This blog post first appeared in Employee Benefit News (January 25, 2016).
What happens after open enrollment is over? It’s back to business as usual for employees while HR returns to the issues they put on hold for the month (or more) leading up to plan effective dates. Yet, there is a huge (and often missed) opportunity for employers and HR departments alike, where brokers and consultants can step in to help and keep their value proposition at the forefront of clients’ minds.
If employee benefits are truly to be seen as a value-add, there are three rules you must encourage your clients to follow.
- Make the Benefit Offerings Visible – It used to be that only a group’s sickest employees knew their benefits inside and out. Constantly utilizing the benefits made them familiar with the intricacies of how the policies worked. But today, employees want to see what their money is going towards, and they want to understand how their employers are contributing to their benefits. They expect to at least be aware of what is available to them, and not just in the last two or three weeks of open enrollment. To achieve this, employees need access to information about their benefits year-round through technology that not only lets them see what they’ve enrolled in, but also helps them understand their benefits and how to get the most out of them. Provider directories and having access to online glossaries that define terms (such as “coinsurance” and “out-of-pocket maximum”) keep benefits at the forefront of employees’ minds no matter the time of year, and help them see the real value of what their employers offer.
- Include Diversity in Benefit Products – We know that all employees are unique – they have different risk tolerances, financial situations, and health concerns. HR must keep their focus on providing a suite of benefits that satisfy the needs of their entire population. How? Encourage them to offer a diverse range of products outside just the standard medical plans. Coverage like critical illness or accident policies, even pet insurance. Offering more than the typical coverage suite gets employees to really think holistically about their benefits, where there might be gaps, and how to fill those gaps over time.
- Help Employees Improve Health and Financial Security – Employees should finish each open enrollment season thinking to themselves, “Wow, my employer really cares about me.” That can happen when they believe that their employer truly has their health and financial security in mind. We know from recent workplace studies that when employees feel healthy and financially secure, they are much more productive during work hours. So, giving employees access to the right combination of insurance products is key. But it’s also important to provide decision-support technology beyond the point of enrollment, such as financial wellness tools, that can help employees understand how to make the connection between their health and financial security, no matter what stage of life they are in (e.g., having a new baby).
If done properly, with a whole-life perspective, the right benefits technology and the right suite of products and decision-support tools, HR can use the entire year to show employees they are a vital part of an organization that truly cares about them.