By Staff Report

Sep. 15, 2005

I t’s a difficult balancing act: Employers want to offer a solid benefits package, but costs are continuing to rise. For many companies, the answer lies in voluntary benefits. And a core element of this strategy is Supplemental Life Insurance.

Supplemental Life Insurance usually isn’t the first voluntary benefit that comes to mind. But it is an essential part of a comprehensive benefits package—and in many cases it fills a critical unmet need among employees.

It’s not enough just to offer Supplemental Life Insurance, however. To deliver the most value to employees—it’s important to educate people about their options, provide access and help them choose wisely. (And there is no better time to focus on Supplemental Life than now; September is Life Insurance Awareness Month).

How exactly do you create a focused approach to Supplemental Life Insurance enrollment—without additional cost or effort? MetLife offers five tips for success.

Tip 1: Make It Personal

According to MetLife research, the average person spends less than 30 minutes on their benefits decisions—which doesn’t leave much time for contemplating life insurance needs.

Life insurance is a cornerstone of a family’s financial plan—but many don’t realize what a valuable benefit Supplemental Life Insurance can be, or how important it is to their overall financial strategy. Research shows that 50% of employees continue to be underinsured, with coverage less than three–times their annual household income. This amount is seriously inadequate, especially for those with financial dependents.

To drive more participation, one of the first questions employers need to ask is: Who is taking advantage of the Supplemental Life Insurance plan? MetLife makes the process easy, with a detailed analysis that’s easy to access and use.

This data not only helps create an effective outreach strategy, it also provides a baseline to compare results and measure success down the road. An acceptable rate of enrollment is typically 50 percent or more, but MetLife has found that most companies have employee participation rates of only 25 to 30 percent in their group Supplemental Life Insurance programs.

What can close this gap? Personalized enrollment information, specific to the Supplemental Life Insurance benefit. When employees see their current life insurance coverage—and their options—in black and white, they are more likely to consider the benefit and appreciate its value.

Decision-support tools, such as MetLife’s Life Insurance calculator, also make it easy for employees to personalize the benefit and calculate their needs. And by offering educational information online (Life Insurance 101, Profile Tool) and in print, MetLife helps make it easy for employees to quickly find answers to their questions.

Of course, it’s also important that the enrollment experience meets the needs of all employees. For example, MetLife research shows that the majority of employees (56 percent) prefer learning about benefits through material distributed at work—but 41 percent prefer to enroll online. Providing a mix of options increases the chances that employees will take action.

Tip 2: Offer More Than Expected

MetLife offers a full–circle view of the Supplemental Life Insurance benefit, including services like Will Preparation, which gives employees and their spouses access to participating attorneys to prepare or update their wills. This makes life insurance useful to employees today as well as in the future.

Other services include survivor assistance. For instance, if an employee passes away, MetLife appoints a specially trained representative to help the beneficiary manage the claims process and provide support. Beneficiaries can also utilize a Total Control Account, an interest bearing money market account that provides immediate access to life insurance proceeds while providing the time families need for making major financial decisions.

These services take a holistic approach to life insurance. They increase peace of mind, and add a new dimension of value to the Supplemental Life Insurance benefit—without increasing the cost or workload for employers.

Tip 3: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When vying for employees’ attention, enrollment materials are up against stiff competition.Everyone is busy—at work and home—so it’s important to make information user–friendly and accessible, particularly when it comes to Supplemental Life insurance.

One solution: communicate before, during and right after enrollment through a mix of channels to appeal to all employees, including print, online and face–to–face. E–mails and newsletter articles can help build awareness and drive people to enrollment Web sites. Online, employers can house educational information to make the decision process easy. And onsite enrollment is helpful, since some employees feel most comfortable asking questions in person.

No matter what mix of channels a company uses, one of the most important strategies is to send information home. Annual enrollment affects the entire family—and this is especially true with a benefit like Supplemental Life Insurance, since it is a fundamental part of a family’s financial plan.

Tip 4: Hold an Off-Cycle Enrollment

One of the best ways to focus attention on Supplemental Life Insurance is to hold an off–cycle enrollment event.

During this time, employees focus on the Supplemental Life Insurance benefit, assess their needs, and determine if their coverage is appropriate for their stage in life. Major life events including marriage, purchasing a home or having a child can dramatically affect the amount of life insurance needed.

Another option is to hold year–round enrollment. The Internet makes this type of plan effortless for companies, and it allows employees to receive the coverage they need, when they need it.

Tip 5: Evaluate Results

After the open enrollment period ends, it’s time to study the data. Companies that measure their success can fine–tune their strategy for even better results in the future.

To help with this process, MetLife provides detailed post–enrollment reports that include a follow–up participation analysis. This allows organizations to track employee benefits trends and determine how best to communicate with employees going forward—about Supplemental Life Insurance, as well as overall benefits in general.

The bottom line is this: If employees simply check off boxes on the enrollment form without really thinking about their choices, they will likely be less appreciative of the opportunity and value of the benefit.

With a focused enrollment approach and an experienced provider that understands the challenges, employers can implement effective, targeted outreach about Supplemental Life Insurance. The result: employees are likely to place greater value on their benefits—improving their overall satisfaction with their benefits program—and they will better position themselves to provide for loved ones.

To learn more, download MetLife’s new study “Patterns in Group Life Insurance,” which includes practical suggestions to build employee awareness and increase plan participation. The guide is available at

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with