Don’t be fooled by conventional wisdom: Advisers are vital in OE

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Is there a role for “guided enrollments” in today’s self-service age?

It used to be that it didn’t matter if you understood your benefits. Employers gave them to you. Then, costs started going up and employers wanted you to start sharing the cost. Benefit choices, flexible benefits, tradeoffs, voluntary benefits. Suddenly, you needed to make informed decisions—but wow, the stuff was complicated.

Employers turned to group meetings, but they were disruptive and often poorly attended. One-on-one enrollments came on the scene, but work disruption and scattered work forces were problems.

So where are we today? If you ask most employers, “Do your employees understand their benefits?” most will answer, “No.” And if you ask, “Why not?” the answer will be, “They just don’t read.”

Today, we hear everyone wants the solution on their phone or their app. They want it in real time. Gen Zers have no patience for this. Millennials just want to touch their screen.

Is that right? Will employees today read and understand their benefit information and feel they have what they need to make decisions because the information is online?

Not exactly.

It is really interesting, both anecdotally and from survey data, what we know is that what people really want is to talk to someone. They want a knowledgeable counselor to explain their options, inform them of the differences between plans, and to help them decide what plans work best for them.

Win-win venture

One career benefits professional I know well (me) knows that when it is time for my annual 401(k) enrollment, I want to talk to my 401k adviser. I don’t want him to make the decisions for me, but I do want his input and guidance. For most people, that is exactly what they want for all of their benefits.

I have said it before: Self-service is not service. That is an oxymoron. If you are doing it yourself, it is not service.

Why don’t employers provide more service to their employees? It is just too expensive. What employer is going to pay to have someone spend 30 or 45 minutes with each employee helping them with their enrollments? But that is exactly what we do in our business, each of us that funds our benefit communication and enrollment service with voluntary benefits.

Methods vary: call center, web-based co-browsing, still some one-on-ones. But all are providing “guided enrollments” that employees want.

We help people make informed decisions, we help them have better benefits and we help employers cut their costs, reduce turnover, and increase employee appreciation of the benefits the company is providing.

All in all, this is probably the best win-win venture I can imagine.

Kleiman will speak further on this topic when moderating the session, “Optimizing Enrollment & Improving Employee Engagement” at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance, Feb. 28.

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