The post-pandemic benefits landscape is forever changed. As carriers and brokers adapt, the message is clear: lean into technology with a “digital first” approach that blends connection, engagement, and wellbeing. Easy to say…but what does that look like in our new world and who is making this happen?
A recent Mercer report states that 7 out of 10 organizations have increased benefit spending because of the pandemic. The same report notes that 76% of organizations increased their technology spending. If the way to employees’ hearts, minds and pocketbooks is hyper-personalization, how does a broker demystify the intersection where tech and the “global consistent (human) employee experience” meet?
We know that all the tech in the world won’t fill the “human” connect that employees say they want from their employers/work environment. As well, benefit and tech spending alone won’t produce a positive ROI for stakeholders as employees won’t value their employer’s new product/benefit offering unless they
- know about the benefit and
- know how it will provide value in their lives on a personal level, which in turn
- aids HR by aiding in their biggest challenge: recruiting and retention.
Add that 55% of Americans are working from home; organizations must work with advisors who have the skill to blend tech with employees’ need to feel connected and supported by their employer at a time of great uncertainty. Hybrid and remote work beg benefit consultants to rethink traditional pre-enrollment communication. Forward-thinking organizations will work with partners who understand how to communicate to each generation simultaneously, leveraging the adoption of the smartphone to deliver engaging, personalized content 24/7 over text and social media with the power of video storytelling.
We believe we have the solution. It is by elevating the employee experience: bringing employees together wherever and however they are working with a focus on wellbeing and inclusion, leveraging creativity, education, and science. With 92% of employees saying the Covid-19 Pandemic has impacted their priorities, we understand how to harness media to aid in recruiting and retention, with efficiencies that far outdo e-mail, flyers, group meetings and lunch-and-learns (that never really worked anyway).
The need is so great that decided to form a subsidiary of my Voluntary Brokerage firm to one that provides custom multimedia campaigns for carriers and brokers as there appears to be void that needs to be filled. As an industry leader with over 27 years of voluntary and benefits communication expertise I know the “secret sauce” of blending custom, compelling, digital communication campaigns that take the enrollment experience to higher levels. Working with carriers and brokers who want to bring in “best in class” partners who can create the rocket fuel needed for virtual enrollments to go to the stratosphere (as often there is only one shot to get it right). Yes, I’m talking “high tech/high touch”, but so much more.
The most dramatic shift that the Pandemic caused was how we engage in technology, social media, and video content in our everyday lives. Many enrollment companies use strategies that use technology to PUSH products on employees. Our agency’s approach is the opposite. We creatively amplify corporate narratives of caring and inclusion combined with education, fun and visually appealing graphics to elevate the employee experience. We draw them INTO the benefit experience, rather than driving them away. As video views are shared by employee to employee, the viral process takes on a life of its own and we know how to make that happen.
Not only do I teach abo0ut the impacts of the pandemic, but I also know how to best communicate benefits as I have done it for over 25 years with over 600 (new) employer clients, writing over $30 million in annual premium in three different states. We designed and built custom landing pages in 2017 and videos in 2019 so we aren’t new to the “digital party”. We have already produced proven tools that drove high participation rates with clients thousands of miles away, while making HR’s job a dream.
We also know how the brain absorbs content and reacts best to learning. It’s important to bring in both visual cues, as well as content that “lights up the brain” while providing facts and useful information for the viewer, in easy, simple, relatable terms that is simple to absorb. If information is valuable, we will, in turn, share with others we either care about or wish to provide social currency as it makes US look good (it’s true, we share for these two reasons).
Because my team consists of a baby boomer, a millennial, and a Gen Z’er, we know which generation uses which social platforms, how to design videos for any benefit that needs to be communicated whether it’s wellness, voluntary, flex, student debt loan, pet, HSA, and even the sometimes uncomfortable “replacement” discussion.
This is important as I have had Ben Admin licenses since 2018 and know firsthand that the best way to fail to reach healthy participation levels is to think that the system itself will get the job done. It doesn’t and it won’t. They are an effective virtual solution, but ben admin systems do nothing to shift the employee’s perspective from open enrollment being as exciting as doing your taxes (or buying a used car) to one of inclusion, excitement, and anticipation.
Even Dave Reid, President of Ease, in his panel discussion at Voluntary Week 2022 said “people want a more holistic process that replaces the clunky 30-page packet with a pre-enrollment digital campaign, starting with a thorough digital needs assessment. We no longer have “workplaces” but rather “workforces” that demand we shift our education from the back end of the enrollment (benefit counselors) to the front end”.
Dave also said that Ease is only a “hammer and a screwdriver”, with the broker being the “carpenter”. One way is to build not only a powerful initial virtual enrollment campaign but work with a partner who understands the power of a year-round “drip campaign”, as 65% of employees want education year-round. Again, it’s time to rethink all of what we knew from pre-pandemic, listen to our employee’s needs, while adding in the human ingredient that we all crave for in our sometimes-disconnected world.
In conclusion, carriers can bring their best products to the market, brokers can spreadsheet them all and wrap up them up in one nice big benefit bow. But without custom pre-enrollment communication, employees won’t know what great benefits are available to them, resulting in not only low participation, but employees won’t value their employer. Most importantly, they won’t elect the benefits that make a difference in their lives, the “guarantee issue” opportunity may be lost, and revenue unrealized.
It’s a new world and I say advisors in the future will design program for their clients that take the burden off HR to be creative, while elevating the post-pandemic virtual enrollment experience to one that is based on education, creativity, and science.
It’s time to fly!