While it’s tempting for small and midsize employers to cut corners on their employee benefits to save on costs, a quality and personalized benefits package is necessary to set your organization apart from others.
Due to COVID-191opening up a wider range of jobs and remote openings, today’s workers carefully consider what benefits matter most to them before accepting a job. In addition to health insurance, employees increasingly want benefits that enhance their mental and behavioral health, improve satisfaction, and support work-life balance.
This article outlines five key strategies for preparing for open enrollment season and effectively showcasing your employee benefits package.
See what fringe benefits you can offer in your benefits package for open enrollment in our complete guide
What is open enrollment?
Open enrollment is the dedicated time period for Americans to enroll, renew, or make changes to their health coverage. This time is the only time your employees can make changes to their health coverage, outside of a special enrollment period, ensuring individuals and families don’t wait until they get sick to enroll or switch to a more comprehensive plan.
The exact dates vary depending on what state you live in, however open enrollment typically starts on November 1 and ends in mid-December. 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.
1. Set your benefits budget
Before you revise your benefits package for this year's open enrollment, you need to know how much you can afford to pay. Setting a budget will keep you focused and realistic as you choose your benefits.
Health benefits are often the most expensive perk to provide. However, the 2022 Global Benefits Attitude Survey2 found that 46% of employees are willing to pay more out of their paycheck each month for a more generous healthcare plan. So if you have the budget, splurging on this benefit may be the way to go.
If you’re an employer with a small budget, there are affordable alternatives to an expensive group health insurance plan. For example, small employers can offer a qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA), which provides tax-free reimbursement to employees for their individual health plan premiums and other qualifying medical expenses, no matter their health condition.
If you prefer to go with a group plan but want to save on premium costs by getting a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you can supplement your group plan with an integrated HRA. With this HRA, your employees can be reimbursed for eligible healthcare expenses that aren’t fully paid for by the group plan.
In addition to health plan options, you should also plan a budget for any other employee benefits you want to offer. These can include fringe benefits like unlimited vacation time, gym memberships, wellness programs, retirement plans, extended maternity leave, flexible work schedules, and more.
On average3, employers pay about $11.60 per hour on employee benefits. That equals almost 50% of the average worker’s hourly rate, totaling near $36 per hour, per employee. In total, nearly 32% of the average employer’s costs go toward benefits.
These averages vary depending on your industry and how much you choose to spend, but they’re a good place to start when creating your benefits budget. Ultimately, you should consider what benefits you’re required to offer, and what benefits you want to offer to attract and retain employees.
2. Tailor your benefit options to your employees
Open enrollment season is the perfect time to review your entire benefits package, as it can be a strong retention tool. But this only works if your employees see value in your offerings. That’s why it’s essential to tailor your benefits to include perks employees want.
Creating an employee benefits survey to gauge your employees' satisfaction with your current benefits is a great place to start. You can also ask them what other benefits they would like to see at your company.
From there, you can review the employee feedback and determine how to customize your benefits package to meet your employees’ needs.
While the open enrollment period tends to just focus on medical coverage and health plans, employees expect more when they see an updated benefits package for the new year. In response , 85% of employers4 have been focused on improving their employees’ physical, financial, social, and emotional well-being.
Ensuring employees know about all the ways you support them creates trust and a great employee experience. That’s why it is important to work with your employees on providing perks that offer the most value for them.
Adding or changing a few benefit design options could be the difference between retaining or losing good employees by showing them you’re committed to their health and happiness.
3. Determine a communication strategy
After you have your benefit offerings decided, it’s vital to communicate which benefits will be available and what the open enrollment period timeline will be for your organization. In a survey conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits, 80% of companies5 reported that employees don’t open or read benefit materials. This is why it’s important to do more than just send your employees materials and expect them to read them on their own time.
Simplifying your benefits options and clearly communicating their value is an effective way to provide your employees with necessary information quickly.
Your open enrollment communication strategy should start early and span multiple channels, such as:
- Group meetings or town halls to discuss benefit changes and new offerings.
- Availability for one-on-one meetings with the HR team or benefits specialists to answer any questions.
- Periodic open enrollment reminders via email updates with key enrollment dates and specific instructions.
- Messaging that designates relevant points of contact for further questions and concerns, like HR, the health insurance marketplace, and benefit vendors.
By using several means of communication, you can communicate more frequently and effectively with employees, so they don’t miss the deadline for enrollment and can ensure they have all their questions and concerns answered.
Allow plenty of time for questions and encourage personal conversations to explore options further and explain your benefits to those hesitant to speak up in a group setting.
Lastly, if you’ve made any changes to your current benefits, share the updates with your employees and thank them for their input if the decision was made based on their feedback. Employee morale is positively impacted6 when your staff sees the value of their contribution and opinions.
4. Provide resources to your employees
Many employers provide resources for educating employees about their many benefit offerings. These resources can include various options like webinars, benefit fairs, email campaigns, digital enrollment materials and guides, videos, health insurance marketplace updates, and presentations.
Virtual resources are impactful because they can be made available throughout the year, and active employees can save them for reference when the election period comes around.
For example, if you have online benefit material for last year’s open enrollment, you can quickly make changes for 2023’s enrollment and distribute the information well in advance.
Enrollment in health insurance can be difficult for your employees. In this case, you may consider providing an individual health insurance broker as a resource. Brokers are health insurance experts with vast knowledge about various health coverage topics, changing health reform, and rising healthcare costs to guide your employees through the process.
However, there are many nuances within each individual plan, so your employees may need personalized support. Be sure to provide contact information for the marketplace, health insurance companies, and benefit vendors if anyone needs more assistance.
If you offer benefits with PeopleKeep, our award-winning customer support team and online help center is here to help you at the click of a button with on-hand assistance and free resources so you can offer hassle-free employee benefits.
5. Make it easy to enroll
52% of employers7 have taken action to enhance their enrollment experience. With more employees working remotely, virtual open enrollment is becoming the most practical option for many employers.
While the federal open enrollment window is set in stone, meeting your employees’ needs, no matter their location, time of day, or device, is a must to ensure enrolling in all your company’s benefits is inclusive and easy.
The key to making open enrollment easy—whether it’s enrolling for a health benefit on the health insurance marketplace or signing up to participate in organization’s your fringe benefits—is by meeting people where they are. Your benefits enrollment program should be accessible by login email via desktop, mobile, tablet, or phone.
To achieve this, you can create a one-stop benefit offering platform for your employees to find information and resources, submit their online application, and enroll in the offering of their choosing on a self-service basis.
Your virtual platform can have links to the marketplace for health insurance enrollment and a chat feature ready to answer other benefit questions. The goal should be to direct your employees to your digital benefits platform where they can access everything they need during the enrollment window—all in one place.
With benefits being more important than ever, it’s time for employers to demonstrate their commitment to their employees’ health and wellbeing. By preparing early for open enrollment, you’ll have time to tailor your benefits package and highlight all the perks you have to offer, encouraging your employees to make more knowledgeable benefit selection decisions.
Providing resources, communicating early, and making enrollment easy, are effective strategies to help your employees navigate the health insurance market and enhance their overall employee benefits experience throughout the enrollment window and beyond.