To maximize the success of your new or existing supplemental insurance plans, educating your employees about their benefits and giving them the time and resources they need to make educated decisions is critical.
Once seen as mere perks, supplemental insurance or voluntary benefit policies are increasingly viewed as essential by both employees and employers. As an employer, you want to ensure that the investments you and your employees make in funding these plans provide them with the financial peace of mind they’re intended to deliver. For many employees, however, confusion over coverage, plan options, and enrollment can lead them to miss out on the benefits that would help them the most.
Developing an effective benefits communication strategy can not only help employees understand their benefit options better, but it can also lead to more efficient enrollment periods and greater employee satisfaction, as well. According to the 2017 Aflac Employee Workforces Report:
“Employees who understand the total annual cost for health care and their policies express more positive feelings about enrollment and greater satisfaction with their benefits than those who don’t understand total annual cost of their policies.”
While some employers only make benefits communication a priority during onboarding and in the weeks leading up to open enrollment, employees are better served when benefits communication is ongoing. Educating your employees about their core and supplemental insurance options should start well in advance of annual enrollment to ensure they have the time they need to review their options, attend meetings or watch videos, and have all of their questions answered before it’s time for them to make their selections.
Employees may pay the most attention during open enrollment, but those experiencing qualifying life events or planning for the future will find value in a communication strategy that spans the year. Those who feel as though they chose the wrong options during onboarding or the last enrollment period are also likely to take an interest in learning about their options well in advance of open enrollment so they can feel confident they’re making the best choices for themselves and their family the next time around.
Educating Employees About Supplemental Insurance Benefits
Whether you’re offering new benefits to your employees or planning ongoing education for your existing options, employee education is crucial.
Employees cite an improved benefits package among the top two things their employers can do to retain them, and yet 3 in 4 employees report that they do not fully understand aspects of the coverage they currently have. This doesn’t just leave your employees in the dark about their options, but can typically also lead to your HR staff being inundated with questions in the days or even hours before open enrollment closes.
The good news for employers is that you won’t be starting from scratch to develop a comprehensive, year-round benefits communication plan—most benefits providers are active partners in developing and executing a communication strategy. If you’re seeking ways to increase engagement and understanding about your benefits options, talk with your provider about the support and materials they can provide to you if you’re unsure what is available.
The success of your communication strategy and enrollment process is largely dependent on not just the quality but also the variety of resources available. Some employees may understand best through one-on-one discussions, while others may prefer to review written or digital materials before attending information sessions. Among employees surveyed by Aflac, employees cited “simpler language” and “more options” as the top things they wished were different during benefits enrollment, and 44% preferred digital enrollment with easy to compare plans similar to online shopping.
A mix of on-site benefit counselors for group and one-on-one sessions, printed materials, video presentations, online portals, and other digital options will help to ensure that you have the variety of methods needed to reach all of your employees in the medium that works best for them. Make sure to communicate upcoming deadlines, meetings, information sessions, lunch-and-learns, and other educational opportunities through a variety of media, as well, so that all employees will know about them in advance and can plan their schedule around attendance.
Making Enrollment Easy
Enrollment should be coordinated and communicated well in advance of your open enrollment period. For new hires, include enrollment paperwork or information with their onboarding paperwork, and make enrollment part of your new hire onboarding process. If there is a waiting period before benefits enrollment for your new hires, make sure to schedule follow up times with them and provide the same level of education and access as your current staff receives prior to your open enrollment period.
When enrollment opens, no matter how robust your communication strategy, your employees may have last minute questions or concerns. To allow employees to focus on benefits enrollment and make the process run more smoothly, consider planning staggered blocks of “time off” on each employee’s schedule during their regular working hours. This will allow them to focus on their enrollment tasks without interruption and can lead to a more efficient distribution of support resources, as well. If employee enrollment will occur via online portals, employees should also be given time prior to enrollment to ensure they can log in and navigate the portal.
Throughout your enrollment period, check in with employees to see how they’re doing, and make it a point to reach out to employees who have not yet made their benefit elections to ensure that they have the information they need and reinforce the deadline. In addition to any communications you are required to send to remain in compliance with state and local legislation, it is also a best practice to have employees who are declining coverage sign a waiver confirming this.
When an employee misses the deadline to make changes to their existing benefit elections, it can also be useful to follow up in writing with either the details of the default coverage selections that are still in effect and listing the life-changing events that could allow them to change their elections before the next enrollment period.
Easy and Efficient Benefits Enrollment and Administration
Even with a well-planned communication strategy and engagement plan to educate employees well in advance of open-enrollment, your enrollment period will likely still encounter a few bumps in the road. You can only plan for so many variables, after all.
These obstacles can be minimized by monitoring engagement throughout your open enrollment period. This will allow you to check in with employees to answer any questions, verify that employee enrollment forms are complete and accurate, and give employees the ability to confirm their coverage options before turning them over to your insurance providers.
When employers optimize their enrollment period, it communicates to employees that their well being is a priority. Participation in voluntary plans and employee satisfaction with their benefits selections also improve when ongoing benefits education is a year-round priority and employees are given the time and materials they need to make educated decisions.If you’re looking to enhance your benefits packages with Aflac voluntary insurance plans or learn more about the options available, download the Accuchex Employer’s Guide to Supplemental Insurance, or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824 to speak with one of our specialists today.