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Time for a fresh look at the annual benefits enrollment landscape

Jul 8, 2019 10:45:48 AM / by The HR Trove by Willis Towers Watson


For employers planning to dust off last year’s process for this next enrollment period, stop! If you haven’t made changes, then you’re likely behind the curve.

View our 4-page benefits enrollment guide 

Nothing is more consistent or reliable as my lawn mower. Every spring, I simply add some gas to the tank, press the primer button, pull the string and voila, it starts up again. Then, at the end of fall, I empty the gas tank and leave it in my garage for the winter.

This is the same approach that many employers take toward their annual enrollment communications. They simply dust off what they did last year, make a few small changes to their programs, and push it out to their employees the same way, year after year.

The problem is that when it comes to benefits, employee and employer expectations have changed and continue to do so. Willis Towers Watson’s 2018 Modernizing Total Rewards Survey found that nearly two-thirds of employers have made at least one change to their Total Rewards programs in the last year; of those who haven’t, two out of three are considering doing so this year, with the other third considering changes over the next three years.

Depending on the change, the same approach toward employee communication may not work. In fact, if you haven’t made changes to the way you communicate with your employees, you’re likely behind the curve.

Here are some emerging trends from our recent research:

Promoting health and wellbeing benefits

Over the past three years, four out of 10 employers have made progress in promoting employee wellbeing — good, considering that over 80% of employers expect employee wellbeing to increase in importance over the next three years. As a result, most employers are considering changes to help promote employee wellbeing over the next three years.

How will new health or financial wellbeing products you are introducing to employees fit within the Total Rewards framework you used to communicate your plans in the past? There’s a good chance they won’t, and employees will miss an opportunity to potentially leverage tools and programs that will benefit them in new ways.

New interactive modeling tools or gamification can enhance traditional communication methods to show how these wellbeing programs can impact your employees’ lives.


Personalized communication

Two-thirds of employers (67%) expect to improve their personalized communication this year or within three years. Thirteen percent have already done so.

Delivering the same service or message to all employees probably won’t meet everyone’s needs. Leading employers are using personalized communications to drive employee behavior and highlight the benefits of specific programs to eligible individuals.

In the absence of personalized data, employee personas can be an effective alternative to show how “employees like me” may be using Total Rewards programs to meet their needs.

Personalized communication is built into the fabric of our consumer behavior. Employees are now demanding a simplified, single approach that uses technology to mimic apps, tools and resources they use in their everyday life.



Sixty percent of employers expect to improve technology to administer benefits this year or within three years. More than a quarter (27%) have already done so.

Yet improvements to technology do not have to include an IT overhaul. Vendor point solutions can be added to your existing environment to improve the employee experience. Examples include conversational, interactive decision tools powered by artificial intelligence. Employers are increasingly using this technology to simplify the decision-making process for employees.


Yesterday was the time for change

Like many employers’ annual enrollment communications processes, I’ve used my current lawn mower for more than 10 years. If I’m going to be honest with myself and my neighbors, I probably should’ve looked into a new lawn mower a few years ago.

The benefits of moving annual enrollments communications to a digital platform are many. Employers can meet the decision makers where they’re at. Employees, spouses and dependents can view new plan information at any time from any device and be prepared to make a smart decision. Employees can receive targeted and timely content that helps drive behaviors employers are looking for. And, employers eliminate annual waste from print communications that serve a one-time limited purpose.

For those employers planning to dust off last year’s process for this next enrollment period, it’s not too late to change. New technology is readily available to plug into your process and easily improve the employee experience.


This blog was originally published on the Willis Towers Watson Wire, June 5, 2019.


Blog Contributor

Michael-Tyukodi-194x194Michael Tyukodi is a Director of New Business at Willis Towers Watson. 








Topics: benefits, human resources, benefits enrollment, health and benefits

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