Open enrollment is the most important time of the year when it comes to benefits. With so much to coordinate between your employees, benefits broker and the plan administrator this can be a challenging time for under-prepared employers. In my experience, employers who take a holistic approach and stick to a defined timeline tend to have the most success in executing their plan.
Here are a few tips to help navigate your employee open enrollment.
1.Review your Benefits Materials
Once you have made a decision based off your renewal options and established a timeline, it is imperative to review your plan materials. Effectively communicating the value of your offerings is the key in increasing employee participation and engagement. Ideally, your broker will provide an updated “benefit guide” to assist in this process.
This guide can include:
- An Outline of Available Benefits
- Plan Changes
- Employer & Employee Contributions
- Instructions for Open Enrollment & How to Access the Benefits Once Enrolled
- Required State & Federal Notices
The “benefit guide” acts as a supplement to an open enrollment presentation which would be prepared and presented by your benefit advisor at the beginning of the open enrollment period.
2. Select The Right Venue for Your Open Enrollment Meeting
With the advent of virtual meetings and recorded presentations, employers have a variety of options available to them when deciding the most effective way to market their benefits package. If your staff typically works on site, it might be best to set aside an hour at the beginning of the open enrollment period to have an in-person meeting with your broker. If the majority of your staff is working remotely, then a virtual meeting might be the best option. Finally, if your staff works varied hours or are spread out across the country then a recorded presentation sent out, along with the “benefit guide” can be the best way to navigate your open enrollment process.
3. Set a Firm Deadline
As you know, employees tend to wait until the last minute to make decisions and submit their elections during this time. The best way to overcome this hurdle is to set hard deadlines for employees. Typically, it is suggested that your open enrollment period runs through the first two weeks of the month prior to your plan’s effective date. This gives the employer time to collect physical enrollment forms or verify online elections have been made. It also ensures that your broker can submit enrollment changes to the carriers with enough time to be processed by the effective date of your plan.
4. Executing a Successful Open Enrollment Takes Buy-in from all Parties Involved
One of the biggest challenges of running a benefits program is making sure employees understand and engage in the program. Payroll and benefits tend to be two of the biggest expenses an employer incurs throughout the year. If you have taken the time and effort to establish a competitive program, then the next most important thing is to effectively communicate the value. This can be done by breaking down each employee’s “total compensation” to show salary, benefits contributions, retirement plans, etc. Employees tend to only focus on salary but when you break down their total compensation it can be eye opening to see how much they are valued by their employer.
Having a broker and plan administrator that is involved in this process is paramount to achieving the overall goal of your program, attracting and retaining talent.
While open enrollment can be a stressful time for employers and plan administrators, it is important to partner with a benefits advisor that understands your goals and will be proactive with helping you reach them. Open enrollment should be a collaborative effort and the communication channels should be open throughout. It can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. If you find that you feel overwhelmed every open enrollment season, then maybe it’s time to look for a new benefits partner.
About the Author
In his role at HWP, Marty acts as an employee benefits advisor focusing on helping employers of all sizes and industries implement and enhance their benefits programs. He also is well versed in Individual Life insurance and Disability products.
Marty holds a Business Marketing & Management Degree from Fairmont State University. He is also a Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC) and is currently working to attain his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation from the American College of Financial Services.
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