Making benefits enrollment more appealing to employees can be a challenge for small business owners. After all, benefits can be complicated, as it can involve everything from selecting what's right for any given individual to the actual enrollment process itself. But the more participation there is in a company's benefits enrollment plan, the more effective it can be, both in terms of satisfying current employees and attracting new ones.
Many small businesses are focused on creating a human capital management strategy that takes into account the opportunities to improve the employee experience, while balancing that impact against budget and resource constraints. Here are a few valuable tips from HR experts and others on how to enhance the enrollment plan process to everyone's advantage:
Start the process as early as possible. Your target audience may become frustrated if the enrollment season springs up abruptly on them, with little time to think about packages, selections, and so on. Get started early with vendors to determine when new information will become available and how that information can be relayed to your employees. Also, look into conducting company-wide surveys well ahead of enrollment season to gauge the level of employee satisfaction with current plan options and seek input on what they'd like to see changed in the year ahead.
Consider limiting the plans you offer. "Just because your health insurance carrier offers 20 different plans doesn't mean you have to offer that many to your employees," says Paychex Human Resources Consultant Susan Draper, SPHR, SHRM-SCP. When you feel you have a sense of what your employees want, she adds, "try to pick two or three plans that meet the majority of their needs. This will make it easier for them to compare and for you to administer." With health insurance plans, for example, consider offering one co-pay plan and one that has a small deductible.
Communicate. The single-most important factor in an effective enrollment plan outcome is communication. Your employees need as much detail as they can get in order to make the most informed decisions. And the responsibility for relaying that information belongs to the employer.
"Use a variety of methods to reach employees, including videos, blogs, social media, town-hall meetings, lunch-and-learns, and benefits fairs," advises Paychex Human Resources Consultant Kirsten Tornow, SPHR, SHRM-SCP. "Some workers tend to appreciate more face-to-face enrollment meetings, while other workers may prefer getting details on their devices, with important information delivered in short, concise bites."
Offer printed materials and online resources. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the information related to various benefits plans. Producing easy-to-read printed pieces can be very helpful, particularly those that offer side-by-side comparisons of:
- Premiums, projected employee contributions, and/or deductibles
- Lists of in-network and out-of-network medical facilities and consulting physicians
- Changes in plan offerings from the past year and the one coming up
Try to anticipate the kinds of questions employees will likely ask, and include detailed FAQs with this printed piece (a PDF version on your company's intranet can help, too).
Hold enrollment meetings to get questions answered. Open enrollment meetings are often a useful method for ensuring that employees get all their questions answered. Employees sometimes learn more from questions other employees ask, as well.
"Holding onsite and/or virtual employee enrollment meetings allows for an explanation of the ins and outs of plans that leaves employees with a better understanding of what they're signing up for," notes Paychex Human Resources Consultant Kathy A. Rossi, MHRM, PHR, SHRM-CP. "I get a lot of feedback from employees that they thought something was covered when it wasn't or that they don't understand their benefits plans at all."
Offer a self-service option. Some employees like having personal guidance through the enrollment process, but increasingly, those comfortable with automated online systems prefer that option instead. Self-service functionality can be a good option for employees whose enrollment process is fairly straightforward and unchanged from past years. This is true as well for those who need to make only minor changes to an existing plan.
Returning to the importance of communication, experts suggest using all the channels at your disposal (emails, newsletters, a dedicated benefits enrollment website, etc.). In this way, employees have year-round access to information that helps with key decision-making when the time comes to enroll. Most importantly, notes Kirsten Tornow, "focus your communications efforts on how the benefits are relevant to employees." That's the best way to encourage participation in your plans when enrollment season comes around.