If you’re in HR, you know open enrollment is just around the corner starting November 1. Open enrollment can be an extremely stressful and overwhelming time for management and employees alike. These periods are the only time employees can enroll in benefits or make changes, resulting in a lot of pressure on both sides of the fence.
Although open enrollment is critical, employees don’t fully understand the process or actual benefits available. Therefore, benefits communication is often ignored.
When employees miss the deadline, it creates more administrative work and can lead to disgruntled, unproductive employees. To prevent these issues, it’s important to get the highest open enrollment participation—and the key to that is through effective benefits communication.
To get the highest participation rate, you have to plan your benefits communication in advance. People need to know well ahead of time the opportunities that will be made available to them.
Start by ensuring colleagues receive a comprehensive overview of the benefits offerings, including their portion of the cost. Notify employees of open enrollment meetings a month prior so they can schedule accordingly. Don’t forget to allow enough time for management to submit enrollment changes to insurance providers and verify enrollment was successful.
Employees need ample time to review educational materials and consult with family members in order to make informed decisions. You may be thinking, “What educational materials?” which leads us to our next point…
Let’s face it, “I completely understand my ever-changing healthcare benefits” is likely not something you’ll hear from any employee. Because of this, employees frequently bypass making changes during the open enrollment window. It’s an employer’s job to make sure employees have all the tools to make informed decisions by the deadline.
Plan and implement a benefits education program complete with seminars/webinars, personal consultations with experts, one-on-one meetings with HR representatives, and any other options that suit your organization. These educational opportunities will help demystify the open enrollment process and make employees feel more confident in their decisions.
Although it seems like more planning now, it will save a lot of headache down the road. More knowledge will lead to less confusion and higher participation rates. Ideally, you can repurpose these educational materials with minor tweaks as benefits change so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel twice a year. It will also help alleviate call volume and surprise visits by confused employees.
Communicate Potential Consequences
To get a high participation rate, employees need to understand what happens if they miss open enrollment. By communicating potential consequences, employees are more likely to take the deadline seriously. It’s not meant to be a scare tactic, it’s simply the reality of what could happen.
Potential consequences include not receiving any benefits (if enrolling for the first time), dependents being dropped or not added, or dropped coverage altogether. All of these scenarios can have a significant financial impact on the employee.
According to an Aflac Workforces Report, 60% of employees haven’t tried to learn about health reform on their own. And 75% expect their employer to notify them of any changes in health care coverage due to health care reform.
In a nutshell, a company’s benefits communications may be the only source of information employees receive, so it’s important to arm them with plenty of information and support.
Use an Accessible Platform
We’ve discussed what to communicate, but what is the best distribution method? Email is widely used for benefits communication, however, it’s often ignored or doesn’t reach the entire workforce. 83% of the global workforce consists of non-desk workers—many who don’t have corporate email addresses— so they’re left out of these vital communications.
If employees aren’t using a computer, there’s a good chance they’re on their smartphones. Custom mobile internal communication apps are a great way to reach all or part of your teams in real time. In addition to quick messaging, you can schedule automated reminders, send confirmation campaigns, and automate workflows, while still remaining personalized.
There are many more ways to improve employee benefits communication with mobile. Colleagues will appreciate benefits communication in bite-sized chunks that are more easily digestible than thick blocks of email text.
Ask for Feedback
The best way to get high enrollment participation is to simply ask employees what information they want and how they want to receive it. They may prefer it being distributed in a different way than you’re providing, or may have follow-up questions that can be addressed during feedback periods.
Employee surveys are a great way to clarify benefits options and the open enrollment process. And it has never been easier with mobile surveying technology that allows you to create and send in mere minutes. Employee surveys demonstrate that you’re dedicated to making the process as convenient as possible—potentially reducing the number of employees that miss open enrollment.