Open enrollment: the term can strike despair into HR’s heart.
Although it’s still months away, starting now so you’re well prepared when the time comes will help you have a smoother, less-stressful open enrollment process. This expert advice can help you start planning, so you’ll be ready in the fall.
Do your homework
Take the time to do some research before you make any decisions, says Isaac Oates, co-founder and CEO of payroll and benefits vendor Justworks. “First, make sure to compare bids amongst various brokers. Not all brokers will provide your company the same plan.”
Your benefits needs may have changed in some way over the last year, especially if requirements under the ACA apply to you, he says. Work with your vendors to see if your needs have changed.
Run a survey
Collecting feedback from employees in the months before your open enrollment period can help ensure success, says Chris Costello, principal and founder of CBG Benefits. “For example, employers should use surveys to measure potential interest in benefit plan changes,” Costello says. “This could be done by asking about satisfaction levels regarding current carriers, coverage and plans.”
Use surveys to gauge interest about new voluntary benefit options, workplace wellness programs, and more, Costello says. “By collecting this data ahead of time, employers will be more prepared to truly deliver benefits that appeal to their workforce.”
Look at last year
Review enrollment numbers and use of enrollment tools to figure out what should be retained or changed this year, says Lauri Tenney, director of benefits and programs at EMC. “One of our first steps in preparing for open enrollment is to take a look back at the previous year’s results. How were the tools within our benefits portal utilized, what communications had the most impact, what topics were employees asking about the most, and so on.”
Tenney says EMC implemented an online health portal and targeted employee communications based attitudinal segmentation, “all with great success,” as a result of these reviews. “For 2015, we will roll out a Health Dashboard for quick access to health statistics.”
Assess your benefits communications
If your employees don’t know what benefits are available, they’re not going to be able to take advantage of them. It’s part of HR’s job to find ways to ensure employees are up to speed on all of the benefits that apply to them.
“While there will always be some employees that require face-to-face interaction, hardcopy enrollment materials and so on, companies should analyze if they could utilize newer technology and communication tools to streamline their open enrollment process,” Costello says. Online open enrollment portals can increase efficiency and reduce paperwork, and online videos and mobile options can make it easy for employees to learn about benefits on their own time.
“The key is to start planning now,” Costello says. “If companies leave that research, decision-making and implementation to the very end, that’s often where problems occur.”
Prepare to be available
No matter how much you prepare, there will always be questions — so someone from HR or a trusted vendor will need to be able to provide the answers both before and during open enrollment.
“Make sure that during the open enrollment period, you (or your broker) are available to your employees as a resource,” Oates says. Provide contact information for questions about policies or coverage.
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