By Cara Kahan, RFC®, CEO, Lang Financial Group
According to the American Institute of CPAs, 80% of employees would keep a job with benefits before accepting one that offered more pay and zero benefits. But if employees don’t understand the benefits available to them and, as a result, bypass taking advantage of them, it’s like not having benefits at all.
First and foremost, though, HR managers need to be smart about the benefits they offer. Your benefits need to reflect your organization’s culture, goals, and values as well as appeal to employees. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume you already have an effective benefits plan and now it’s time to implement it. (If you don’t, we need to talk. ASAP. Seriously.)
Open enrollment can be stressful for both employees and employers alike. While employers are bombarded with administration tasks and questions, employees are overwhelmed with information about plan options they may not understand. It’s your responsibility – along with your benefits insurance partner – to manage the open enrollment period in a way that results in employees making good choices.
5 Best Practices for Efficiently and Effectively Handling Open Enrollment
Follow these five best practices to smoothly guide your employees through the open enrollment period.
Get Your Plan Ready
Ideally, employers should start building their open enrollment plans at least four to five months in advance. (And, no, this does not always happen.)
Ensure the plan includes:
- Online/print support material to explain options to employees
- A comprehensive plan for marketing your offerings to employees
- Addressing employees’ questions from the previous year
- Meetings and webinars to educate employees and answer their queries
- Internal communications, such as newsletters (89% of employers used emails and newsletters to communicate with their employees for open enrollment)
Does that list sound like a lot of work? It can be, but your benefits partner should play a key role in handling open enrollment. And in our experience, this type of plan will help you maximize your healthcare investment. Planning ahead will also help reduce employees’ stress and confusion.
Assess Previous Years’ Plans and Define New Goals
Make it a practice to review how you handled the previous year’s open enrollment. It is vital to identify what worked well and what did not. This may include establishing new metrics to gauge the effectiveness of the plan over the next year.
Here are some metrics you can measure:
- Increase/decrease in open enrollment compared to last year
- Percentage of employees who participate in the benefit selection meetings and webinars (38% of employers measure the number of meeting attendees)
- Increase/decrease in the number of queries to your HR manager
Clearly Communicate with Employees and Keep Them Informed
Effective and regular communication with employees is the key to a smooth open enrollment period. Share the benefits plans with them as early as you can. Explain even the minutest aspects in detail and avoid leaving room for any queries. Ensure the communications are comprehensive and that employees have easy access to the answers they need.
One approach that should be helpful is to create a frequently asked questions (FAQ) guide. It should include answers to the following questions:
- What benefits are included?
- What new benefits are being added?
- Will any government policy changes affect the benefits plan?
- Are there any changes in the shared costs as compared to the previous year?
Leverage Technology to Reduce Manual Work
For your as well as employees’ convenience, consider using automation to streamline your open enrollment process. For example, ask your benefits partner about a benefits calculator to help employees pick the right plan for their needs.
Other benefits of open enrollment automation include:
- Elimination of paper-based enrollment
- Reduction of enrollment time
- Automatic application of necessary deductions in the payroll software
- Automatic generation of reports to monitor employee benefits cost to the organization
- Easy navigation from one form to another
- Providing a single landing page comprising all the information employees need
Educate Your Staff
According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), employees want to know these three things about open enrollment:
- How can the coverage benefit them?
- Which features will fit their needs?
- How much will it cost them annually?
Your team should be trained to answer basic open enrollment queries like these during meetings and webinars. This will also make the open enrollment process easier and bring value to your employees.
Lang Financial Group makes handling open enrollment a better experience for employers and employees. To learn more about our firm’s approach to designing and implementing benefits plans, which includes handling new employees’ enrollments the rest of the year, please contact us.