The enrollment process for Benefit Options during Open Enrollment has been largely automated, with online enrollment platforms replacing paper forms. Today, more and more employers are looking to improve the online registration experience by adding decision support tools and guides to make the process more user-friendly.
“The pandemic has been the final chapter in paper enrollments,” said Ralph Labarta, Tampa, Fla.-based chief technology officer at Engage PEO, a professional organization of employers providing HR services nationwide. The lockdowns physically separated enrollees from the resources they typically used during the enrollment process, he noted. In their place, better online tools have sprung up to help employees compare and filter benefit selections.
While e-registration is now a mature technology, Labarta added, “enhanced decision-making tools that help enrollees select products and coverage levels are becoming increasingly important.”
A boon for small businesses
Wesley Mace, Baltimore-based chief operating officer at Kelly Benefits, a provider of benefits administration and payroll services, said small businesses, in particular, have benefited from the growth of digital enrollment tools. , which “dramatically increased employee engagement” in enrollment. treat.
“Small organizations have found [digital enrollment] tools have not only helped distribute information to remote employees, but have also increased the productivity of those previously responsible for managing manual registrations,” said Bobbi Kloss. She is Director of Human Capital Management Services for the Cleveland-based Benefits Advisor Network (BAN), a nationwide network of independent benefits brokerage and consulting firms.
Jason McMahon, a Queensland, Australia-based digital strategist at Bambrick, a direct-response digital advertising agency, noted that digital open enrollment platforms can track employee engagement in the registration process. inscription, “showing what might have interested them or resonated with them – and what didn’t.”
These scans give employers “detailed information about employee touchpoints that is simply impossible to find in a printed guide,” McMahon said.
Cut through complexity
The benefits are complex, and employees have long been overwhelmed with the amount of information they need to make informed decisions, said Chad Wilkins, executive vice president of Webster Bank in Sheboygan, Wis., and head of the HSA division. Bank of the company. One way to help people get the most out of their health spending, he said, is to provide access to an online calculator that allows employees to compare various health plans, taking into account levels premiums and past or anticipated healthcare expenses. Digital calculators can also take into account employee contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) and show the implications of using pre-tax versus after-tax HSA dollars to pay for medical expenses, a-t he noted.
“We find that when [employees] use decision support tools and a healthcare plan calculator, 20-30% of people will make a different decision about their healthcare plan and potentially save thousands of dollars based on those decisions” , said Wilkins.
“If the digital enrollment process is easier, then the process can support a broader inventory of benefits offered,” Labarta said.
Another reason to go — and stay — digital: Employees are extremely familiar with the “Amazon experience,” said Casey Hauch, general manager of communications and change management at WTW. “Amazon knows what I like, what to order, and what my interests are,” she noted, and organizations have the same ability to use data on the plans employees are enrolled in, their coverage levels, who they cover, etc., to communicate personally through an online communication portal.
This allows employees, Hauch added, “to provide content that is relevant to them, increasing the chances that they will be interested and engaged, and make the optimal benefit choices for their needs.”
Diversity and environmental considerations
Labarta has also seen an increase in requests for enrollment platforms and business intelligence tools that support multiple languages. “The more broad and inclusive these tools can be, the better,” he said.
Digital tools also have a positive impact from an environmental perspective, “reducing the need to print out benefit registration forms and documents that can simply end up in wastebaskets,” Hauch noted.
Take a hybrid approach
“There’s an acceleration when it comes to using digital tools to reach people wherever they are,” Hauch said.
But digital platforms have value even in physical settings, where they can connect with people who have busy and varied schedules, she noted.
That doesn’t mean printing can be completely eradicated, Hauch added — manufacturing workers, for example, don’t always have easy access to computers. But she sees a downward trend. For example, instead of a 42-page guide, a company can print a postcard with a QR code to send to employees’ homes.
Even in a digital world, Labarta warned, don’t give up person-to-person support altogether. “Voice, chat and email support coupled with scheduled callback options should be in place to accommodate the various request preferences of enrollees at critical points in the enrollment process,” he advised.
Some enhanced decision-making tools also include telephone benefits advisors who can be reached late in the enrollment process to help enrollees finalize their selections, he explained, combining the benefits of high technology with a tactile customization.
Lin Grensing-Pophal, SHRM-SCP, is a Wisconsin-based business journalist with HR consulting experience.