Welcome to the Healy Group blog, dedicated to hot topics related to employee benefits and personal and commercial insurance. Twice a month, a Healy Group Advisor will explore trends influencing these areas and share fresh perspectives and creative tips for navigating challenges, managing risks, and providing employee benefits.

Preparing Your Employees for Open Enrollment

Employer preparing employees for open enrollment

As Q4 approaches, educating employees about insurance and benefits is an important step.

Open enrollment is the period of time when employees can freely enroll in or change their insurance plans. As we approach the 4th quarter and open enrollment, our first blog shares five tips for getting your employees to pay attention and understand complex benefits information!

We want our employees to love their benefits, but how do you get their attention so they understand them?

When employees understand the depth and the scope of their employee benefits, they feel more satisfaction and appreciation for their employers and the benefits they provide. It’s an opportunity for employers to create good will with their employees and retain the best and the brightest.

In turn, employees who understand their benefit packages can manage them better, keeping costs down and maximizing the advantages.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by Harris Polls on behalf of Collective Health study, Americans value their benefits, especially health care benefits in the workplace, but 3 out of 5 US adults are often confused by all the benefit options available. Age and children add to the confusion. Millennials, who have less experience with employee benefits, and working spouses add to the complexity.

So what can employers do?

Breaking the Insurance and Benefits Language Barriers

We’ve discovered several tips in our work providing employee benefits for companies and organizations of all sizes. Here are our top five:

1. Frequent communication throughout the year.

If you wait until a month or two before open enrollment to communicate complex employee benefits information, especially health care options, you have narrowed the window for employees to understand the options and ask questions. Post videos and frequently asked questions on your human resources website, send employees a brief email sharing an example or an explanation of frequently used terms. Keep it short, and to the point, and encourage questions. Investing in year-round communication platforms can pay big dividends

2. Tailor some of the messaging for different groups.

For example:

  • For new parents: Did you have a child this year?  Be sure to update your status during open enrollment.
  • For all employees: What would happen if you were too sick or injured to work for a period of time? Find out how our voluntary long term disability benefit plan can protect your paycheck.
  • For older employees: “Are you behind in your retirement savings. Find out how you can catch up at open enrollment.

3. Show and tell.

Charts on a computer that explain benefits and insurance

Good visuals and graphs can simplify complicated insurance and benefits concepts.

Develop charts, comparisons, and real-life examples to help employees “see” what you are trying to tell them. Use these tools to help employees grasp and understand complex employee benefit information. Simple visualizations and examples can take confusing information and illuminate it in a way that creates “aha” moments for employees that inform and engage them in the open enrollment process. For example:

  • Share a chart that shows how a Health Reimbursement plan works for a single employee or an employee with a spouse and dependents.
  • Show a comparison between the old health plan and the new one.
  • Share an example of an employee who had a long-term disability, such as a pregnancy complication, and how her short- and long-term disability benefits protected a portion of her paycheck.

4. Keep it short, and communicate open enrollment dates well in advance. 

Procrastination is a big challenge during open enrollment. Shorter enrollment periods encourage employees to engage sooner. Keep key dates front and center in all your communications so employees are aware of important deadlines.

5. Make it fun. 

Denim days at work can be used as a fun incentive!

“Jean” or denim days can be a fun incentive for employees.

Offer incentives like gift certificates or “jean” days for employees who enroll early. Share information about the number of times a video was viewed, the number of calls to HR with benefit questions, or the number of employees who attended a benefits presentation. It’s an easy way to create pride and interest in the enrollment process.

Open enrollment is the time you want your employees to take notice and understand their benefit packages. In short, tailor your communication to appeal to a variety of groups, keep the enrollment period short, and keep it fun with incentives to get your employees to pay attention and take notice.  

Tony Nyers is an owner and a Risk Management Advisor at Healy Group. He brings 20+ years of experience in health benefit design, as well as retirement plan expertise. He is co-author of a nationally published white paper on state-of-the-art health plan design, and has spoken at national conferences on several benefit-related topics. Tony is highly skilled in the self-funded arena having served on the Benefits and Conferences Committees for SIIA. He currently serves as Chair for the Michiana Chapter of the American Heart Association, and is committed to saving plan dollars through improving employee health.