Originally posted February 9, 2015 by Marty Traynor on Benefits Pro.

Spurred by time-saving devices such as smart phones and tablets, our pace of life has sped up. And enrollment is no exception.

In thinking about how to open this column, I took three minutes to look up the fact that Usain Bolt took 9.58 seconds in his world-record 100-meter run; it took Michael Phelps 49.82 seconds to set a world record in the 100-meter butterfly; and Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in about two minutes. Add that all up and you have six minutes, which is about the time most employees who enroll online will spend making their voluntary benefit enrollment choices this fall.

Employees are making decisions that affect their financial security in six minutes. But how can they be expected to make a good decision in that time, especially when faced with a growing list of options?

We have to plan what we can do to help employees make good choices and provide them with information via a coordinated enrollment communications plan. These elements help:

  • Pre-enrollment communications such as email notices and web banners, and on-site promos like posters and table tents
  • Informational on-site group meetings and/or webinars covering all shifts
  • Access to a call center during open enrollment and a help line for new hires and life event changes during the year
  • Evening webinars or access to call/chat services for employees and their spouses
  • Engaging tools such as videos and calculators
  • Creative approaches such as contests or prize drawings for all who enter the system
  • Recommended product bundles based on key demographics of the employee and their family
  • Careful product ordering
  • Auto enrollment of prior year choices
  • Speaking of employees who have already selected a voluntary plan ??? make any buy-up option as easy as possible to encourage repeat purchases and accommodate growing needs
  • Internal response tracking inside enrollment systems so follow-up emails automatically go from HR to those who have not entered the system, and to those who have not completed the process

Employees have to make their benefits elections in a hurried, nearly thoughtless environment. We can help them make better decisions during that six-minute decision process by active support of an enrollment plan.