Navigating Benefits

How to Help Colleagues Choose Voluntary Benefits


  • More organizations are turning to the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of voluntary benefits

  • Two-thirds of employers view voluntary benefits as an important part of their total compensation package

  • Employers can help employees choose the right voluntary benefits for their lifestyles

Posted by December 19, 2019

Voluntary benefits increase the value of employer group health care plans because they offer more diverse options than standard health insurance and dental insurance. With the increasing burden of benefit costs being placed on employees, these benefits are becoming more popular with employees who want to save money and need flexibility.

“As the variety of workplace benefits has increased, so has employees’ willingness to spend money on them,” according to Meredith Ryan-Reid, senior vice president at Metlife.

As workers face another open enrollment period, it is important that they are educated about the many choices they have in voluntary benefits. Otherwise, employees can become confused about what voluntary benefits are a good fit for their lifestyle needs. Human resource leaders must also be knowledgeable about benefits so that they can steer employees in the right direction.

Creating Employee Benefit Packages With Better Options

Due to Affordable Care Act regulations, employers are limited in how much they can fund core health insurance plans—but this doesn’t mean that they cannot offer a generous helping of benefits. According to the Willis Towers Watson’s 2018 Emerging Trends: Voluntary Benefits and Services Survey of large employers, the most-wanted voluntary benefits include those that help protect the financial security of employees. Benefits such as critical illness insurance, identity theft protection, pet insurance, hospital indemnity plans, long-term care and student loan repayment programs have all proven popular. The survey also found that 69 percent of employers believe voluntary benefits will increase in importance and become a standard component of benefits packages over the next several years.

Voluntary employee benefits are unique in that they are supplemental to required health insurance and retirement savings plans, and are paid for by employees through salary-deferred contributions. The advantage for employees is that they can get several voluntary insurance products at group rates. The advantage to employers is that voluntary benefit programs are available to companies of all sizes. Workers can pick and choose what they want from a diverse portfolio of products, without increasing their organization’s costs.

When building a benefits package, offering at least the above desired financial protection products can be a great start. Review the demographics of the workforce and find voluntary options that address the needs of every group. This will make it easier when the time comes to choose the right benefits.

Communicating Voluntary Benefit and Enrollment Options to Employees

Trying to explain the different types of employee benefits can sometimes be challenging. And despite their best efforts, HR leaders may end up making things more confusing for employees. It’s wise to first consider how people take in information and then develop benefits communications around this.

Intermedia, a Unified Communications as a Service company, surveyed over 1,000 U.S. workers about their preferred tools for sharing information in the workplace. Approximately 87 percent of employees agreed that email was the primary communication method. However, findings also indicated an increased reliance on mobile devices and apps.

Keeping these factors in mind, it can be easy to set up a benefits communication system that includes elements of email, mobile apps and text messaging to learn more about voluntary benefit options. It’s important to be knowledgeable about benefits and make information accessible when employees need answers. Staying up to date on benefits administration (and what the company is offering) can help any leader to be seen as a valuable resource.

What Resources Are Available to HR Teams?

It’s critical that all human resource professionals stay abreast of legislation and changes to employee benefits. This means participating in professional development activities and being part of HR organizations.

Within their own companies, HR leaders should be advocates for benefits enrollment and use the package of offerings as a way to encourage employees to stay healthy and productive. HR departments can support the workforce by answering benefits questions, sending out reminders about open enrollment dates and encouraging employees to take advantage of all the benefits offered to them.

Looking for tools and resources to help your employees manage their benefits? Explore the Employer Toolkit hosted on United Concordia Dental’s website.

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