How to Prepare for Benefits Open Enrollment Season

Benefits open enrollment season is right around the corner. Here's how to prepare.

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Workers are assessing benefits packages more than ever, looking for health insurance as well as mental and behavioral health benefits that can help support a healthy work-life balance. As a result, more and more small to midsize employers are offering benefits to their employees. Open enrollment season is right around the corner so we’re here with five key strategies to help your business showcase what you are offering and prepare to support employees through the process.

But first, what is open enrollment? Open enrollment is a set period of time for American employees to enroll in, renew, or make changes to their health coverage selections. This is the only window of time that employees can make changes to their coverage, unless they qualify for a special enrollment period at some other time of the year. The exact dates of open enrollment vary from state to state, but they are typically in the fall for a coverage start date of 1/1 the following year.

Communicating details in advance is a great opportunity to show your employees they’re valued and entice top talent to stay in their current positions.

How to Prepare for Benefits Open Enrollment Season

  1. Set your benefits budget

On average, employers pay almost 50% of the average worker’s hourly rate per employee for benefits so before you select your plan offerings, you will need to set your benefits budget based on what your business can afford to pay. Setting a budget will allow you to choose plans that you can realistically offer to your employees. If you’re a small business, you may be wondering how you can afford to provide health benefits at all, but there are affordable alternatives such as a qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA). Many small businesses partner with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) because they gain access to benefits that they couldn’t afford to offer on their own, including health plans, 401(k) plans, and supplemental and ancillary benefits.

2. Cater benefit options to your employees

There are different benefit options available for employers to choose from. Some plans may include additional services like massage, for example, while others offer lower copays. One of the best ways to retain employees is to cater the benefits you offer to your employees’ preferences – don’t forget to ask about supplemental and ancillary benefits such as flexible spending accounts and critical illness coverage. This can be done through an employee benefits survey before the start of the benefits open enrollment season. Take the information you get from the survey and tailor your benefits offerings to your staff.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Once you have decided which benefits to offer and you know the dates of the open enrollment period timeline for your organization, you should communicate this information with your employees in easily digestible ways. Sending an email with an attachment that covers benefit materials isn’t going to be helpful to the 80% of employees who don’t open or read benefit materials. HR should be prepared to provide information in a variety of ways and to answer questions about any changes:

  • On-site or online meeting to discuss benefits
  • One-on-one meetings to answer specific questions
  • Bullet-point details about plan options and how to contact HR for help shared in email and posters around the workplace

Lastly, if you have made changes to your benefits package based on an employee survey, be sure to thank employees for their input and explain how survey results impacted changes to the benefits package.

4. Provide virtual resources to your employees

Virtual resources aimed at educating employees about their benefit choices can be very helpful because it’s easy to make them available all-year-long. Some examples include webinars, email campaigns, digital enrollment materials and guides, and videos. Virtual materials can also be updated easily from year to year.

Another virtual option that can be extremely helpful to your employees is email or phone support from an HR representative. If you are a small business without an in-house team, a PEO can provide this type of support to your employees for a fraction of the cost.

5. Make it easy for your employees to enroll

It’s a good idea to make it as easy as possible for your employees to enroll for benefits each year. With more employees working remotely, virtual open enrollment is the most practical option for many employers. In addition, your benefits enrollment program information, FAQs, and enrollment portal should be accessible through a variety of platforms including desktop, mobile phone, and tablet.

It’s more important than ever for employers to prepare to make the benefits enrollment period as smooth as possible. Your employees will feel valued if you ask them about their priorities and put in the effort to communicate changes with them. They will also appreciate it if you make enrollment as easy as possible, offering them a virtual option to enroll on the platform of their choice.

Partnering with Makai HR

Need access to better benefits packages for your employees? We’ve got you covered through HR outsourcing! When you partner with Makai HR you can get on with the business you are trying to grow while we take care of your employee needs from payroll to taxes, health insurance/benefits and worker’s compensation. You also gain peace of mind that you are compliant with all of Hawaii’s employer laws (if you’ve ever looked you know that the list is very long and changes happen). When choosing a PEO to partner with, there are many things to consider including cost, services, and technology solutions. 

With the cost of doing business in Hawaii at record highs, we know how important it is to keep labor costs in line with revenue. Our plans are priced competitively and include value-added services like time-in/time-out systems. Our three tiers of PEO service plans are tailored to the size of your business and specific needs. We offer a 100% paperless solution which means that your employees can manage their needs through a computer, tablet, or phone. We can truly improve your employees’ work benefits while freeing you up to operate your business.

What are you waiting for? Companies that partner with a PEO benefit from 7-9% faster growth, 10-14% lower employee turnover; and they are 50% less likely to go out of business. Contact us today to get started!

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