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Brokers Are Key to Reimagining Employee Benefits Enrollment

Today’s workforce is more diverse than ever. Multiple generations are working side by side. In addition, certain demographic groups, such as single women, are on the rise in the workforce. Meanwhile, workers expect their employers to meet their personal needs and help them achieve financial security.

Faced with the challenges of a diverse workforce and increasing worker expectations, employers are looking to their broker and consultant partners for increased support. This creates an opportunity for brokers to deliver for employer clients in new ways, especially when it comes to benefits communication and enrollment.

A Growing Partnership

MetLife’s 15th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS) shows that the importance of the employer-broker relationship is increasing. The support employers are now seeking from brokers doesn’t stop at product selection. Employers are looking for full-service partners in areas from strategy and products to communication and enrollment.

According to the EBTS, 63 percent of employers say they are looking to brokers to provide insights on benefit trends and employee needs, 62 percent are looking to brokers for help communicating benefits to employees through resources like benefits handbooks, and 64 percent are looking for benefits administration support, including enrollment.

In each of these categories, employer interest is up significantly from last year, jumping by 10 percentage points. These gains highlight an opportunity for brokers to deepen relationships with clients by delivering on the needs of employers and their workers.

Employees’ Unmet Benefit Needs

Despite an interest in financial security support through the workplace, employees continue to be disconnected from the resources that can help alleviate financial concerns. According to LIMRA, nearly half of women today are without any type of life insurance, yet MetLife’s EBTS shows that life insurance is offered in the majority of workplaces. EBTS also shows that less than a third of employees understand most supplemental health benefits, yet more than half of employees are concerned about having enough money to cover out-of-pocket medical costs.

With this in mind, MetLife took an in-depth look in 2016 at the barriers that keep employees from understanding and, in turn, taking full advantage of their benefits. What we found is that employees, regardless of employer or industry, have common unmet needs:

  • They can’t navigate the benefits information they receive. 
  • They don’t have the time or energy to dig in.
  • They don’t know who to turn to with questions.
  • When they don’t understand their benefits, they assume they don’t need them.

When asked about their benefits, employees said things such as “There is all this information, but I don’t even know how to get it. Sometimes I accidentally find things”; “I wish I knew more about what the company offers — I feel like there’s a lot, but I’m not sure what. If I had an easier way to get to the benefits information up front, I would know more”; and  “If I had a question, I guess I’d  look on the portal. I didn’t know there was an 800 number.”

Across the board, because of these four common unmet benefits needs, many workers are walking away from benefits that can help them be more financially secure.

With workers looking to their employers for help with financial security, there is a key role for not only employers but also their trusted broker partners to play in helping workers understand their benefits, make informed decisions and easily enroll.

Four Immediate Actions to Improve Enrollment

As a broker discussing enrollment strategies with clients this year, consider these four unmet needs and recommend four subsequent actions employers can take to better deliver on workers’ needs and create a more productive enrollment experience.

[1] Streamline enrollment materials to help workers navigate. Workers are overwhelmed by the information explosion at enrollment time. According to EBTS, about 40 percent of workers are confused by the information they receive from their employers about their benefits. Help cut out the clutter so workers can easily find succinct information that’s relevant to them, and prioritize the content so they get the most important information up front. 

[2] Create simplified, snackable information that’s easy for busy workers to digest. According to EBTS, more than two in five workers are stressed by the enrollment process, and many think it’s too complicated. During their busy workdays, they don’t have the time or energy to dig in, and in the evenings or on weekends, life gets in the way. This is why so many workers wait until the last minute to enroll. When they have simple, digestible content, workers can absorb information quickly yet still make informed decisions for themselves and their families.

[3] Provide well-equipped representatives for questions. According to EBTS, only 37 percent of workers strongly agree that benefits communications give them the information they need to make the best decisions. When they have questions, one of the resources most preferred by workers is one-on-one consultations with benefits enrollment representatives, EBTS showed. However, many employers aren’t providing this opportunity. Encourage employers to leverage external resources, such as benefits communications firms, to assist. If you don’t have a relationship, ask your carrier. Carriers should be key partners in creating a great enrollment experience for workers.

[4] Provide personalized information aligned with life events to make benefits more relevant. With multiple generations working side by side, you are unlikely to be able to reach each generation with the same communication or message. Only about half of workers say that their employers’ benefits communications address their life stages and personal situations. Yet on the whole, workers say that personalized messages and materials reflecting life events or life stages would be effective for learning about benefits, according to EBTS. Given the diversity of the workforce today, this is more important than ever for employers to consider. 

By supporting employers in taking these steps to improve their workers’ benefits enrollment experiences, you’ll continue to add value as a trusted partner. More important, you’ll help employers cultivate the loyal and engaged workforce they’re seeking by enabling workers to depend on the workplace as a source of financial security.


Meredith Ryan-Reid is senior vice president, distribution development and benefits delivery, group benefits, MetLife. [email protected].

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