As costs rise and the Affordable Care Act continues to affect the realm of employee benefits, voluntary benefits are more important than ever. These trends have paved the way for an opportunity for brokers to guide employers who want to better predict what their employees want, and how to communicate the value of such offerings.


“The popularity of voluntary benefit offerings continues to grow as employers seek solutions for employees strapped by rising health care costs and … increased financial burdens,” Melissa Winn writes for Employee Benefit Adviser. An Employee Benefit Adviser survey found the standard choices, like dental and vision, are still popular, but less standard choices are growing in demand. So is short-term disability. “Employers and employees are increasingly asking brokers about other worksite voluntary benefits, including cancer and critical illness — a trend benefit experts confirm,” Winn writes.


Customization will be key this year, Elizabeth Halkos writes for Employee Benefit News. “Voluntary benefits have transitioned in recent years from being something extra to becoming a mainstay in the employee benefits package,” she writes. “It’s about knowing the audience, studying existing patterns and factoring in some unknowns that come together to depict the future vision,” Halkos writes. “Forecasting voluntary benefits trends relies heavily on considering the varying wants and needs of employees, along with goals of the employer.”


Communication is also more important than ever, writes Ciro J. Giue for, because employees have more choices and will need to take an active role in taking advantage of voluntary benefits. “The value of these benefits is wasted if the offerings are not effectively communicated in a way that inspires employees to learn and take advantage of them,” Giue writes.


He suggests creating a communication plan to help educate employees and get them excited about their options. Plans should include a timeline of when you’ll communicate and how you’ll reach them. “Sometimes less is more,” he writes. “You don’t want to communicate so often that it all becomes noise to the employee and they ignore it. You need to be concise with your message.”


You’ll also want to consider tailoring messages and communication channels by generation. For example, older employees might appreciate a phone call while younger ones might prefer text messages or communicating via social media.


“A well-thought-out employee benefit communication strategy designed for the specific needs of employees can provide this education while also increasing engagement,” Giue writes. He believes brokers, employers and carriers can work together to create such plans. “In the end, you’ll have a more satisfied and engaged workforce who will appreciate your efforts.”