During open enrollment time, employee benefits choices and costs are naturally top of mind for employers – and employees too.
As employees’ priorities have shifted (particularly in the wake of COVID), they may be more concerned than ever about protecting their health and well-being. Employees may be evaluating what other employers offer, or simply seeking guidance on how get more from their current benefits.
For employers, employee benefits open enrollment is the time to showcase the value of your plan. Are you offering a wide assortment of choices based on employee feedback? How do your benefits stack up with similar employers? If current offerings aren’t as competitive as they need to be, then this is the time to think about adjusting employee benefits.
OPEN ENROLLMENT DEFINED
Before diving into strategies, let’s define open enrollment.
Taken straight from the SHRM website, “Open enrollment season is the time each year when employees may elect or change the benefits options available through their employer, such as health, dental and vision plans, flexible spending accounts and, often, a range of voluntary benefits. Most U.S. employers hold open enrollment shortly before the end of the year.”
SHRM offers a resource center that shares best practices for conducting open enrollment and communicating with employees about their choices as they navigate your open enrollment period.
EMPLOYEES ARE FOCUSED ON COST AND NEW BENEFITS
When open enrollment season arrives, cost and employee choice are always important. But now, expectations may have changed, and employers need to be keenly aware of what their team values most. The pandemic has made both time and money even more valuable commodities.
Employees are paying more attention to healthcare benefits and are focusing in on cost. They likely have some new (and very specific) questions about their benefits such as telemedicine or mental health benefits.
Employers need to prepare to address some new and valid areas of concern, such as:
- Mental health options
- Virtual care options
- Higher spouse/family enrollment cost implications
- Financial wellness support
The good news is there are ways to incorporate all these factors into your open enrollment strategy. Peel & Holland‘s Employee Benefits team can help your organization promote choice and cost effectiveness for your people. We have many innovative solutions that are helping our clients prepare for adjustments prior to open enrollment.
- IDEA: By leveraging health savings accounts (HSAs), you can be cost-conscious on behalf of your organization and your employees. You can also place more decision-making power into the hands of your people and their families. Ask us if you’d like to learn more.
LOOK AT UTILIZAITON OF PAST BENEFITS
It’s tempting to simply renew existing healthcare policies and other long-standing programs. However, we encourage employers to conduct a formal review of your offerings in preparation for their next open enrollment. Your employee benefits advisor should guide your evaluation based on data, making you more confident in changes you need to make.
Data will show the effectiveness of your benefits offerings, yet a surprising number of employers don’t look at utilization and other analytics prior to open enrollment season. Wouldn’t you make wiser decisions if you knew some statistics like cost, participation, and satisfaction levels?
We help employers look at metrics that signal positive behaviors impacting employee engagement, and thus, employee retention. Once you’ve evaluated your individual offerings and your package as a whole, you can consider where and how to make changes. Here are three potential areas:
- IDEA: Helping boost confidence and overall savings through benefits such as 401(k) and HSAs. should be a top benefits priority for your organization. If retirement participation or savings seems low, consider adjusting your approach to these benefits.
- IDEA: Cut low-value plans or programs. If you’re looking to cut costs and save time, the easiest option is to trim your offerings. Just be sure that the plans and programs you’re cutting are the least popular and least effective.
- IDEA: Implement or strengthen your employer matches. Your people are probably more likely to contribute to a 401(k) or HSA if they’re incentivized to do so. Adding or strengthening an employer match is one of the best ways to do this.
If your organization needs help gauging benefits performance across the metrics, Peel & Holland can help you gain visibility into your program’s effectiveness, be able to benchmark against industry peers, and identify opportunities for improvement.
PREPARE TO ENGAGE AND EDUCATE
Your ultimate open enrollment success depends on how successfully you engage with and educate your people. You’ll likely need to think differently about the tone and positioning of benefits communication this year. Be sure to acknowledge challenges facing your team. Also, carefully explain how both employees needs and organizational priorities have shifted.
- IDEA: Engage your marketing team to help create employee personas and appropriate messages that will more effectively address differences among various workers’ life/work situations.
- IDEA: Establish a calendar leading up to open enrollment. Below is a simple suggestion.
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS OPEN ENROLLMENT PLANNING TIMELINE
JUNE / JULY / AUGUST
- Review Data, Strategize with an Expert, Adjust Your Plan
- Explore Digital Resources for Enrollment, Evaluate Gaps in Communication, Conduct Employee Surveys
- Develop Key Messaging, Create Content using Multiple Channels, Create a Communications Plan
SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER
- Launch Your Employee Communications Plan
- Prepare for Virtual and/or Onsite Enrollment, Distribute Enrollment Packet
NOVEMBER / DECEMBER
- Continue Communications Plan
- Launch Enrollment Giving Ample Time Based on Your Workforce
We work with HR professionals and business owners to support their open enrollment strategies, help manage costs, and provide an appropriate variety of choices.
During open enrollment season, we can help you leverage the lessons of the past year to improve your benefits package and share it with your people in compelling, exciting ways. We can work together to better target cost-effective strategies and make them work for your people.
Peel & Holland comes alongside employers to partner in building customized employee benefits programs that are effective in controlling your costs while also focused on engaging employees to retain your most important asset – your people.
Would you like to talk? We’re ready when you are. We will even bring donuts!