Managing Wellness

Voluntary Benefits: Gain More Participation With Education

  • Approximately 90 percent of employees want to stay healthy and active, and voluntary benefits are a major plus
  • Two-thirds of employers believe that voluntary benefit plans will become increasingly important over the next few years
  • Millennials like the flexible, affordable and adaptive nature of voluntary benefit programs
Posted by April 30, 2019

Voluntary benefits have increased in appeal as more employees place an emphasis on the flexibility of benefit choices. In addition to being cost-effective (because they are mostly employee-funded), many voluntary plans provide generous discounts and coverages that offset the burden of high-deductible health care plans.

Traditionally, some voluntary plans like dental and vision care have high enrollment rates but aren’t used by many employees. To increase participation in voluntary plans, employers need to be able to communicate the true value they offer and educate employees around how they can best make use of these plans.

How to Communicate the Opportunity Voluntary Plans Provide

The recent Willis Towers Watson Voluntary Benefits and Services Survey revealed that 69 percent of employers “believe voluntary benefits will be a very or more important component of their employee value proposition in three to five years.” The survey also showed the most popular programs that will increasingly gain employer attention include student loan payoff, identity theft protection, pet insurance, long-term care insurance, critical-illness insurance and hospital indemnity.

Here are three tips for communicating the advantages of your company’s benefits plan.

1. Share How Voluntary Benefits Packages Help Employees

As evidenced above, there is a wide range of programs that can be offered to employees, each addressing a specific area of concern. When talking with employees about their voluntary plan options, focus on the end results that matter to them.

For example, financial wellness coaching can help employees who are dealing with debt to get a handle on things. Auto and home insurance can take the worry out of property and vehicle ownership. Additionally, dental benefits can result in better oral health and a reduced chance of suffering from a chronic disease.

2. Leverage Technology to Encourage Enrollment

A survey conducted by Virgin Pulse showed that 90 percent of employees want to stay healthy and active. Employers have access to online benefits technology that can give employees a chance to review—and learn more about—the voluntary perks they are interested in.

Use this type of platform as an opportunity to share real examples of how employees have been able to get healthier, lose weight, quit smoking, reduce stress and more. It’s important to make enrollment as seamless as enrolling in standard health care plans.

3. Be Available to Answer Questions

Human resource leaders (and other managers) should become well-versed in voluntary benefit plans so they can promote them and answer any questions that employees might have. Managers can also share how they are personally using these plans to their benefit. Consider holding informational sessions before and during open enrollment periods, and be responsive to emails as well as other benefit inquiries that come in.

What Are the Benefits of Having an Educated Workforce?

If employees have a better understanding of how voluntary benefit plans work in conjunction with core health and financial benefits, they are more likely to put them to use. Education is crucial because each plan may have different rules for processing claims, getting reimbursed or using specific services.

When employees are educated about their benefits, they’ll be more confident about using them—and fewer workers will ignore them. Active use translates into healthier employees who are smart about where (and how) they spend their health care dollars. And, it goes without saying; a healthier workforce is a more productive one.

Consider some of the following facts from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion annually.

  • Four of the 10 most expensive health conditions for U.S. employers are related to heart disease and stroke.

  • An aging workforce results in increased costs for health services and reduced productivity.

Why Is Participation Critical to the Success of Your Business?

Employees who have access to a well-rounded voluntary benefits program tend to take better care of their well-being. An integrated approach that presents voluntary plans alongside standard health insurance and educational resources can result in a workforce that takes an active role in getting—and staying—healthy. This is a win-win for a business and its employees.

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