In college, assignments are typically communicated at the start of each semester. That means students have three months to write those dreaded 20-page research papers, but inevitably, some students procrastinate, thinking there is plenty of time. How many all-nighters did you pull? Eventually, most of us learn not to wait until the last minute which is not always easy if the task at hand is not one we enjoy.
Take benefits renewal for example. It does not thrill most HR and benefits professionals, but it is a critical activity you must manage each year. As we enter the final days of summer, open enrollment is right around the corner, and the window to have everything in place is closing.
To be fully prepared and ready to go, organizations should start thinking about benefits renewal at least six months before their renewal date. By starting early, the process can be less overwhelming and provide ample time to evaluate organizational needs. Here are five things employers can do to make their benefits renewal stress free and lead to a better open enrollment process for employees.
1. Evaluate Your Broker
There is a long-standing myth that changing their benefits broker is a difficult and time-consuming process. Just as you evaluate other vendor partners, you should evaluate your broker regularly. It is important to make sure they’re delivering the value and service necessary to identify the right benefits package to meet the company’s financial goals and the needs of your employees and their families.
A conversation with your broker shouldn’t be limited to once a year. They should guide you through potential changes, recommend solutions to challenges in other areas of your business, and communicate how you’re affected throughout the year. They should be your partner in developing plan designs, contributions, and communications that demonstrate to your employees, and prospective employees, that your organization’s benefits offerings strike a balance between comprehensive and affordable.
2. Review Your Current Plans
The benefit plans you discussed with your broker last year might not be the best fit for you now. Hitting the repeat button isn’t always the right answer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found on March 2019, benefits costs accounted for an average of $10.33 per hour worked for private industry workers, compared to $24.17 per hour worked for wages and salaries.
Since benefits are one of the largest expenses a company has and a great way to attract and retain employees, it is critical to discuss a variety of funding and plan options to find the right mix for your company.
3. Survey Your Employees
Employers ranked healthcare and retirement as the top benefits most important to their workforce, according to the 2019 SHRM Employee Benefits survey. The same survey showed an increase in telemedicine or telehealth coverage from 23% in 2016 to 72% in 2019.
Survey your employees to discover what benefits they’re using as well as what they would like to see offered for an objective analysis of what to consider including in your benefits plan. A great time to do this is four to five months before renewal, but it’s still not too late.
4. Discuss Changes with Key Players
A benefits package should help achieve organizational goals. Does the company plan to grow in the coming years? What benefits do you need to attract and retain great talent? What plan fits best into your financial targets?
Discuss the company goals and overall objectives with leadership and your broker to make sure the plans you select are in alignment. These conversations should take place as early in the year as possible but are beneficial even if done closer to renewal.
5. Plan for Open Enrollment
Research shows that employees struggle to understand their health benefits and often spend little time researching them. According to a survey by consumer-directed healthcare solutions company Alegeus, 30 percent of employees do not help their employees understand or make benefits decisions ahead of open enrollment. Without that guidance, employees make uneducated choices which can negatively impact the individual, their family members, and the company.
Schedule enrollment meetings with your broker and provide contact information for employee questions throughout the process.
In addition to educating your employees, you should communicate any changes to your benefits offerings and provide enrollment technology updates two to three months prior to open enrollment. Employees don’t want to find out that their benefits are changing when they go to enroll. When you’re prepared and transparent, employees know exactly what to expect come open enrollment.
Benefits renewal doesn’t have to be stressful or take you back to those days of writing a 20-page paper. By taking the right steps at the right time, you can ensure you’ve made the best decisions for your organization each year.