By Hugh Devlyn, Employee Benefits Sales Manager at Johnson Financial Group
For many organizations, benefit open enrollment (“OE”) season is fast approaching. OE can be a stressful time for employees and seasoned HR professionals alike. Let's face it—benefits can be complicated and confusing. Employees often feel intimidated by the myriad of options available, and many organizations struggle with effectively communicating benefits, explaining changes and enrolling employees.
It doesn't have to be this way. Begin planning today for your most successful OE ever. Use this time to re‐engage employees with their benefit options and help them understand the role they play in their financial well‐being. Here are some ways that you can up your OE game.
Develop a communication plan. Let employees know OE is coming about four to six weeks out. Use this time to educate employees on necessary benefit information specific to your plan such as health savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), spousal surcharges, well‐being credits, deductibles, coinsurance, HMOs, PPOs, EPOs – Ee‐i‐ee‐i‐oh! If you know you're going to be making significant changes, start giving your employees the head's up as early as possible.
Benefit changes are a fact of life. Our health care and insurance system is expensive and cumbersome, which often forces employers to make tough decisions. Over‐communicating is vital to soften the blow whenever you make significant benefit changes. When reviewing changes in employee benefits, remember to cover why critical decisions were made. Don't try to sugar‐coat the decision; just deliver the facts on what's changing and why. Employees generally appreciate and understand an honest explanation of what's happening. This can help employees feel more empowered as they enter OE. And be sure to educate frontline supervisors on how this year's benefits package will be different (better or worse), then provide them with all the facts so they can reassure employees of the value the company places on their well‐being.
Remember that you're competing for your employees' attention on a topic they generally don't like. In our sound-bite society, you'll need to think like a marketer to engage employees. Use multiple communication methods, including email, text messages, print, intranet banners and in‐person communication. Posters, flyers and table tents are cheap and may grab your employees' attention. Plant them in break rooms, cafeterias, restrooms, elevators and parking structures. A strategically positioned flyer can work wonders. Create an FAQ sheet to answer common questions and address any reasons for changes in rates or benefits.
If you're taking the time to conduct employee meetings, don't just have your carrier representatives present the basic plan details. Target your presentation to answer your employees' most important questions. Use engaging stories, for example, and don't be afraid to talk dollars and cents. Health care can be daunting for employees, so treat every question with respect and patience. Also, allow employees the opportunity to ask specific questions in a private setting, as some employees may feel intimidated in a group setting or may need a more in‐depth understanding of coverage due to an ongoing healthcare issue.
Whether it's just through an online fillable‐form or a state of the art online system, technology can greatly enhance the benefits experience. A robust online benefits enrollment system can help guide employees and covered dependents at home through the OE process, saving time, and reducing stress. It can also streamline the OE process by sending data directly to your carriers, eliminating incomplete forms. While your younger employees may be tech savvy, not all of your employees are, so don't rely on technology alone.
Benefits communication should NOT just be an annual event. Communicating your benefits program year‐round can enhance your employees' overall benefit experience. Employers with ongoing benefits communication strategies typically have higher levels of employee morale and retention. Remember, perception is everything—if employees don't understand their benefits, they won't value and appreciate them.
Your organization spends a significant amount of money on benefits, so take the time to help your employees maximize their benefits.
Need help? Click here to find a Johnson Financial Group employee benefits advisor now.