Black manager speaking at diverse employee meeting

6 ways to drive greater participation in voluntary benefits

You've heard the saying about a tree falling in the forest when nobody's there to hear it. Don't worry, we're not going to take a deep dive into philosophical mind-benders here, but let's apply that thinking to a benefits enrollment: If you offer a comprehensive, competitive and affordable benefits package, but few employees sign up, is the benefits program a success?

We'd all agree the answer is no, because no matter how great the products and services in a benefits package are, if employees don't enroll in them, they're useless.

Employees may bypass benefits—especially voluntary and nontraditional benefits—because they don't understand them and the need they fill, or the enrollment process just seems too difficult or inconvenient. And low participation in the benefits program is a lose-lose-lose scenario, causing lower employee satisfaction, reduced client confidence and restricted revenue for you.

The good news is there are proven best practices you can implement to create more effective communication and easier enrollment processes. Here are six ways you can help drive optimal participation:

1. Start early

Start the planning process early to help gain your employees' endorsement of the communication and enrollment strategy. Be sure to allow enough time to deliver multiple communication touchpoints before, during and after the enrollment. This can vary from a few weeks to several months, depending on your size and scope.

2. Use multiple methods

Enrollment communication best practices typically involve several types of customized communications that begin several weeks before the enrollment. Use different formats such as print, video and electronic/digital, and a variety of communication channels including websites, email, postal mail and social media to reach diverse and potentially geographically dispersed employees.

3. Recommend an active enrollment

The carriers involved in your account will likely suggest active enrollment strategies, but in reality, the decision is up to you. An active enrollment strategy for voluntary products can include requiring a yes/no benefits decision, attendance at mandatory meetings, and positioning voluntary products directly after core benefit offerings such as medical and traditional group products.

4. Get personal

Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to enrollment by taking the time to understand the overall enrollment needs and potential obstacles your employees face. Use employee demographic data, when available, to customize and personalize all communications, benefits information and enrollment forms.

5. Keep the human touch

There's no question technology is a growing part of enrollment, but most carriers prefer an in-person, face-to-face enrollment method, such as a one-to-one or group meeting (or both). Carriers cite better overall participation and improved understanding of the benefits offered with these methods. If in-person meetings aren't feasible because of employee locations, schedules or pandemic concerns, virtual meetings via video call can also be effective. The key is keeping personal interaction in place, with an opportunity for employees to ask questions.

6. Make enrollment easy

A personal approach doesn't mean throwing technology by the wayside. Take advantage of easy-to-use and intuitive decision-support tools, videos and calculators to help your employees learn about their benefits and enroll in them when, where and how it's most convenient. When it comes to enrollment support, this isn't the place for a single-source solution. Instead, use multiple methods such as an online, self-enrollment process supplemented by onsite benefits counselors, online chat capabilities or telephonic enrollment support.

Tap into proven strategies for stronger communication and a more effective enrollment to produce the end result you all want: higher participation in the benefits program.

This article was written by Emily Payne from BenefitsPro and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to

This material is provided for general and educational purposes only; it is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk. Please consult an independent legal or financial advisor for specific advice about your individual situation.