Between the natural human tendency to procrastinate and the aversion towards hard evaluation work, the open enrollment season can become one of the most frustrating periods in the work year. There are few things that can be done on the employer’s end, to make the annual enrollment process as smooth as possible and prevent employees from making poor choices (often followed by far-reaching financial consequences).
Here are some tips on how to improve benefits communication in 2013:
- Help employees understand. First and foremost, sending a neatly organized benefits packet to each employee is not enough. Leaving employees alone with pages that are overwhelmingly long and packed with technical vocabulary, ensures confusion and distress.
- Start Early. Communicate early and often. Get materials out to employees as soon as possible. Putting posters up or sending announcements in advance will prepare them for receiving important information later on in the process.:
- Make deadlines clear;
- Provide websites where employees can research their options;
- Organize chat sessions where employees can ask questions and receive answers.
- Make them aware of changes and remind them that the old selection may not be the best option. Encourage employees to start the process by evaluating how they and their family used health care in 2012. In addition, employees should carefully review information about the 2013 benefit plan offerings. Keep in mind that 55 percent of employees default to their current benefit coverage for the coming year, instead of actively reassessing their plan options. Remind them that it’s not smart to assume that their 2012 benefits choices will continue to meet their needs in 2013.
- Avoid Information Overload. Try not to overwhelm employees with all the information at once. Communicate changes first and concentrate on one benefit at a time.
- Use metrics. Gathering and displaying metrics (number of visits, video views, message opt-ins etc.) on the enrollment website can serve as a useful data for HR, but also add the element of competition to the process that can help to speed things up.
- Get feedback. Gather feedback from employees before the end of enrollment to better understand how the process went from their point of view and adjust the strategy for next year.