American consumers have, surprisingly, been lagging to accept benefits as a key part of being finically healthy. Life insurance ownership is the lowest it has been in more than 50 years, according to a 2011 LIMRA study, yet 70% of households with children say they would be financially challenged if the primary earner died.

Let’s start the beginning. Are you even offering voluntary benefits to your employer groups?

With the Affordable Care Act and the increasing popularity of defined contribution plans, the employee is increasingly concerned with the total compensation package. Three out of four employees say that benefits in a job offer are an extremely or very important piece of their decision-making process, according to the 2013 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey.

Also see: "7 trends that shook benefits in 2015."

“The War for Talent,” coined in the 1997 book by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod, is heating up once again in 2015. I hope you’re not assuming employees have no place to go. Because the unemployment rate that once soared above 10% is now down to 5.4%, as of May 22. As American businesses recover from the recession, the employee is gaining control back. It’s time for the employer to be competitive with benefit packages.

Offering worksite products is a cost-effective solution for employers to have robust benefit packages while not adding significant cost to their bottom line, since such benefits are primarily employee paid. This also creates additional coverage for employees when a high deductible health plan is introduced. This benefit package theme is more common than ever since the ACA.

Not only should you be offering voluntary benefits to your groups to expand your portfolio, but also if you are not offering any, your competitors are invited in. To keep what you have, you must consider expanding. The key issue is your comfort selling the products. Shopping for voluntary benefits and implementing them has never been easier.

How to be successful 
Employees typically require at least three communication touch points during a voluntary benefit roll-out because they need time to review plan information and process it.

Choose wisely. Rolling out voluntary products with medical products allows the same emphasis of importance and voluntary products quickly go from perceived bonus coverage to a necessity in an enrollment session. However, you run the risk of overwhelming employees. Too many options with too much perceived cost at once could lead to information fatigue and purchase aversion.

Alternatively, enrolling voluntary benefits in a separate session creates a fresh emphasis on the products and employees can weigh their options without thinking of their rising medical costs. A separate enrollment period could be ideal for you — if you can get HR to require everyone to attend. Without help from your contact, fewer employees are likely to take time off from work.

Also see: "From tech-fueled rivalries to ACA reporting intricacies: Top blogs of 2015."

Perfect your lineup. Business 101 pitches location, location, location. However, when it comes to selling voluntary benefits, timing is what will make or break a sale. The concept of decision fatigue is not a theory but rather a proven statistic; longer enrollment sessions have a negative correlation to product enrollments. Don’t expect your employees to want to opt in to more monthly payments after they’ve just heard an increase in medical plans if you are enrolling them together.

I suggest you ask your enrollers to discuss voluntary products first. Allow time for employees to digest the voluntary information.

Reduce the complexity. In the past, employers voiced concern for the administrative duties assigned with offering multiple benefit options. In 2012, about 66% of employers had successfully integrated voluntary benefits on the same administrative platform for simple enrollment and administration. Benefit enrollment systems have been a key component in this transition.

If you’re employees are still pushing paper to enroll benefits, it’s time to weigh your options on an enrollment system.

Freund, CFP, ChFC, CLU, is president of Common Census, Inc. Reach him at Download the Common Census Guide to a Successful Enrollment to receive more voluntary enrollment strategies.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access