Right in the middle of Q2, anyone who leads an HR department – or, in smaller businesses, handles those essential tasks on their own alongside plenty of others – has a lot on their plate. No doubt about that.
In other words, it would be more than understandable if you didn’t want to be thinking about employee benefits renewal, open enrollment, HMOs, PPOs, FSAs or anything of the sort right this minute, when many other, more immediate concerns are nagging at you.
But as it happens, the best way to successfully plan for and execute the process of renewing (or appropriately updating) your employees’ benefits is to start early – several months in advance of open enrollment, in fact. Making sure the essential task of benefits administration goes off without a hitch involves a variety of steps, gradually taken, including ongoing conversations with your benefits broker.
Evaluating the benefits status quo
The first step you can take toward a better and more streamlined benefits renewal process is to look at the current state of your employee benefits program. Since open enrollment is at least a few months from now, evaluating is all your really need to do at this very moment, and you can take your time with it.
Start by looking at bottom-line factors like cost and scope of coverage. Are you paying too much for what your plans give to your employees? Do the benefits you have cover them adequately – and perhaps even more importantly, will the offerings be adequate enough to account for any workforce growth that may occur in the interim? On the other end of the spectrum, will your offerings be more extensive than what you need if you expect to be downsizing between now and the final months of the year?
Then there’s funding to consider – how much of these benefits’ costs does your organization handle on its own? In some cases, it might not be the plan that needs to change, but the funding style, such as a switch from a traditional model to the salary banding method, where some employees pay more than others in reverse correlation to their salaries.
This period of preliminary evaluation is also good for looking back on how the renewal process itself went, during those hectic weeks of open enrollment. While it may seem less important on the surface than acquiring the best benefit offerings for your team in the first place, the efficiency (or clumsiness) of enrollment itself affects employees’ engagement with (and use of) said benefits. Look at metrics like enrollment percentage, average time taken for employees to accept or waive benefits, staff participation in benefit-related informational sessions and so on.
Consulting your broker
If you took the time to begin planning your benefits renewal process this far in advance, chances are high that you’ve come up with some actionable data and reasonable plans for how you’ll handle renewal when the time comes. But that doesn’t mean you’re done planning – and even if you were, it would be unwise to move forward full speed ahead without seeking any outside advice.
This is where your benefits broker comes in handy. Although they will likely be the most directly present – physically speaking – during open enrollment itself, any brokers worth their salt will make themselves available for regular communication with clients. You should expect this right now from your own broker. Conversations with your benefits broker will be particularly helpful when it comes time for you to start looking at providers – those you are currently doing business with, by purchasing their coverage, as well as their various competitors. Since your broker, by definition, has relationships with several different insurance carriers but isn’t specifically employed by any of them, they’re in the perfect position to offer you honest opinions.
Consider just one example: Your benefits broker is most likely responsible for initiating your company’s current relationship with its insurance vendor, and certainly wouldn’t have recommended them to you without believing that provider and selection of plans were right for you at the time. But things change quickly in the business world. Between then and now, maybe your company has grown, shrunk or otherwise changed in a way that means your current benefit offerings aren’t compatible anymore. Or perhaps your workforce’s average age has changed and you have more younger employees with different benefit priorities. You and your broker can figure out what needs to be added, removed or altered in your offerings to remain in sync with your business’s evolution.
Once you’ve decided on renewing or expanding your current coverages – or swapping them out entirely – the next step in managing employee benefits programs is to figure out pricing. This is another area in which your broker can offer a great deal of help, serving as a go-between for your company and various insurers you’re considering. You might not know about obscure terms, conditions and clauses that could qualify you for better rates on certain plans, but your broker will, so they should always be by your side in all discussions with insurance providers. Their advice is also invaluable for helping you choose a blend of benefit offerings that’s both competitive for your industry and realistic for your company’s budget.
Leveraging technology for seamless benefits renewal
Employee benefits program management & renewal planning is always more efficient when handled electronically. So if you’re using paper processes or have HCM software but doubt its effectiveness, it’s better to address that well before open enrollment – why not now?
Choosing PeopleStrategy as your technology provider has numerous advantages. Not only do you get a comprehensive, hire-to-retire HCM solution with our eHCM platform, but as a fully licensed broker, we also give you a direct pipeline to our partner insurance carriers, offering the most relevant benefits for your workforce’s unique needs. Contact us to learn more or schedule a free consultation and demo.