Open enrollment can strike fear in the hearts and minds of many. Because let’s face it: Benefits can be confusing. According to the 2014 AFLAC Workforces Report, 73 percent of employees think health care reform is too complicated to understand.
For HR professionals, this statistic is a huge concern. Perhaps the reason for this confusion is a gap in communication between HR and employees. How did this happen? How can HR keep employees engaged? The solution is quite simple: Educate, educate, educate.
A 2014 study by MetLife shows employees who find their benefits communication to be effective are more than twice as likely to say they are very loyal to their company. As the HR professional, you want to ensure that your employees understand their benefits and how to enroll. Not only does this make them happy, but it creates less of a headache for you later.
Before Open Enrollment
Take a Survey
Do you know what your employees really want to know about benefits enrollment? Maybe you thought you did, but there may be more to the story that you don’t know because you are not asking. In order to find out their interests, why not survey them. Surveys are a great way to gather the truth. Many times employees are afraid to express the way they actually feel; surveys offer them an outlet to express their concerns without being tied to anything. Ask them about their current satisfaction with the plan? What improvements are necessary? Now would even be a good time to find out how they prefer to receive information regarding their benefits plan.
Start Communicating Early and Often
Once you’ve surveyed your employees you can begin to create a communication plan. The key here is: Don’t wait until the last minute. Make sure you give them ample amount of time to prepare. Keep the lines of communication open between HR and employees well before open enrollment even begins. It is important to keep employees informed on start and end dates, as well as give them access to the proper tools and resources necessary to make informed decisions.
So, what’s the best way to communicate this to your employees? Traditionally, company messages were written on break room boards or plastered on posters throughout the hallways. While these methods remain widely used, so does the increasing trend to alert employees through emails, reminders on your company website or, provided you have it through Paycom, the Employee Self-Service (ESS) portal. With the ESS tool, employees have 24/7 access to their benefit information from any location. That way if they would like to discuss with a spouse about their options they can do so right from their living rooms. Regardless of what tools you use, find the right outlet for you and start informing!
Now that employees are aware that open enrollment is approaching, you need to inform them of what changes have been made to the plans, what options are available to them and why they should consider each. Commonly, companies are taking the mail option route to inform their employees.
With this method, companies can package all necessary printed materials along with registration forms and other important paperwork and send through the mail. According to a MetLife study, of the 49 percent of employees who reported receiving such an envelope, 72 percent found the information helpful.
Additional Ways to Reach Out
While the mail option is a great way to reach the masses, it lacks in personalization. Plus, a lot of information at once can be overwhelming. Rather, consider:
- Posting benefit information right on your website
- Creating a benefits calculator
- Conducting seminars or information nights
- Hosting webinars
- Encouraging employees to use the app (granted your benefit provider offers one)
You may wish to include one or all of these options into your communication strategy. Each offers a different perspective for employees and may be helpful in explaining the otherwise daunting information that is benefits.
Open enrollment can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. By focusing on communication, education and personalization, the enrollment process will run more efficiently. Your employees will feel confident, making you, the HR professional, feel relieved.
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