Employees often find their company's benefits open enrollment period an overwhelming experience. The company may have rolled out new health plan options, new pricing, or it may have introduced new benefit options altogether.
How can companies make open enrollment less stressful and a more rewarding experience for their employees? Here are some tips:
1. Communicate Early
Employers shouldn't wait until right before enrollment starts to let employees know what changes and choices await them. If they're planning major changes to the health benefits program, companies should consider holding an employee meeting about the new benefits changes at least a few weeks beforehand. This will give employees time to digest their options and ask questions, so they feel confident to make their benefit elections once the open enrollment period officially begins.
2. Communicate Often
Some important open enrollment topics on which to educate employees include key changes to their benefits program, enrollment deadlines for the upcoming year, and how to make changes to their benefits elections. However, the open enrollment period shouldn't be the only time during the year that a company talks about its benefits program. Rather, employee benefits should be an ongoing dialogue. Employers should remind employees to take advantage of their benefits, and prepare them to select benefit options based on their needs and those of their families. Some companies, for example, write about employee benefits regularly in their employee newsletter or on an internal blog. These are easy ways to remind employees of the value of their benefits program.
3. Communicate Simply and Clearly
It's easy to get caught up in the alphabet soup of acronyms and technical jargon surrounding benefits, especially when talking about 401(k) retirement plans and PPO or HMO health insurance plans. Employers should focus on explaining their benefits program as simply and as jargon-free as possible.
4. Have a Benefits Counselor Available
A benefits counselor — whether someone who works for the company or is brought in from a specialist, such as a broker or third-party benefits administrator — can be a point person for all benefits questions. Having such an expert available to guide employees through the open enrollment process can greatly improve their experience.
5. Offer Online Enrollment
Providing online enrollment to employees rather than the traditional paper form-based enrollment may simplify the process for most of today's tech-savvy employees. Rather than having to mail or submit a form, employees can simply make their elections from their home or work computer.
Above all, remember that open enrollment season is an opportunity to engage employees—and the best way to do that is to make sure they're educated and prepared to select the benefits that best fit their needs.