Now that over 70% of baby boomers are on Facebook, is the entire workforce becoming digital-first (and only)? With online enrollment tools and communication becoming a must-have, it can be tempting to make enrollment communications available online for employees and skip meetings -- especially when you're unsure if your employees are interested.
Despite a move to the internet for social networking, workers still prefer a face-to-face enrollment meeting. That's not just baby boomers -- the majority of all generations in the workforce, even millennials, stated they prefer an in-person conversation when it comes time to choose their benefits.
The enrollment meeting isn't dead, but it does need to evolve. The goal is to identify a strategic design for how you leverage online resources and in-person communication. HR professionals and brokers have a new challenge on their hands – how do you create a hybrid enrollment environment to educate a workforce and increase participation?
Hybrid Enrollment Approach
What does a hybrid enrollment approach look like? It’s about identifying the products that are best communicated in person – the coverage and solutions that really hit home when shared face-to-face. If these products resonate in real-time, employees are more likely to make the selection when it’s time to enroll online.
For example, we all know that offering key voluntary benefits for your employees can reduce financial stress and absenteeism as well as increase engagement and retention. However, if the mode of communication misses the mark, it doesn’t matter how they can enroll – they won’t.
Work with your participants' desire for a more personalized touch to help them select the right combination of benefits for their needs. Identify the products (oftentimes financial or critical illness) that are best suited one-on-one and then save time with products that are easily communicated inside a platform (such as life insurance and non-traditional benefits.)
Boomers Gen X
Baby boomers and Gen X rely heavily on their network for recommendations for everything from restaurants to insurance advice. Discussion groups during enrollment meetings will help your recommendations for voluntary products really stick. If an employee has benefited particularly well from a particular voluntary product (e.g. accident insurance helping them stay out of debt after an injury) and they're willing to discuss their experience, their peers will be more likely to understand the importance of enrolling.
In addition, baby boomers particularly react better to concrete financial examples than emotional reasoning. Mathematical models showing how voluntary products like IRAs can help boomers live comfortably in retirement will increase enrollments as well as easing employees' financial concerns.
Millennials want a face-to-face enrollment meeting because they seek the advice of experts. Rather than going to their network for recommendations, they want to discuss their options with someone they feel they can trust to help them. Small group discussions with benefits managers or brokers are the best way to engage this generation. When they feel the person advising them has their best interests at heart, they are much more likely to enroll in voluntary products.
Growing up during a recession, millennials are much more debt-averse than their predecessors. Showing how benefits can help them avoid going into debt, even during accidents and emergencies, will help ease their worries about purchasing voluntary products.
Millennials are also less likely to know the definition of basic health insurance terms than their more experienced counterparts. Pairing them with Gen X employees who can give terms like "deductible" and "coinsurance" real-world meaning will help them understand your health insurance offerings and choose the one that best fits their lifestyle.
This doesn't mean it's time to give up all other forms of enrollment communication. Baby boomers often prefer the information on paper for review later, and video tutorials help engage millennial employees beyond a face-to-face conversation without additional time on your part. On top of that, no one wants multiple, long enrollment meetings; one session should cover the points your employees need to hear in person with other resources and communication sent strategically on paper or through email.
You don't have to invest in multiple systems for one open enrollment. Employers and brokers can work together to create a balanced strategy that engages each generation with the most effective message. The enrollment meeting isn't dead, but it's no longer the only tool available; in fact, it should be used to emphasize and instruct on the online enrollment resources available to your employees.