How Decision-Support Tools Can Replace Benefits Fairs

Lauryn Nosek | | Benefits Decision Support

decision-support tools can help replace in-person benefits fairsHuman resources teams are adapting annual benefits enrollment practices to meet the needs of employees impacted by the pandemic. For most companies, this means switching to digital solutions to reduce in-person interaction. One of the biggest demands is for a virtual benefits fair that can replace the large gatherings with vendors onsite to answer questions and enroll employees on the spot. With so much at stake this year, finding the right solution is imperative. We've found decision-support tools like PLANselect® and BENEFITchoice® combined with streamlined digital communications are a great way to guide employees through virtual benefits enrollment.

The Challenges

An in-person benefits fair can easily lead to sensory overload, but there's also an underlying order and control. Employees can choose where to go, which vendors to engage with. They can move and learn at their own pace and according to their personal needs. Replicating that in a digital format poses many challenges. The in-person fair both has offerings applicable for everyone in attendance but is also a very personalized experience. To capture it in digital communications requires flexibility and personalization that doesn't place too high a burden on your HR team or the employee user.

It may be tempting to try and recreate the virtual benefits fair on a one-to-one scale. Each vendor would have a dedicated page online and an exhibit hall employees can navigate as they please. This is certainly one option. However, the more vendors and benefits available, the more labor intensive it is to organize and assemble. More importantly, having a multitude of options also makes it tricky for users to navigate effectively. Employees' lack of familiarity with different categories of benefits can make incorporating the necessary educational elements difficult. For smaller companies with fewer options, a one-to-one virtual benefits fair may be a workable solution. For others, the guided approach that decision-support tools provide is an alternative solution.

Decision-Support Tools to Engage, Educate and Guide

Rather than drop employees into an unfamiliar virtual environment to simply wander, benefits decision-support tools guide them through the process based on their specific needs. Presenting workers with questions about their concerns and needs before focusing on the options at hand, they personalize the employee experience. Offering too many options is overwhelming. By first weeding out inapplicable ones, employees receive only relevant information, promoting engagement and enrollment. For instance, if they don't have pets, they don't need to learn about pet-insurance options.

At Flimp Communications, we offer both PLANselect, focusing on healthcare plans, and BENEFITchoice, ideal for presenting supplemental and voluntary benefits. PLANselect uses a percentile-of-use method, non-invasive and confidential questions and proprietary algorithms to present a comparison of the user's best-value options. Other tools on the market rely on complicated calculator models. Those tend to require a great deal of personal information to complete and rarely include option comparisons.

employee benefits communicationMost employees are familiar with the medical benefits their employers offer but know little about available voluntary benefits. BENEFITchoice is a great way to showcase all the other benefits offered, which can help employees appreciate their entire benefits package. Interest in voluntary options, like critical illness and hospital indemnity coverage, is on the rise. They can help workers save money and prevent financial emergencies, so their growing popularity during the pandemic is hardly surprising. Beginning with a survey asking users to rate various areas of concern, available supplemental and voluntary options are presented based on the level of concern expressed.

Using decision-support tools like these can help reduce the benefits-knowledge gap. Asking the right questions leads employees to regard their needs in new ways. Then they might pursue benefits options they wouldn't have previously considered. Meanwhile, explainer videos provide general education on specific benefits and medical jargon.

Supporting Communications

Even with easy-to-use decision-support tools, you need to provide employees with additional information and resources. This is especially true with the pandemic continuing to make waves. You'll still want to communicate with employees about specific changes to existing offerings, enrollment deadlines, guides and any benefits webinars you're holding. These communications can introduce any decision-support tools used and should be shared throughout the enrollment period. Share this messaging through multiple channels (if possible) to ensure no one in the workforce misses the message – an additional challenge for businesses with employees still working from home.

It's also a good idea to make communicating about benefits something that goes beyond the enrollment period. Depending on what and how many voluntary benefits you offer, you can think about highlighting them individually throughout the year. Provide tips for how to get the most out of them, especially if those tips can help workers save money. The pandemic is impacting the financial wellness of millions and, if there's a way for workers to save through their benefits, they need to know about it. Communicating about benefits regularly also happens to promote benefits literacy in the workforce… which, in turn, can make future enrollments run smoother.

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