Fall is a busy time for HR professionals as you plan, communicate and implement benefits enrollment for your employees. The open enrollment season gives employees a chance to choose and change benefits, such as health and life insurance, as well as opt into ancillary benefits, such as dental, vision and other supplementary health insurance—even for their pet!

Fertility-related coverage and adoption benefits may also be among the choices. Though fewer employers are offering disability insurance and domestic partner benefits, benefits that offer student loan aid, telemedicine options and telecommuting opportunities are becoming more common, according to the 2019 Employee Benefits survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Helping employees navigate the long list of potential benefits can be an overwhelming process, but engaging is essential. Here are a few ways to streamline your benefits enrollment process and make it easier and more efficient for all:

1. Stay benefits-savvy. The only thing constant about healthcare reform is change, so make sure to stay up-to-date on all of the latest news and regulations. Lean on consultants and other vendors for assistance and access to current information. The SHRM Open Enrollment Benefits Guide is a frequently updated, helpful resource, particularly its glossary of common terms.

2. Prepare for the most common questions. While specific questions will always come up, it’s harder to plan in advance for those. But do prepare for the most common questions that employees will probably have about benefits enrollment: Why do I need this coverage? If there are multiple choices, which option fits my needs? And, of course, how much is this going to cost per paycheck?Make it a priority to cover all these important bases in your oral and written communication about each benefit. Since cost is one of the main concerns of employees, clearly convey who is paying for each benefit—whether fully paid by the employer, employee-paid through salary deferral or a section 125 cafeteria plan, or shared.Make it a priority to cover all these important bases in your oral and written communication about each benefit. Since cost is one of the main concerns of employees, clearly convey who is paying for each benefit—whether fully paid by the employer, employee-paid through salary deferral or a section 125 cafeteria plan, or shared.

3. Customize your communications. As you set out to communicate benefits enrollment information, consider the different learning styles of your employees and tailor your messages to a variety of generations. Some individuals like great amounts of explanation, many prefer asking questions in group meetings, while others are fine to rely on flyers that convey just the facts. Partner with your company’s marketing department to ensure your communications are compelling and easy to digest.While employees will definitely want to know how much benefits cost them, consider sharing in your communications how much it costs the company, too. This may have been included in your offer letter, but if it’s been several years since employees started, this is a good way to reiterate the additional value employers place on employees.

Another idea is using an online enrollment tool that helps employees determine what benefits make sense while also providing a running OUT OF POCKET vs. EMPLOYER costs tally as the employee chooses. This functions a lot like turbo tax. Do you have dependents? Do they have other insurance? Do you have plans for major surgery that will require you to miss work?

4. Explore using new media. Send reminders about deadlines via text, use Facebook to offer links to more detailed benefits information, and put relevant charts or polls on Twitter to generate interest in the benefits enrollment process. Or why not put together an entertaining video? A video has the potential to grab even the most jaded employee’s attention.

5. Set office hours. It saves time to communicate via email, social media or in group meetings, but many employees prefer to ask questions about benefits in private and in confidence. It’s vital to set aside dedicated time to answer queries one-on-one.As soon as the benefits enrollment process is over, put in motion a review so that you don’t miss a chance to chart what went well and what should change. Distribute internal surveys to get a better idea of what employees thought of the process and what benefits they found most valuable.

It’s easy to bemoan the benefits enrollment process, but consider the bright side: You’re helping employees improve their health and financial security in tangible, valuable ways.

Need help this open enrollment season? XMI’s team of benefits consultants can help you navigate and streamline your benefits enrollment process, saving you time and provide employees with a more engaging experience. For more information, call 615-248-9255 or email info@xmigrowth.com.

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