The open enrollment period for benefits is not always met with much interest. There are some employees who will ignore it altogether while others wait until the last minutes then scramble madly to make a choice. It isn’t always easy to help employees get the right plan, but it isn’t impossible. These open enrollment best practices make the process a little less painful and a lot more proactive so that all your employees have the coverage that they need.
Start Communication Early
Reading through the details of benefits plans and researching the various options is a time-consuming process. Add to that submitting questions and getting answers and it could take days or even weeks to get it all nailed down. Unfortunately, many employees don’t understand that, so they put it off until the deadline is staring them in the face. This often means a last-minute dash to get everything in on time and in their haste they may miss vital coverage issues.
By starting the communication early, before open enrollment even begins you should begin presenting information about employee options for benefits. This puts it on employees’ radars and gets them thinking about benefit options. Send out communications on a regular basis, leveraging a variety of methods including emails, face to face meetings, brown bag lectures, and flyers, until the enrollment period ends.
Use Effective Enrollment Tools
The right enrollment tools depend on the organizational culture. In a high-tech environment, employees may respond better to email campaigns and interactive websites while face to face meetings, single page benefits snapshot, and written material may resonate better with employees in a more traditional, low tech environment.
Online platforms are very popular enrollment tools but be careful that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Some employees may not be tech-savvy and even the simplest platform could make them anxious enough that it presents a barrier to getting them enrolled in the right plan in a timely manner.
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Information overload can be paralyzing for many people and employees will often glaze over when presented with a data dump of information, even when that information is as important as their benefits plan. Your best course of action is to keep it as simple and streamlined as possible, especially when it comes to communicating benefit options.
Keep your messaging as simple as possible, including decision support tools, checklists, and comparison charts. While a benefits specialist may thrive on ingesting all the minute details of a specific benefit, the employee is likely to set it aside. Keep your message, brief and simple, but make sure the employee knows you have the additional information if they want it.
Package Benefits According to Target Groups
Review the demographics of your employees to identify groupings based on specific needs. For instance, older employees who are nearing retirement age will have benefit needs that are different from employees who are younger and just starting their families. Targeting these life cycle needs can be utilized to make the benefits more relevant personal. Groups to target may include employees who are young singles, empty nesters, those with disabilities, and employees just entering the workforce.
As you prepare your messaging, speak directly to the needs of each group. Consistently reinforce the benefits strategy as a whole and make sure you are clearly accessible during the enrollment period if the employees need or want to discuss options with you. Also, keep in mind that some types of communication delivery systems will be better received than others according to those different employee groups. Structure your communication accordingly.
Use Multiple Channels to Distribute Information
When it comes down to it, employees look at their benefits package options and want to know what’s in it for them. You can approach this in creative ways or traditional ones, just make sure you employ multiple channels to do it. Email, flyers, websites, brown bag lectures, and face to face meetings are all effective, but you may have other methods that work well for your organization. Be creative, think outside the box. Just make sure that the information gets to the employees.
The 2018 Aflac Workforces Report shows that only about 39% of employees felt that they fully understood their health insurance policy while 30% said they needed more information on their benefits. A staggering 1 in 5 employees reported that they did not feel confident that they fully understood their benefits when they signed up during their last enrollment. Multiple channels of communication can help employees better understand the choices they have regarding benefits so they can make selections that are the most relevant to them and meet their needs.
At SMD, we are here to support you through your open enrollment period. Our enrollment tools are easily customizable to meet organizational needs and reach employees in a variety of target groups. Call 510-895-4800 or visit our website for more information and download our free guide “10 Steps to Choosing the Best Benefits Enrollment Tools for Your Small Business.”