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Rise above the rest: Unleash the power of your benefits enrollment experience

By Casey Hauch and Kylee LaBonte’man | April 10, 2024

Prioritizing employee wellbeing is a cornerstone of a high-performing employee experience and Benefits Enrollment sets the stage for how your workforce will engage with your benefits offerings to care for their wellbeing in the coming year.
Benefits Administration and Outsourcing Solutions|Health and Benefits|Retirement

The research is clear. Organizations who prioritize employee wellbeing do better financially. Benefits and wellbeing programs are an organization’s superpower in attracting and retaining key talent, and fostering an engaged, high-performing employee experience.

But to maximize returns, organizations must not only invest in their benefits programs, but design an intentional employee experience that is transparent, equitable, and tailored to the modern workforce. By re-imagining the benefits experience to meet their employee’s evolving needs and preferences, organizations will unlock the true power of their benefits, stay competitive, and differentiate themselves.

What are the key challenges organizations face in 2024?

  1. Healthcare is costly and complex. Healthcare costs increased by 10.7% in 2023 and are expected to continue rising in 2024. As they prepare for Benefits Enrollment, organizations are faced with striking a balance between managing costs and offering comprehensive and affordable benefits that meet the diverse needs of their workforce.
  2. 67% of organizations report rising costs are a key issue influencing their benefits strategy

    2023 Benefits Trends Survey: 595 U.S. organizations participated

  3. Leveraging employee behaviors to their advantage. The decisions employees make are a significant driver of healthcare costs and organizations’ ability to effectively educate and equip their workforce to make smart care and enrollment decisions is a crucial piece of the puzzle. By understanding employee behaviors and designing a personalized benefits experience that improves decision making, organizations can unlock the power to shape behaviors that serve employees and their families, as well as the organization’s bottom line.
  1. Providing a communication experience that’s akin to Where’s Waldo. As choice and flexibility continue to be a priority for employees, organizations are adding more benefits and wellbeing offerings — often resulting in the prevailing sentiment that “we offer so much, yet no one knows about it”. Engaging employees in these programs remains a challenge, leaving employees in the dark, unaware how to navigate what’s available and missing out on resources when they’re needed. It's time to bridge the gap and empower employees with clear, concise, and personalized communication that’s accessible, understood, and appreciated by the workforce.

2023 Benefits Trends Survey: 595 U.S. organizations participated

How your benefits experience can rise to the occasion

As organizations face emerging and complex challenges, they must adapt. As you prepare for benefits enrollment, prioritize these essential actions to optimize your employee experience and get the most out of your programs.

  1. 01

    Spend where it counts

    In a world of finite budgets and resources, employers must strategically focus their time and effort where they'll yield the greatest impact—for both their organization and their people. This begins with a deep understanding of what employees truly value, followed by effective communication that resonates with their diverse workforce, and making wellbeing foundational to their approach.

    Use employee listening tools such as focus groups, pulse surveys, and conjoint analysis surveys to understand employee behaviors, needs, preferences, and what they value most. With actionable insights, you can invest in what truly matters, differentiating your offerings to support your talent strategy, and eliminate underutilized programs — serving your bottom line and your employees.

    It’s essential that organizations not only offer comprehensive benefits that are affordable, accessible, and equitable — but also communicate them in a way that resonates with the diverse needs and preferences of their workforce. By doing this, you can foster an inclusive culture that supports wellbeing, productivity, and the employee experience. For example, leverage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to amplify information about your benefits offerings — such as having a Working Parents ERG include information about childcare, tutoring, and other resources provided by your organization in their communication channels.

    Recent WTW research shows that wellbeing is an essential cornerstone of Total Rewards and an organization’s employee value proposition. High-performing companies that prioritize employee wellbeing by making it an integral part of their culture outperform their peers. To cultivate a high-performing employee experience, leaders must demonstrate a genuine commitment to employee wellbeing. Position wellbeing as foundational to Total Rewards through curated programs that support physical, financial, emotional, and social wellbeing. During enrollment you can highlight how your offerings are designed to support employees at every life stage — for example, student loan re-payment programs to support recent college graduates, fertility benefits for those looking to start a family, and financial planning services for those looking to build their nest egg.

    Source: WTW Global Employee Opinion Database

  2. 02

    Get back to the basics

    Nearly nine out of 10 adults in the United States struggle with health literacy — while being disproportionately high among marginalized groups — affecting their health outcomes, straining the healthcare system, and racking up unnecessary costs. Focus on the basics and empower employees to take charge of their health. At the core, employees need to understand how to make cost-effective decisions that lead to high-quality care for their unique situation.

    Seeking care can be stressful, leading employees to fall back on what feels comfortable and familiar, even if it’s not the best or most affordable option. By helping employees understand their care options — such as virtual (telehealth), primary, urgent, or emergency care — and feel confident navigating them, they’ll be prepared to seek the right type of care at the right time. This not only ensures they’ll receive timely and effective treatment, but also helps prevent unnecessary costs. Resources such as condition care guides can be effective tools in helping employees navigate their benefits, resources, and care options when they or their family members face a life event or receive a diagnosis for cancer, diabetes, or other chronic conditions. As younger tech-savvy generations continue to make up a larger proportion of the workforce, we see preferences for virtual care gaining steam.

    64% of U.S. employees view virtual consultations favorably, compared to in-person consultations

    2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey: 11,166 U.S. respondents

    Cut through the jargon and make it easy for employees to understand their coverage options as they relate to their healthcare needs and risk tolerance. Employees face a barrage of healthcare options daily — with recent examples being biosimilars and GLP-1 medications — making informed decisions challenging. To help, provide cost comparison tools and personalized support channels to cut through the complexity.

    In North America, mental health ranks as the top condition by incidence and cost. While globally, mental and behavioral health disorders are expected to remain among the top five fastest-growing conditions. With mental health a global epidemic and the incidence of mental health conditions — such as anxiety and depression — continuing to soar, it’s essential that benefits enrollment be used as an opportunity to highlight resources and foster a culture where employees feel comfortable taking advantage of them. This can include everything from employee assistance programs and counseling services, to digital applications and tools.

  3. 03

    Create a personalized experience that makes it easy

    Imagine designing a personalized experience where employees feel heard, valued, and empowered to take control of their benefits and wellbeing and make informed decisions that align with their needs.

    AI supports organizations as they strive to create a personalized benefits experience, equipping them with:

    • Personalized and real-time support in answering employees’ questions and guiding them through the enrollment process — coming to life through solutions such as a virtual assistant.
    • Patterns and trends that enable you to tailor offerings to better meet employees’ needs and preferences. When you collect thousands of survey responses, AI can quickly produce recommended actions to address the most prevalent sentiments, in addition to more targeted recommendations for specific groups such as retail or warehouse workers.

    Decision support tools act as a trusted advisor that take the guesswork out of elections. With most employees typically rolling over their benefit elections year-to-year, these tools are the key to breaking them out of going through the motions, by making it quick and easy to evaluate their options and actively elect the benefits that will be the best fit for themselves and their family. Powered by understanding their unique needs, these tools make it a breeze to:

    • Compare plan features like premiums and out-of-pocket costs, with more sophisticated tools even accounting for prior claims history.
    • Determine if preferred doctors and hospitals are in-network, helping maintain continuity of care.

    A personalized communication platform is at the heart of helping employees effortlessly navigate their benefits and get the greatest value from the offerings. By providing targeted and relevant information, employees gain a better understanding of their benefits, which not only simplifies decision making, but fosters a sense of value and appreciation for your programs.

  4. 04

    Don’t just manage change, embrace it

    Embracing change allows organizations to quickly adapt benefits programs to meet the needs of their business and workforce. If you're harmonizing your benefits programs, switching carriers, significantly increasing cost share, or making other meaningful changes to your benefits programs in the coming year - you need to understand how it’s going to impact your people and prepare accordingly.

    By creating an environment where employees feel supported through the change, you’ll foster employee satisfaction and a deeper appreciation for the benefits you provide. On the flip side, if the change isn’t managed well, the impact can be detrimental to employee perceptions and satisfaction and may even impact their desire to stay with your company. Level-up how you prepare for benefits changes and:

    • Understand the impact by assessing the scale of positive and negative outcomes and associated risks for each unique segment of your workforce.
    • Personalize how you speak to the change to resonate with each group impacted.
    • Ready your team and recruit champions to be vocal advocates of the change.
    • Tell a compelling story of the ‘why’ behind the change and how it supports your organization’s business goals and talent strategy.

Organizations that do change well deliver 2.5x greater revenue growth over a three-year period, compared to organizations with below-average change effectiveness. It’s time to unlock the power of your benefits experience and re-imagine how you can meet the diverse needs of your workforce, optimize your spend, and fuel your organization’s continued success.


Associate Director, Employee Experience Business

Managing Director, Employee Experience Business
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