolled in available benefits as compared to their older colleagues (92%), particularly life (48% vs. 71%) and disability insurance (53% vs. 68 %).

While online benefits enrollment is becoming the prominent way to enroll — with its use more than doubling in five years to 62% — many of the same communication and engagement challenges still persist, the survey shows. A majority of workers, regardless of age or life-stage, say they try to better understand their benefits options by reading their benefits materials (77%), while two-thirds review their prior year’s selections. However, 36% of Gen Xers report that they have attended benefits meetings, 29% have spoken with a benefits adviser, 28% used online planning tools or 14% have spoken with a carrier representative prior to enrollment.

“Most employees are not taking full advantage of available company resources to help them make informed decisions about benefits. In fact, employees’ benefits engagement and decision-making has not substantially improved with the advances in technology, despite the convenience it offers,” says Chris Swanker, vice president of worksite and sponsored markets for Guardian. “As this do-it-yourself attitude continues to prevail, it underscores the critical opportunity companies have to evaluate and alter their communication strategies to better engage and educate employees about their benefit offerings.”

To improve benefits communication and education efforts, Guardian recommends employers take a three-step approach to align communication strategies to their organization’s culture, goals, preferences and needs. This includes:

  • Audit – Review all approaches, communications and materials. Understand what’s working or not working and find out what channels are most useful to employees.
  • Measure – Each new tactic needs to be evaluated and determine what success means for each. Incorporate results and feedback into future initiatives and refine measurements as you go.
  • Test – To assemble a future strategy build on successes. Resist going “all at once,” test one new idea / tactic at a time.

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