Avoiding the Knowledge Trap
During this time of year, we support hundreds of employers and their employees navigate their annual benefit open enrollment. it’s easy when one works in an industry 365 days a year to forget that most people only encounter benefits and insurance terms once a year. It’s unrelated to their core job function, but when we work in the industry, it’s easy to forget that our norm isn’t everyone else’s norm. This is called the knowledge trap - when we forget what it’s like to not know something.
In our business, it’s a daily challenge to check our communication for our own knowledge traps. It maybe internal acronyms, industry acronyms, or complex ideas that provide the foundation of decision making. Failure to adjust communication for the knowledge trap is alienating to new hires, co-workers, and clients (and their employees).
However, benefit enrollment is a collaborative effort where information comes from multiple sources to be stitched together into a comprehensive array of information intended to help an employee make complex decisions. Knowledge traps can come from the software, the employer guides, carrier information, and broker communication.
We answer inquiries from confused employees. We read their user feedback where they could have used more guidance. This helps remind us to always be cautious for the knowledge trap, but the message needs to extend to carriers, consultants, and employers. Concepts which are very “simple” to people who work in the insurance industry are very confusing to people who do not.
One young woman lamented that she was college educated and starting her first job in the workforce but did not understand the distinction between primary and contingent beneficiaries. Another common area of confusion is evidence of insurability and guaranteed issue. Copays, coinsurance, and deductibles also confuse the average person. There’s not a one-size fits all solution, but it’s important to remember - our employees do not necessarily understand benefits and insurance the same way as we do. And we should try to adjust our communication accordingly.
Enrolling in annual benefits is stressful for most people. Typically, they delay enrolling until the last minute possible because it’s an unpleasant task. We do everything we can do make it straightforward and easy for them. Maybe there are things you can do too.