Businessolver Blog

Empathy Training: How to Increase Empathy During Annual Enrollment

Empathy Training: How to Increase Empathy During Annual Enrollment
Posted on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 by Marcy Klipfel

Your Human Resources department, along with others all around the country, is undoubtedly moving full speed ahead toward Annual Enrollment.


It’s an enormous undertaking for any business that will have an impact on employee health and finances for the year ahead and beyond. Approaching AE with care and attention is a must—and that’s why this is the right time to revisit your commitment to empathy.

Empathy may seem like a priority better suited for a less busy time of year, but AE is one of the most impactful and personal touch points HR and business leaders have with their employees. It’s a time when employees are more likely to revisit their benefit options, consider their career in the context of the larger picture of their life, and reach out to HR leaders for counsel about the future. What better time to ensure each step in the enrollment process is informed by the most meaningful empathy practices?

In the 2019 Businessolver State of Workplace Empathy Study, 72% of CEOs responded that the state of empathy in the workplace needs to evolve, and 76% of employees agree. Frankly, this upswing—a 15% increase for CEOs since 2015—is no surprise. With rising healthcare costs, increased cost of living, and a trend away from salary work and pensions, employees are struggling to manage their financial well-being, and employers are constantly trying to adjust to marketplace conditions.

When AE comes around it brings these questions to the forefront, which is why now is the time to exercise our empathy muscles and prepare to implement empathetic practices when they’re needed most. Demonstrating empathy in the workplace is a skill like any other, and it needs to be practiced in a purposeful way to generate the best results. Where can your team start? Consider integrating these tips into your AE strategy to make the most of this crucial moment.

  1. Make face-to-face meetings a priority. An overwhelming majority (95%) of employees consider face-to-face conversations to be the most empathetic communication channel at work. This data should drive your approach to sharing information about benefits options. If you’re introducing new benefits this year, or even if you simply have many plans to choose from, holding a series of informative lunch-and-learns can break down issues of benefits illiteracy, as well as connect your HR professionals and employees.
  2. Rely on HR technology to ease the process for employees. It may seem counterintuitive after the previous point, but HR technology has made significant strides in empathetic design in recent years. Tools like AI can answer employee questions in real time, suggest cost-saving measures, and even offer benefits information in native languages. Employees can access these tools on their own time, giving them more control over the process. Backed by solid HR support, AI-powered solutions can increase your ability to get employees the information they need, when and where they need it.
  3. Ensure benefits options meet your employees’ needs. Our workforce is more diverse than ever, with four generations actively working and a fifth engaged through pensions and benefits. That means employees at different life stages need different types of support—and your benefits options should reflect the diversity of today’s workforce. This doesn’t mean offering every benefit under the sun. It means you should learn about the demographics and needs of your workforce and be prepared for those to range from caregivers supporting children and parents to new graduates balancing student loans to young families and more. Offering diverse options lets your employees know you understand their various stages in life and are providing support for all of them.
  4. Communication early and often. It’s unfortunate but it’s true—people do not enjoy enrolling in benefits. In fact, employees typically spend just 18 minutes enrolling in their benefits, and barely 30 minutes learning about their benefits packages before enrolling. Address this through communications, and not just a pamphlet right before AE. Acknowledge that benefits can be confusing and provide helpful materials multiple times before AE begins. Texts, emails, and desk drops are all useful, because people like to receive communications in different ways, and if your methods account for those preferences, it’ll show you understand your employees’ feelings on benefits selection and are ready to improve the process.

Want more information on why empathy is so important to your bottom line? Check out our full 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study below.