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Guardian Survey: Millennials Confident in Employee Benefits Decisions, but Underinsured

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According to research from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, one of the nation’s largest mutual life insurers and a leading provider of employee benefits, Millennials are by far the most confident about their ability to make the right benefit decisions, with 96 percent feeling “highly confident” versus 66 percent of Gen Xers and 64 percent of Baby Boomers.

Additionally, nearly 80 percent of employees spend less than a total of two hours evaluating their insurance benefits options, including group medical, dental, life and disability insurance.

Only 32 percent of all employees described their approach to open enrollment as one that incorporates a “careful review” of their benefits details and options. Millennials are more likely than their older co-workers to say they carefully enrolled in available benefits options (50 percent vs. 30 percent of Gen Xers and 31 percent of Baby Boomers). Yet research indicates that Millennials may be underinsured.

A smaller percentage of Millennials (78 percent) are currently enrolled in available benefits as compared to their older colleagues (92 percent), particularly life (48 percent vs. 71 percent) and disability insurance (53 percent vs. 68 percent).

While online benefits enrollment has become the new normal—with its use more than doubling in five years to 62 percent—many of the same communication and engagement challenges still persist.

A majority of workers, regardless of age or life-stage, say they try to better understand their benefits options by reading their benefits materials (77 percent) and reviewing their prior year’s selections (66 percent), however, a minority reported that they have attended benefits meetings (37 percent), spoken with a benefits advisor (29 percent), used online planning tools (28 percent) or spoken with a carrier representative (14 percent) prior to enrollment.

“Most employees are not taking full advantage of available company resources to help them make informed decisions about benefits. In fact, employees’ benefits engagement and decision-making has not substantially improved with the advances in technology, despite the convenience it offers,” said Chris Swanker, vice president, Worksite and Sponsored Markets for Guardian.

“As this do-it-yourself attitude continues to prevail, it underscores the critical opportunity companies have to evaluate and alter their communication strategies to better engage and educate employees about their benefit offerings.”

While some challenges continue, the research found that online enrollment can help improve employee perceptions of employer benefits communication and education efforts. 61 percent of workers who used an online benefits enrollment tool and found it to be a very easy process gave top ratings to their employers’ benefits education and communication efforts, compared to 35 percent of others.  

To improve benefits communication and education efforts, Guardian recommends employers take a three-step approach to aligning communication strategies to their organization’s needs, preferences, culture and goals. This includes:

  • Audit – Review all current materials, communications and approaches. Understand what’s working or not working. Find out what channels are most useful to employees. Assess what engages employees and why.
  • Test – Assemble your future strategy by building on successes and stopping activities that don’t have value. Resist going “all at once,” test one new idea / tactic at a time.
  • Measure – Evaluate each new tactic and determine what success means for each. Incorporate results and feedback into future initiatives and refine measurements as you go.

The full research study can be viewed in its entirety at:


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