How to Strengthen the Employee Benefits Experience to Differentiate Your Company in a Competitive Labor Market [Part 4]

Written by Allison Loehman | November 21, 2018

Use benefit enrollment system tools to communication early and often

If you've been following along with our four-part series, you are well on your way to crafting a strategy that aims to strengthen the employee benefits experience — all with the intention of helping your company attract and retain the right employees in today's competitive labor market.

With a solid strategy developed, and S.M.A.R.T goals determined, and the right benefit enrollment system selected for your requirements, you may be tempted to remove your foot from the gas and start working on other projects. Perhaps you are hoping that the upcoming open enrollment experience delivers the results you've planned for. However, hope is not a strategy! And easing up now can be the difference between providing a "good" benefits experience or an "exceptional" benefits experience for your employees. 

That's why in Part Four, we'll wrap up our series with some suggestions around strategy execution, and position a new normal: year-round benefits communication.

Part Four: Start early and tailor your benefits education options

Putting a plan together is one thing, but executing the plan is another — and executing well takes time. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to build out your new employee benefits experience plan. While it’s easy to let the year slip by, the earlier you know what your open enrollment business objectives, strategy and goals are, the sooner you can design your benefits packages for the next year. That translates into more time to get your newly selected benefit enrollment system up and running, and more time to help navigate your employees through the benefits journey prior to — and during — open enrollment.

By starting early, you also have plenty of time to set up and communicate an active open enrollment, where you require employees to login and make a benefits selection for the coming year instead of a passive enrollment, allowing their current benefit selections to automatically carry over to the next plan year unless the employee specifically elects to make changes. Many companies execute an active open enrollment in years where they make particularly large changes (rolling out a new benefit enrollment system), have lofty goals around a specific benefits package offering (increasing the number of HDHP plans selected), or need to update beneficiary and dependent information for dependent eligibility audits (ensuring company health care dollars are spent wisely).

While there are certainly pros and cons to having an active open enrollment, our favorite advantage is that an active open enrollment creates the opportunity for every single employee to login and review and become educated on the variety of benefits options available to them and their families. A 2018 survey uncovered that 77% of employees who understood their benefits offerings said they saw themselves staying at their organizations for the foreseeable future. This is because informed employees understand how their benefits package contributes to their overall total compensation and are more likely to become, or remain loyal employees — protecting your organization from today's highly competitive labor market.

Once your desired open enrollment process is selected (active vs. passive) you can then begin to design a benefits education strategy that helps employees understand the implications of their available options and make choices that improve their financial health. For example, using your benefits enrollment system, you could add short videos to explain how your high-deductible plans work, or to highlight new voluntary benefits offerings. You could also include conversational verbiage that guides employees through the selection process. And throughout the enrollment process, additional downloadable materials —such as electronic enrollment guides — should be available with a click to act as references when employees have specific questions or want to dig deeper. If you're not sure your benefit administration platform can accommodate these requirements, check out this article for more resources.

Whatever employee benefits education method you choose to employ, make sure that the range of options you offer ultimately speak to different employee needs, enabling each individual to find personalized answers quickly. Considering that 73 percent of employees say having customized, flexible benefits offerings would increase their loyalty to their employer, taking time to personalize the benefits experience can help reinforce the idea that your organization cares about retaining their talent.

The new normal: Year-round benefits communication

While your new enrollment communication strategy aids the open enrollment, engages employees and helps them understand the offerings available, don't just stop there - the ideal benefits communication strategies need to be year-round efforts. That’s especially true for wellness-related programs, where ongoing participation is needed to drive improvements. However, it’s also good to provide a consistent stream of communication about other benefits throughout the year, too — once a quarter is the recommended minimum.

Communicating quarterly or more is certainly a much different information flow than in the not-so-distant past when benefits and HR managers handed out thick paper manuals once every fall. But that’s exactly the point. Smaller bits of information — such as postcards, single-page benefits summaries, or a targeted email campaign on a specific topic, for example — should be fed throughout the year to keep benefits at the forefront.

This campaign-based approach can be laid on top of routine benefits enrollment system communication tools like custom banners on your home page, designated content zones that promote your messaging and scheduled or ad-hoc system generated email and text notifications. Employees can review these items at their leisure, ask questions in advance, and be fully informed when it’s time to sign up.

By making benefits a natural part of your everyday conversations within the company, you can increase employee loyalty and elevate their overall workplace satisfaction. Plus, by creating a better benefits experience using the right planning and tools, you’ll help make your company the one that applicants turn to when they seek a new employer.

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Topics: For Employers, Benefits Technology, For Brokers & Consultants