As the end of 2019 nears, many human resources professionals are in the thick of open enrollment. If you’re one of them, you’ve probably already found a solid benefits package for employees, learned about law changes and made necessary adjustments, put an efficient system in place for enrolling your team, and let employees know about deadlines. That’s a lot of work, but the job isn’t quite done yet!
Many employees are still making enrollment decisions — or procrastinating on doing so — and some may have missed your emails altogether. In fact, data collected by PlanSource found that 41% of their users waited until the last minute to enroll1. Help them make informed elections and wrap up open enrollment on a high note by keeping a few tips in mind.
Send frequent reminders
You’ve probably sent out an email announcing open enrollment. Perhaps you set up a presentation to detail benefits for your employees. Don’t stop there! Some people may have been out of the office or had conflicting appointments during your meeting. Some may miss your emails entirely or need a reminder to look through the materials and select a plan.
But don’t just send out a follow-up email right before the deadline and leave your employees to fend for themselves. Send out weekly reminders via text or email to those who haven’t completed enrollment, and ask supervisors to let their teams know about upcoming deadlines. Make it clear that failing to complete the process means employees won’t receive benefits in 2020. This message, while blunt, is more likely to grab the attention of those prone to ignore emails from HR.
You can also plan multiple educational sessions to account for those who couldn’t attend the first one, and make the meetings accessible online for remote employees. Include the information in your benefits administration system for people who can’t attend. Ideally, you should conduct the last meeting at least a week before the final deadline so employees aren’t rushed into a last-minute decision. It’s not a bad idea to send a reminder the day before the enrollment deadline to account for the stragglers, though!
Most employees don’t have intimate knowledge of benefits, which can result in choosing an ill-fitting plan. A 2018 survey by Aflac showed that 30% of employees feel they need more information about their benefits, and 19% aren’t confident in their decisions2. Clearly outline the necessary steps and options, including coverage and cost. If your benefits provider stays the same, detail any changes to the available plans, whether they’re new benefits, premium increases, or coverage limitations.
The aforementioned emails and presentations will get the ball rolling. Reinforce the crucial information through supplemental mediums such as brochures or blog posts. Most importantly, keep explanations about benefits and enrollment simple. Benefits jargon can be intimidating to employees — 50% of participants in a WEX Inc. survey found it difficult to understand3. Limit technical language as much as possible, but define it when you use it.
In the same vein, give the highlights of your employee benefits instead of a long, hard-to-digest handbook. Use succinct and basic explanations, example scenarios, infographics, videos, and anything else that simplifies coverage details and costs. For those who have questions or want more details, provide your broker’s contact information and offer one-on-one time for those who have questions specific to their health or family situations.
Give new employees special consideration during open enrollment, whether they’re fresh out of college or recently made a career change. Recent grads are likely inexperienced with benefits and may need a breakdown of common terms such as premiums and deductibles. Those with plenty of previous work experience likely don’t need this, but they may need a primer on costs and coverage.
Encourage employees to consider all options
Many employees — 93%, according to the 2018 Aflac survey2 — simply roll their benefits over to next year. There’s nothing wrong with that! But this can lead people to rush through the process and fail to pick the best benefits package for their situation. A study by Colonial Life revealed 65% of employees spend less than an hour making their benefits decisions. This group is 23% less likely to understand their benefits compared to people who take their time4 (another reason to condense the information into digestible bites!).
If people don’t thoroughly understand their benefits, they may stick with what’s comfortable to them even if a better choice is available. Others may feel they already know all about their current plan and gloss over changes. Regardless of their situation, failing to consider all options could cost your employees money. Encourage everyone in your organization to take an active role in the process rather than passively continuing with their current plan. In other words, ask them to research all options and changes to their current coverage instead of breezing through the process without careful consideration.
Many life events could change your employees’ needs. If they have or will go through any of the following scenarios, they should carefully review their options:
- Birth or adoption of a child
- Divorce or separation
- Income change
- Deductible or premium change
- Health change (injury, recently diagnosed condition, etc.)
- Relocation to a new state
- Doctor or dentist stops accepting insurance
OK, now take a deep breath — you’re coming down the home stretch. Hopefully these tips will help you wrap up open enrollment smoothly and get your employees the best benefits.