Educating Employees During Open Enrollment
If you are an employer, chances are that you have just finished open enrollment or are currently wrapping it up as January comes to a close; as a result, you are acutely aware of the importance of employees choosing the right benefits to match their needs. Unfortunately, without your assistance, these employees may not be making informed decisions. In fact, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 80 percent of organizations that participated in their survey believed that those investing in a benefit plan didn’t even open the materials that were provided to them. In addition, 49 percent believed that their employees didn’t fully understand the materials that they were given even if they did choose to read them. These stats show that simply handing your employees a copy of their benefit options is not enough to ensure that they are making educated decisions. So what can you do to make open enrollment a successful experience for your employees, and have confidence that you provided them with the necessary tools and resources? Here are some ideas:
Educate yourself: Before you can explain benefit options to your employees and confidently answer their questions, you need to educate yourself. In addition to familiarizing yourself with terminology such as “premium”, “deductible”, “HMO”, and “PPO”, you will need to know what resources are available should an employee ask you a question that you don’t know the answer to. If you are like most employers, this is not your area of expertise, so knowing who to contact if you need help answering questions is extremely useful.
Meet with each employee: It is important that your employees receive and understand the information that they need to make an informed decision about their health care and other benefits. The best way to do this is to schedule several sessions where you will be discussing benefit options, available resources, and answering questions. Take attendance at these sessions to ensure that each of your employees attends at least one session. Since the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that simply handing employees a packet of information is not enough, get their attention by creating a PowerPoint, utilizing videos, show them web resources, hold a Q&A session and even secure an insurance representative who can come in and speak about their options.
Be available: Even after you have conducted group meetings, it is important that you are available to meet with individual employees to discuss their options. After all, the choices that your employees make during open enrollment can greatly impact their lives over the next year. MetLife recently conducted a survey and found that 61% of employees valued one-on-one consultations above other resources when deciding on their benefits. This one-on-one interaction makes it possible for employees to ask questions privately and discuss their options in depth. It is especially important to keep an open door during open enrollment so employees are encouraged to get their questions answered and make educated choices.
Sell it: One reason that your employees may have decided to work for your company is that you sold them on the benefit packages that your company offers, so don’t be afraid to sell them on the benefits again by explaining what options are available to them. In the sessions that you lead and the one-on-one meetings that you hold, encourage employees to consider any life events that they are anticipating such as marriage, children, or retirement and discuss how your company’s benefit options can improve their quality of life especially during a transitional time.
Survey employees: Once open enrollment comes to a close, survey your employees and find out what you can improve on to make next year better. Ask them what they wish you would have covered in the sessions, the areas that were confusing, and what specific areas they would like to see clarified in the future. It is also important to find out what they thought about the sessions that you led. Find out if they had difficulty making time to attend a session and if they thought that the session size and length were appropriate. Of course the most important question is if they felt confident that their questions were answered and that they were able to make an informed decision.
Open enrollment can be a very confusing and stressful time for your employees if they are not aware of their options and how those options can impact their lives. Make sure that each employee attends a session or schedules a time to talk with you individually so that no one slips through the cracks and makes an ill-informed decision regarding their benefits.