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Want better life enrollment? Try communication.

Most would agree some level of life insurance coverage is better than no none at all. But to really meet the needs of employees, the focus should be on the adequacy of coverage.

MetLife's 9th Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study finds 71 percent of full-time U.S. workers say they have some amount of life insurance coverage. But of those with coverage who know the amount, 47 percent indicate they have two times or less their annual household income in coverage. This is despite the fact that more than half of employees report being worried about unexpected financial emergencies and the impact it would have on their families.

So what explains the disconnect between employees' concerns and their purchase patterns? One contributing factor is could be that benefits communications simply aren't as effective as they could be. So this enrollment season, consider whether your clients' communication strategy for employees is robust enough to engage them in the group life offering.

Improving benefits communications helps both clients and employees. After all, employees are unlikely to appreciate and make use of a benefits program if they aren't aware of it or understand their options. MetLife's study shows there is significant room for improvement: More than half (55 percent) of all employees do not find benefits materials to be dear and comprehensive, and only a third (36 percent) feel their benefits communications are very effective in helping educate them on options to best meet their needs.

Most employees (65 percent) who work for organizations that improved communications during the past year felt their employer was loyal to them compared to 33 percent of employees overall, the survey finds.

Improving benefits participation levels for programs such as life insurance can also improve employee loyalty, as workers place much higher values on benefits such as life and disability insurance than most employers realize. For example, more than half (59 percent) of all employees say they consider non-medical benefits very important loyalty drivers, yet only 37 percent of employers recognize this.

Given both the opportunity to improve communications and the increased need to help employees close the underinsurance gap, there are several tips to improve upcoming open enrollment communications.

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Communicate the broader purpose. Emphasize the importance of life insurance as an income replacement means and way to ensure financial security for family.

Use methods employees like. Employees participating in the MetLife study said they would like to see their benefits communications improved by having access to benefits information online (44 percent); information tailored to their life events and life stages (39 percent); access to a person who can tell them about their benefits (36 percent); and more frequent communication about their benefits (34 percent).

Address employees' purchase barriers. Emphasize points around the affordability of obtaining coverage through the workplace; the ease of choosing and purchasing life insurance coverage; the financial security that it can provide for families; and the peace of mind it can provide for the purchaser.

Provide tools and guidance. Underscore the tools and education that are provided to make selecting the right type and amount of life insurance a simple process. Only 42 percent of working men and 30 percent of working women feel very confident in their ability to make the right financial decisions for themselves and their families. Not surprisingly then, more than half of all employees (51 percent) say they are very interested in having their employer provide access to online tools to help them make decisions about their financial needs.

Include features that add value. In addition to providing access to supplemental coverage above the core offering, items like in-person will preparation and help with estate resolution for beneficiaries are all valuable add-ons to make the group life insurance program more robust.

Also consider this: Employees have an interest in more voluntary benefits. MetLife's study finds 52 percent of U.S. workers say they are interested in a wider array of voluntary benefits that they can choose and pay for on their own. Nearly two-thirds of employees say that they value voluntary plans as a way to obtain benefits that meet their personal needs. So once your client provides access to supplemental life insurance coverage, follow up with effective benefits communications to make the difference between benefits that are understood and valued, versus those that are overlooked and underutilized.

Stephen Pontecorvo is vice president of group life products for MetLife.
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Title Annotation:Life insurance: SPECIAL SECTION
Author:Pontecorvo, Stephen
Publication:Benefits Selling
Date:Sep 1, 2011
Words:733
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