'Holistic' Approach Recommended for Benefits Enrollments

By Stephen Miller Nov 6, 2009

Benefits enrollments work most efficiently when looked at holistically instead of as a one-time activity, according to Reinvent the Enrollment Experience: How to Drive value for Your Benefits Package, a fall 2009 white paper by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co. Organizations should take a big-picture perspective when planning their enrollments, trading the “once-and-done” mentality for one of building long-term relationships with their employees, according to the paper.

“Employers must encourage benefits dialogue throughout the year to support and enhance the enrollment experience,” since life-event changes could potentiallyhappen every day, says Marianne Adams, assistant vice president for enrollment services at Colonial Life, a provider of voluntary, supplemental insurance benefits. Moreover, “When companies take a holistic approach to their enrollments, employees can start to learn how their different insurance plans complement each other and make more informed choices for themselves and their families.”

Communication Plan Is Critical

A strong benefits communication plan can lead to greater employee satisfaction, according to a related Colonial Life white paper, Benefiting the Bottom Line: How a Strong Benefits Communication and Education Strategy Helps Drive Business. The paper cites recent surveys of U.S. employers and employees, highlighting these key findings:

90 percent of employers agree it’s important to their business that employees understand and appreciate their benefits, but only 21 percent think their employees actually have a good understanding of them.

94 percent of employers are interested in gaining access to resources to help educate employees about benefits.

85 percent of employees feel happy about their benefits enrollment when their employer gives them all the resources needed to make informed decisions.

Employers can expect to realize key business and competitive advantages when they implement a strong benefits communication and education program, including reduced benefits administration, more engaged and loyal employees and improved productivity.

“Strong communication may be the single most important investment an employer can make in a benefits program,” says Tom Gilligan, Colonial Life’s senior vice president of marketing and branding. “Communication outweighs even the richness of the benefits package when it comes to how much employees value their benefits program.”

Along with printed and online materials, employers explain benefit options to their employees through:

One-to-one meetings.91 percent of employers said having one-to-one meetings significantly improves employees’ understanding of their benefits—but only 58 percent are using them.

Group meetings. 80 percent use employee group meetings to explain their benefits.

While employees increasingly self-enroll for benefits using Internet methods, Technology should not be a substitute for face-to-face and ongoing communications, the paper concludes. Employees still want the opportunity to interact with benefits professionals for more personal, in-depth consultation.

Key Considerations

Do your employee benefits communications incorporate these features?


One-to-one support.

Multiple touch points.


Engaging employees throughout their employment lifecycle.

Source: Colonial Life.

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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