As an HR leader, you may wonder if your employees really understand the benefits your organization offers. According to numerous research studies, you are not alone.

A notable study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found only 19% of employers believe their employees have a high-level understanding of their benefits. This statistic is not that surprising given the continuous changes and increasingly complex coverage options and plans.. That’s why good communication is so important during an open enrollment session – it’s one of our essential open enrollment tips for employers. Let’s take a closer look:

Minimize confusion about benefit details

When employees aren’t sure what health benefits are available to them or how to make changes to their plans, it may not strictly be a failure to communicate. Instead it could be a lack of clarity regarding where workers can find this information, or failing to read an email explaining open enrollment. (The latter was the case among 20% of employees queried in a 2017 survey from Harris Poll and Jellyvision.)

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter where the communication breakdown occurs. Even though you’re not legally obligated to bail out those who miss open enrollment (unless they’re eligible to sign up as part of a special enrollment period), you don’t want to let the chips fall where they may. Employees could lose their existing coverage, pay for coverage they don’t need or miss the chance to add benefits that could be really beneficial.

Making detailed benefits information easily accessible online is one way to improve the overall open enrollment experience. Providing 24/7 access to plan data makes it easy and convenient for your employees to review and share the information with family members. You should also consider providing a single email address or HR staff member for open enrollment questions so that employees know exactly where to go and what to do when they have questions.

Don’t wait until the last minute

With most open enrollment periods not starting until after November 1, it can seem like you have all the time in the world.  But why push your luck when there are steps you can take well in advance to make it easier for you and your employees?

The survey from Jellyvision-Harris Poll cited above found that employees appreciate receiving information about their benefits as early as possible (two-thirds of respondents said workers responded well to that practice.) Giving employees time to ask questions about benefits at their own reasonable pace will make for a less stressful experience for everyone involved. So rather than waiting until open enrollment begins, consider providing access to the benefit plan options a couple of weeks prior.

Gather feedback about what worked and what didn’t

It’s wise to solicit feedback from workers immediately after open enrollment about how it all went down. You can do this one-on-one, in small groups or via a confidential survey. Once you understand everything that succeeded, failed or landed somewhere in between, you can begin working to adjust your process appropriately. Handling the aftermath this way can also help reduce stress for you and your employees.

Make data your friend

Gathering data from the open enrollment process involves much more than knowing how many employees  – or what percentage of your workforce – participate in your benefits program. By also examining metrics such as how long it takes employees to complete the enrollment process, the plans they choose and what kinds of questions you receive, you can develop a more comprehensive picture to help identify strengths and weakness in your open enrollment process.

You can also use data as a way to persuade reluctant employees on the advantages of your benefit offerings, whether they’re flexible spending accounts or more traditional benefit plans. Highlight specific details like the costs that can be saved, or the discounts given on gym memberships and commuting fares. These examples of real-world impact can help increase employees’ engagement with their benefit options.

Leverage comprehensive HR technology to provide a better open enrollment experience

Open enrollment also showcases how important it is to manage benefits administration online. This will prove especially true if your organization is adding new coverage options or making any other significant changes, as pointed out by the Society for Human Resource Management.

An HR platform that includes self-service options and an effective communications portal allows for easier distribution of benefits-related info, allowing your employees to make the most informed decision possible. Moving open enrollment online saves valuable time for you, your HR team and all employees. It also allows you to capture data for greater insight into enrollment trends and patterns, so that you can effectively address challenges.

The PeopleStrategy all-in-one, hire-to-retire HR platform includes robust benefits administration capabilities alongside functionality to automate recruiting, onboarding, performance management, payroll and other essential HR functions. We also are a full-service broker with the expertise to help you put together a competitive benefits package that meets the needs of your employees, their families and the company’s financial obligations. Contact us today to learn more.