Employee benefits are a major part of your company’s compensation plan and an integral piece in your strategy to recruit and retain top talent. To help maximize your company’s benefit offerings, you need to make the enrollment process as efficient and effective as possible. That means taking time to properly plan and communicate before and during the enrollment period.
We hear these five questions all the time from companies that are facing open enrollment. Taking the time to answer these as an organization will help set your company up for a successful open enrollment period — which is nearly upon us.
When do we need to make a decision regarding dates for open enrollment?
Now is the time to start preparing for what is often a long and difficult process. Ideally you should treat open enrollment as a year-round process, but the approach of open-enrollment season can tax even the most prepared organization. Don’t try to get everything together at the last minute; instead, start preparing for open enrollment weeks in advance.
Confirm the dates as soon as possible, but at minimum six weeks to two months before enrollment. Make sure you communicate your dates with employees, but also with your carriers, broker partners, tech partners and other important parties so they can get ready to help you and to process the new enrollments.
When should we confirm plan changes?
Whether you’re adding or removing a provider or making changes to the cost of prescriptions, give employees detailed information about providers, premiums and benefits changes before enrollment starts. If you start sharing this information early, your employees will have ample time to consider all of their options and research the pros and cons of each plan. The more time you allow employees to make a decision, the more likely they are to make a choice that works for them and leaves them satisfied.
To ensure proper communication, you should set your open enrollment dates at least two months before enrollment — and you should confirm plan changes several weeks before that to give your internal communications team time to prepare.
Finally, at least a few weeks prior to open enrollment, eliminate any obsolete plan information on your enrollment system or anywhere it’s accessible to employees to avoid any confusion.
What type of enrollment should we have — active or passive?
It’s important to decide whether to have an active or passive enrollment well in advance of enrollment season. The decision could significantly change the resources you’ll need for open enrollment. You’ll need to plan for your desired combination of enrollment channels (self-service, phone and/or on-site) based on the active or passive enrollment status.
When there are significant plan changes, you’ll probably want to choose active enrollment to make sure employees understand their options. An active enrollment — using benefits counselors and other tactics — can help employees quickly learn a lot about their new benefits.
On the other hand, passive enrollment can keep employees informed without distracting or confusing them about what’s available.
Should we employ on-site counselors, call centers or self-service?
The types of resources you employ for the enrollment process will ultimately depend upon the organization, but many HR professionals find the transactional nature of open enrollment makes it a perfect task for outsourcing.
Benefits administration outsourcing, online benefits enrollment software and other outside HR vendor relationships can help address concerns about maintaining a high level of service for employees while also addressing governance and compliance concerns. These continue to be top issues for employers as they seek to manage costs and keep up with regulations related to benefits administration.
Remember that many employees appreciate a human touch and need a chance to ask a real person questions. You should set up some in-office meetings with your benefits vendors or human resources team. You should also consider giving employees access to benefits counselors — either in person or over the phone.
When should we start communicating open enrollment, and how?
Whether you use an outside vendor or your internal communications team, make sure they’re aware of any changes you’d like to make in the months leading up to open enrollment and set up a proper proofing protocol.
When sharing pre-enrollment information, always be sure to offer a few different communication channels, taking into account the preferences of your employees. Emails, posters and fliers are generally effective, but you can supplement those with additional channels like texting and videos to reinforce your messaging. Some companies also share information in person, at “town hall” discussions or employee information sessions.
Make sure you’re capturing home emails and mobile numbers prior to or at least during open enrollment if you plan to use those channels to communicate important messages to employees.
Winston Benefits is a Benefits Administration, Enrollment, and Communication company. We provide employers with a technology enabled benefit process in order to help communicate, enroll and administer their employee benefit programs while empowering their employees to make better benefit decisions. Contact us to learn more.