With employees being asked to pay an increasing share of their benefits, the ability to offer voluntary insurance products to individuals at their workplace is an important business for advisors.

To be successful, however, advisors have to think through the enrollment process carefully. Open-enrollment periods give the advisor an opportunity to improve the profitability of an account as employees renew, modify or purchase new types of voluntary insurance coverage.

Most companies hold open enrollment for worksite benefits at least once a year. Right now, in the fall, is when the open enrollment season really heats up.

A winning open-enrollment process follows these steps:

1. Earn the trust of the key decision-makers. Whether you’re dealing with a small company, where a single executive calls the shots, or with a complex decision process involving human resources, finance, payroll and others, get to know and understand each one. Involving them in the pre-enrollment discussions ensures their buy-in and prevents surprises later on.

Explain to each that you provide a turnkey solution that will maximize communication to the employees, while minimizing employer distraction and making executives’ jobs easy.

2. Establish an effective enrollment strategy that considers the most effective way to reach employees during the open enrollment as well as for new hires throughout the year.

Explain that technology you can offer will automate the entire voluntary benefit process.

Producers have 3 options when selecting enrollment technology: Use the employer’s existing enrollment system; select the carrier’s system, whether direct fulfillment services or support of those services; or hire a third party devoted to administering the enrollment process.

Finally, explain to decision makers that you will coordinate all aspects of the enrollment, thereby saving time and reducing stress on their human resource personnel.

3. Reach your true targets. These are the employees themselves. You will have already determined the most effective way to communicate your message to them, be it through group meetings, one-on-ones, Webinars and so on.

During employee meetings, your job is to explain the need for the product–for example, through statistics and real-world examples–and to explain the benefit of your products.

But first, you have to get employees to attend. Some commonly used strategies are:

o Communicate through formats that employees are used to seeing, such as company e-mail, payroll stuffers, newsletter entries or posters in the cafeteria or break rooms.

o Mail brochures or announcements to the employees’ homes.

o Draft and circulate a letter from the company owner or president, or from the head of HR, encouraging employees to explore supplemental coverage options.

4. Evaluate the success of the enrollment and follow up with the employer. Once the enrollment has concluded, turn your attention to assessing what worked and what could be improved. Ask the people in HR for their opinion, and decide what improvements should be made before the next enrollment period. To determine the success of the enrollment, take a look at factors such as participation rates, reaction from employees, feedback from enrollers, frequently asked questions and the number of cancellations.

Continuing contact with HR departments will show your interest in supporting and maintaining the business. It’s also an opportunity to update company management on new products, programs and services they may want to make available and inform them about any new laws or regulations that may affect their insurance-related decisions. Post-enrollment discussions can also help new hire enrollments run smoothly.

Ultimately, the success of the enrollment hinges on providing the insurance products that meet the employees’ needs and providing an effective process for employers. By providing successful enrollments, and by being easy to do business with, you satisfy your customers, strengthen your reputation and set yourself up for future successful reenrollments as well.

Steve Howard is vice president of worksite marketing for AIG Employee Benefit Solutions, a marketing brand of American International Group Inc., New York. He can be reached by e-mail at .