Tempting though it may be, closing the lid on your annual open-enrollment period shouldn’t result in closing the lid on your benefits strategy and communication plan, too. In fact, it may just be the best time possible to start perfecting your plan for next year.
Once enrollment is complete, you may still have steps to take to implement your employees’ elections and changes. If your benefits provider’s online portal allows employees to make their benefit selections directly, changes to payroll deductions will still need to be communicated to your payroll department or provider. Enrollment information entered on paper forms may need to be keyed into your provider’s benefits portal, faxed, or scanned and uploaded for changes to take effect.
You’ll also need to send initial COBRA notice communications to employees and covered dependents enrolled in group health plans, as well as complete any other federal or state compliance activities required for your core or supplemental policies. If you outsource your payroll and HR management, you should check with your provider to understand which processes are included in their services and which, if any, you will need to complete in-house.
After that, it’s not time to hang up your benefits planning hat just yet. The time immediately after enrollment offers a unique opportunity to gain insight into your enrollment process and communication strategy so you can make needed changes for next year. While this may sound like an optional step, this best practice can be the key to achieving your benefits goals.
Debrief With Your Teams and Providers
No matter how well enrollment goes, assessing the process, debriefing with your providers and teams, and soliciting feedback from your employees can only help to make it go even better next year.
Assess Your Strategy and Execution
Plan participation rates can provide a useful starting point, but participation alone is only one part of the complete picture. If participation indicates that employees enrolled in your core or supplemental plans at lower than anticipated rates, there could be a number of reasons behind it:
The supplemental options you are offering may not meet the needs of your workforce.
Employees may not understand how your voluntary benefits plans are funded or what benefits they receive from them.
Employees may not feel that they can afford the premiums of core or additional voluntary coverage.
They may not have been able to navigate the enrollment process.
They may not have had adequate time to complete enrollment before the deadline.
Enrollment may be down across your industry, which could indicate that your participation rate is in line with a larger trend.
Pairing a self-assessment from key stakeholders with your enrollment data can reveal both the effectiveness of your current strategy as well as any misalignments between beliefs and the results. For example, if the managers who were tasked with monitoring engagement report a trouble-free enrollment process but data shows that employees didn’t enroll in your newly offered benefits, there’s a disconnect between perception and reality that merits a closer look.
Examining the number of calls, emails, and other benefit and enrollment questions that came into HR or through other channels can also offer insight into how effective your communication strategy was. If the phones didn’t ring until the deadline and tied your HR team up in the hours before enrollment closed, it might indicate that employees didn’t have time to review their options until it was time to enroll, or that the enrollment process itself confused or challenged them.
Survey your employees
Incorporating an enrollment feedback session or survey into your benefits communication plan will help to continue your employee’s engagement throughout the year and clue you in to any challenges your employees may have encountered that flew below your radar.
A mix of anonymous surveys and roundtable discussions can provide the right balance to allow employees to speak both “on and off the record” while encouraging honesty and respecting their comfort. The goal of surveys should go beyond asking about their experience with enrollment and should also delve into questions such as:
What they feel is missing, if anything, from their benefits.
Why they elected or abstained from the various coverage options.
How informed they felt about their choices.
And, what can be done to fill the gaps in both coverage and communication for next year.
Debrief with your providers
Discussing your enrollment results and employee feedback with your provider can help you to identify what elements of your enrollment are working, what could be modified next year, and what options are available to fill any coverage gaps that were uncovered.
Over time, turnover and life events will lead to a workforce with needs that are no longer accounted for in your current benefits package. Comparing engagement between your old benefits and new plans may reveal that there are supplemental plans that better suit your employees’ needs that you can offer next year while retiring under- or un-utilized benefits.
Partner with Accuchex to offer voluntary benefits to your employees
An effective benefits communication strategy doesn’t end with enrollment. Top HR professionals know that communicating with employees throughout the year helps to keep them engaged and thinking about how to gain the most value from their elected benefits. It can also reduce the time spent on employee education in the days and weeks leading up to open enrollment, increase participation, and lead to greater employee satisfaction and retention.To learn more about expanding the supplemental insurance plans in your employee benefits package, download the Accuchex Employer’s Guide to Voluntary Benefits or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.