When too much information is a bad thing.
Updated: May 3
Decision support is a buzzword in the benefits management community with every employer and vendor trying to outdo one another. Often, they myopically consider only their perspective instead of stepping back and thinking about the user’s experience. This firehose approach to decision support tools results in information overload.
Information overload simply put, is when there is an excess of information available to a person making a decision, to the point that it impedes the decision making process, resulting in a poor (or no) decision being made. Have you ever wondered why so many people wait to enroll in their benefits until the very last day? It’s because it’s a confusing, information intensive process that overwhelms the average person. We procrastinate when faced with tasks that we dread.
Benelogic factors these considerations into our approach to decision support. Here are the tenets that shape our philosophy.
1. Not everyone needs the same type or amount of information at the same time.
Rather than leading with support “tools” that every person has to step over to proceed on a path, tools should be handy (one-click-away) but unobtrusive.
2. The average person needs the most help the first time.
We guide new hires and new enrollees through a step-by-step wizard which breaks the enrollment process down into a single decision per page. This limits the information overload and allows the user to focus more time on those benefits with which they are unfamiliar. We even save as they go so they can take a break and come back. For returning employees, at renewal they have the opportunity to use Quick Enroll where they just elect to keep what they have, or they can change only a couple of things. We’ve found that the vast majority of people do NOT change their benefits once they’ve made their initial election. Changes in benefits are usually triggered by major life events.
3. Ask users what help they need.
This might seem incredibly obvious, but we give every user the chance to provide feedback which we review each week. We can find out what topics, features and functions confuse them. This allows us to target our decision support to those areas which are the most confusing to users.
4. More is not better.
We believe in getting the right information, in the right way, at the right time. This may seem over simplified but this mantra helps guide our development and feature roll out.
If you are adding a new product, it can be a good idea to provide a little more information to users the first time around. But if you don’t strike a good balance, you can easily overdo it. Provide just enough information to educate the average person with access to easily navigable in-depth information for the novice or curious user. Lastly when designing decision support to help your employees, it never hurts to ask them exactly what they want and need.