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How to Build a High-Impact Benefits Package that Will Help Your Business Win the War for Top Talent

The unemployment rate has now fallen to 3.6%, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While American workers welcome the news, it can be a challenge in this climate for hiring managers to stand out and continue attracting the best talent out there.

If your business is struggling to fill open positions, and you’re not receiving the quality applicants that you’d hoped for, take a look at your benefits package. When was the last time you updated it?

The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) showed that 34% of organizations beefed up their benefits packages within the last year, and 72% said that retention was a reason they did so. Over half cited attracting top talent as a main part of their reasoning.

In our current “war for talent” climate, creating a benefits package that can sell itself to candidates will ensure you’re attracting that top talent. In fact, your benefits package could be the differentiator that will give you the timely competitive advantage you need. A CareerBuilder survey revealed that 32% of workers will be looking for a new job in 2019, 15% of whom cited lack of benefits or low compensation as the reason.

Here’s how to create a high-impact benefits package that will help your business both attract and retain top talent.

Understanding What’s Hot

Of course, what’s most important to the top talent you’re looking for will depend on your industry. For instance, not every job can offer remote work benefits—some require a worker’s presence in the office.

However, there are general trends as far as benefits go. The same SHRM survey mentioned earlier also showed that benefits for parents have been increased in the last few years, including paid maternity and paternity leave and adoption, foster child, and surrogacy benefits.

According to Jobvite’s 2018 Recruiter Nation Survey, recruiters say that the most effective benefits to attracting top talent are medical and dental benefits (67%), followed by 401(k) benefits (55%).

Medical and dental benefits may seem like a given, but making these benefits competitive in themselves can upgrade your overall package. This is why it’s important to shop around for the best price on packages that offer the comprehensive care that your employees need. For retirement, many workplaces offer a company-matching benefit that top talent will look for when considering job offers.

The next most important benefit offering discussed in the Jobvite survey was work-from-home benefits. As mentioned above, this benefit may or may not be possible for your given industry. However, with our current everything-digital work culture, it’s worth considering making it happen, as 43% of recruiters said this was the most effective benefit offering to attract and retain talent.

Offering a flexible work arrangement or flexible schedule shows employees that their work-life balance matters, and that the company wants to support them in managing family obligations and other priorities outside of work.

The last three benefits listed as top attractions in the Jobvite survey were casual dress (36%), continuing education reimbursement (31%), and a signing bonus (28%). Paid vacation is still considered a top benefit, and many top candidates will negotiate the amount of days off they receive with the rest of their offer.

Another hot topic in the benefits world is student loan help. According to data from the Harvard Business Review, 48% of job seekers said that student loan assistance would be taken into account when considering a job offer.

Americans now owe around $1.57 trillion in college debt, as USA Today reported, yet only one in 10 companies surveyed by the Employee Benefit Research Institute offer student loan repayment subsidies or consolidation or refinancing services for employees. This means that employers willing to make this a priority will be ahead of their competitors when attracting top talent.

These examples show how any organization can construct a benefits package that checks off the list of what the modern candidate is looking for.

Building a Comprehensive Package

Once you’re aware of what candidates want, how do you begin the reconstruction process?

1. Research the competition

First, assess the trends within your industry. Start by researching the job ads that competitors are posting, or use a tool like Glassdoor to view salary trends for a given job title or company. Understanding what your competitors are offering is crucial to creating a competitive advantage.

You may also learn about other company’s benefits through interviews with top-level candidates. They may ask for a certain amount of vacation days, a salary level, or 401(k) contribution because they’re receiving it in their current position.

But as ApplicantPro points out, your top recruiting competition may not be the same as your business competition. Companies hiring individuals with the same qualifications, and not necessarily a company offering the same services as yours, may be more of your hiring rival.

2. Use data in strategic planning to increase ROI

Keep up on the latest research about what employees want, in addition to what competitors are providing. Each year, human resources organizations release surveys that reflect the latest trends, such as the surveys mentioned in this article from the SHRM and the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

According to the SHRM, planning benefits strategically based on specific data can help your company receive the greatest return on investment. This is important, because benefits aren’t cheap—they make up about a third of compensation costs (32%). When companies strategically plan benefits for recruitment and retention, the overall performance of the company is above average at 58%, versus 34% from organizations that don’t plan strategically.

3. Understand what drives motivation

Employees are more likely to feel motivated and satisfied by their work if they’re fully supported with adequate pay and benefits. This means making enough money, but it also means being able to receive high-quality healthcare services and to take time away from work to relieve stress and enjoy their personal lives.

This is why it’s also smart to offer a comprehensive wellness program that offers discounted gym memberships, for example, or mental health services, along with a good healthcare package. Over half of employees surveyed by the SHRM said that healthcare, paid leave, and flexible benefits were very important to job satisfaction.

Remember to approach the construction of your benefits package with people in mind, not just the bottom line.

4. Ask your employees for feedback

To better understand what would entice employees to stay at your company, why not ask them?

Implementing some kind of survey system can be instrumental in building a benefits plan that meets the expectations of employees. Just the gesture alone can show workers that you are considering their needs and desires, which can lead to greater feelings of satisfaction and recognition.

Consider holding discussions about benefits where employees can make comments and ask questions, and invite them to offer their opinions about their current package.

5. Continue adapting

During interviews with top candidates, one strategy that could help you succeed is being open to what they’re looking for, and asking them what their expectations are. This can not only open your eyes to what top talent is looking for, but it can also help you revamp your benefits offerings for your current employees. 

Updating your benefits package is not likely to be something you can do once and be done with. Preferences change year over year in the realm of recruitment, as new technologies are introduced or new working trends pick up, so remember that your benefits plan needs to be revisited and adapted regularly. For example, the gig economy and the surge of freelancing has made flexibility and remote work more popular and desirable for employees across industries.

6. Embrace new technologies

Finally, recruiters and hiring managers should embrace new technologies that can help them create a strategic benefits plan for recruitment and retention.

According to the Jobvite survey mentioned above, almost half of recruiters say that artificial intelligence (AI) and automaton will improve their jobs and will allow them to focus more on strategy. Streamlining tasks can open up a lot of time that can be used on research and data analyzation that will lead to better benefits planning that’s focused around attracting talent.

Using an online benefits portal is another way to increase employee satisfaction and streamline the benefits process. According to the SHRM, 32% of HR professionals say that an online portal is very effective as a communication method with employees. A portal can help the HR team deliver messages while emphasizing the value of benefits to employees.

Key Takeaways

Winning the war for top talent takes research, planning, and strategizing, and may not happen overnight. But it’s more important than ever to focus on benefits offerings as the unemployment rate continues to drop and the recruitment competition heats up. Remember to:

  • Stay abreast on what’s hot in the world of HR and recruiting
  • Research your competition
  • Base benefits planning decisions on specific data to ensure Return on Investment
  • Think about what drives employee motivation and satisfaction
  • Survey employees and candidates to find out what would excite them beyond a high base salary
  • Continue to adapt your plan
  • Integrate new tools and platforms that will streamline processes for both you and employees

If you show both top candidates and current employees that benefits are important to the organization and do the research to offer what they really want, you’ll be well on your way to creating a high-impact benefits package that will set you apart from competitors.

The Lowdown on Wellness Benefits: What They Are and How They Can Help Your Business

There is no question that wellness benefits have become all the rage in recent years. Companies of all sizes are offering benefits such as on-site exercise facilities, healthy food during the workday, and flexible work hours in order to improve employee health and morale. Wellness has been treated as something of a cure-all for business ills ranging from healthcare costs to high turnover rates. Are they worth the hype? We think mostly so, but that in order for wellness programs to be effective they should be tailored to your company’s values and your employees’ specific needs.

In today’s post we’ll explore the main reasons why you should adopt wellness benefits including:

  • Decrease healthcare costs
  • Genuinely help employees
  • Adapt to and augment company culture
  • Increase employee engagement for productivity and retention

Let’s take a look at what wellness benefits are, how they can help your business, and how you can get started creating a wellness program of your own.

Benefits Overview

So what exactly are wellness benefits? Generally speaking, they are any program that is intended to improve an employee’s mental or physical health. Companies are increasingly adopting wellness benefits in order to keep their healthcare costs low or increase employee morale.

Typically wellness benefits fall into one or both of two categories: those that address mental health and those that address physical health. Screenings and counseling can help identify both mental and physical issues at the same time, but the wellness solutions to the two different categories of health are generally different.

Some examples of physical wellness benefits are:

  • Contests for exercise, weight loss, or smoking cessation
  • Subsidized gym membership or on-site exercise facilities
  • Free healthy food in-office
  • Diet and exercise education and counseling

While mental wellness benefits can include:

  • Flexible vacation and remote-work policies
  • In-office breaks
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Support groups

Later we’ll explore how you can assemble the right wellness package that best fits your company’s values and your employees’ needs. But first let’s examine just why you should consider implementing wellness benefits in the first place.

They Work

One of the main reasons why wellness benefits are catching on so quickly is that they just work. In fact, wellness programs have an average ROI of three to one. There are several reasons why the return on investment is so high – the first one being that it doesn’t take that much of an investment to create wellness benefits. Some programs can be expensive, but benefits like education and competitions are easy to set up and require almost no monetary commitment. Fundamentally, wellness is a form of prevention, which is almost always more cost effective than treatment. So even benefits which involve medical care, such as screening programs, save big bucks in the long run.

The most obvious impact on your bottom line is decreased medical expenses overall. Wellness benefits are especially effective at targeting common ‘lifestyle’ issues, like smoking and obesity, and associated chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They have proven successful in encouraging exercise, healthier eating, weight loss, smoking cessation, and increased mental health; all of which lower medical costs.

But the financial benefit doesn’t end there. Because employees become healthier and happier, they miss work less frequently and are less stressed at work. This leads to increased productivity and decreased turnover, which are major benefits to your bottom line and to the success of your organization as a whole.

They Actually Help Employees

Unlike other methods of cutting healthcare costs, wellness benefits are actually about making employees’ lives better. They decrease the need for healthcare, rather than the coverage itself, and in-so-doing put the employee’s needs front and center. Wellness programs only work for the company if they succeed in helping employees; the ROI comes directly from improved employee health.

This makes your job a lot easier – and more rewarding. You get to think about what’s genuinely best for all of your employees and then make it happen. And for once you won’t have to fight tooth and nail to get employees to adopt the new initiatives, because the benefit to them will be self-evident. Employees are the lifeblood of any company; make the most of this opportunity to make their lives better while also helping the company succeed.

They Adapt to and Augment Company Culture

Every company’s challenges are different, and the solutions need to be as well. Your wellness benefits can and should be tailored to fit your company’s specific needs, goals, and values. They are also often most effective when implemented with your company culture in mind; choose the benefits that reflect what your company stands for.

If your wellness benefits are aligned with your culture, they are more likely to be adopted by your employees and are more likely to address your employees’ challenges effectively. And if you have a strong culture, then your employees are already onboard with its values, so they will embrace benefits that reflect those values.

Best of all, when you implement wellness benefits that are aligned with your company culture, they will become an important part of the culture over time. Wellness can be an enormous asset to your culture, serving as proof that your culture is fostering a sense of shared values and commitments.

They Increase Engagement

Because wellness benefits are intended improve employees’ well-being, they generally make employees feel more valued. They are frequently viewed by employees as quality-of-life benefits that are meant help them more than they help the company.

The fact of the matter is that even if you were to implement wellness benefits purely to cut healthcare costs, you would still have to make your employees’ lives better in order to attain that goal. And your employees would appreciate you, and their work, more for it. When your employees feel valued, they will be more engaged with their work, increasing their productivity and decreasing turnover.

Don’t just take our word for it – a recent study found that 85% of employers saw an increase in engagement after implementing wellness benefits, and that employee engagement was actually the primary reason for providing wellness benefits for 42% of companies surveyed.

We probably don’t have to explain to you how much it helps to have your employees engaged in their work. Wellness benefits can help solve the retention crisis that many businesses are facing in today’s economy. Turnover is a fact of life and an expensive problem that is only getting worse, especially when it comes top talent.  And, a major driver of turnover is the difficulty of providing meaningful work. So, when companies release wellness benefits that get employees engaged in their work, they can do wonders for employee retention and productivity. In 2016, Aflac found that 60% of employees would take a job with lower salary but higher benefits, and that 42% of employees said that increasing benefits would help keep them in their jobs.

How to Create a Wellness Program

So, wellness benefits can decrease your healthcare costs, strengthen your company culture, increase employee productivity and retention. But you may be wondering how to get started setting up a wellness program. Well, let’s explore the basics of introducing wellness benefits in your organization.

In order to develop an effective wellness program, you should determine what health issues you need to address. You can do this in a few different ways. The first is to consider the main healthcare issues nationwide, particularly for the demographics that reflect your workforce. The second is to look at your healthcare expenses over recent years for main drivers of healthcare costs. The third, and best, way to figure out what issues to tackle is to conduct a Health Risk Assessment, or HRA, company-wide. These questionnaires provide you with the information you need to identify the issues that most affect your employees. Third-party vendors can conduct the assessment in order to maximize employee comfort and participation and can analyze the results for you to give you the best possible insights.

Once you have determined what issues you want to tackle, it’s time to decide on what programs you want to implement. We encourage you to choose the benefits based on the issues you identified in conjunction with your company culture. Don’t think too much about what other companies are doing to address the same issues, try to think about how your company should solve them. Every company is different, and you want your programs to be in line with what your company values.

Wellness programs generally fall into four main categories: screening, education, incentives, and counseling. Screening generally encompasses preventative care beyond what is covered under the standard healthcare plan and helps you catch potential issues before they start affecting employee health and well-being. Education empowers employees to take control of their health and can take the form of health fairs, regularly scheduled health seminars or talks. Incentives directly encourage employees to act to improve their wellness by making it easier to make healthy changes or rewarding wellness accomplishments. Examples of incentives include contests, subsidized gym membership, free therapy or guided exercise sessions on-site, or rewards for participating in the other components of the wellness program such as screenings or educational talks. Finally, counseling allows employees to receive confidential advice about their physical, mental, or financial health.

Now that you have decided which programs can make the most difference for your employees, implement them enthusiastically and consistently. Get key stakeholders, especially executives and managers, deeply involved in all of your wellness programs. Effective wellness should be fun and rewarding, but they also involve challenging employee’s habits and lifestyles, so your leadership teams can encourage adoption by getting fully onboard themselves.

If you follow these guidelines, you should have a strong wellness program that is tailored to what your company stands for and what your employees need to be the healthiest and happiest versions of themselves. Just one last thing – listen to your employees once you have rolled out wellness. They likely know what they want and need better than you do, so you can continue to develop a more effective wellness strategy by encouraging and integrating their feedback.

Key Takeaways

We’ve thrown a lot of information about wellness at you in this article. Don’t worry if you can’t remember it all – you can always come back to refresh your memory. Just remember these key points when you start thinking about developing a wellness program:

  • Wellness is worth everything you put into it and more
  • Your company culture should guide your wellness strategy – and your benefits will strengthen your culture in return
  • Wellness benefits actually improve your employees’ lives and make them more engaged with their work, increasing retention and productivity
  • There is no right way to implement wellness, do what makes sense for you and your employees, and don’t forget to have fun

There are many ways to integrate wellness benefits into your business. We certainly have not covered everything in this article, but hopefully you now have a better sense of what wellness can do for your organization and how you can start putting together a wellness program. We would love to hear from you about your wellness strategies successes, so post any ideas we may have missed in the comments!

How to Reduce Employer Spend on Prescription Drugs

How to Reduce Employer Spend on Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are a major driver of healthcare costs for individuals in general, and for employers specifically. Prices increase an average of 4% a year and specialty drugs, already the most expensive category, increase by 21% per year. Politicians across the political spectrum have put drug costs at the center of their healthcare rhetoric, but little action has actually been taken. In the meantime, prescription drugs have become the second greatest healthcare expense for companies and represent roughly a third of total healthcare costs for employers.

Luckily, there are several ways that employers can reduce their spend on prescription drugs, including:

  • Educating Employees
  • Empowering Employees
  • Providing Employee Incentives
  • Using Restrictions as a Last Resort
  • Managing PBM Relationships

Educating Employees

The number one thing you can do to reduce prescription expenses is to make sure that your employees are well informed about their coverage, prescription options, and best practices. Education is free, for the most part, and will not only reduce costs but will also make employees feel better about their benefits packages. Many employees feel that their companies do not sufficiently explain their benefits and coverage, so they will appreciate any effort to provide them with more information.

Most importantly, educate your employees about best practices that will save themselves and, by extension, the company money. This includes telling them about preferred pharmacies, generic alternatives, mail-order services, and other cost-saving options. Healthcare costs are a major source of stress for employees as well as employers, so telling employees what they can do to cut costs will often be enough to cut your expenses significantly.

You should also make sure that your employees understand their coverage and the tools that are available to them. In the next few sections we will explore various structures and tools you can use to reduce costs. However, they will only be effective if employees use them, so education is still key.

Every communication regarding healthcare and reducing prescription drug costs should be framed in the context of the benefit to the employee. Hopefully all of the best practices and all of your policies will help your employees as well as the company – so make that the heart of your messaging. This can turn a potential morale crisis into a boost in employee engagement. Your employees will appreciate your efforts to give them the knowledge and tools they need to manage their healthcare and save themselves money – and may not even consider the possibility that you are also trying to save the company money.

Empowering Employees

While education is vital, it is often not enough. You need to provide your employees with tools and resources to help them keep the cost of care low. Best of all, these tools can be presented as new benefits, making your employees feel valued and appreciated.

An easy tool to implement is a prescription savings card such as Clever RX. Here at Launchways, we partner with Clever RX to help improve the benefits experience for our client’s employees. Clever RX cards offer increased savings at pharmacies and work in conjunction with most insurance. Users save up to 80% on prescription drug costs and generally pay less than most copays. More than two thirds of people can save money with a prescription savings card, especially during an era of rising deductibles.

In addition to giving your employees a prescription savings card, you can also offer them a comprehensive healthcare planning tool like HealthiestYou. Launchways partners with HealthiestYou to offer our client’s employees access to quality healthcare services at a fraction of the cost of traditional healthcare channels. Using HealthiestYou, employees can search for nearby pharmacies and in-network providers and easily compare the prices of copays/deductibles at each option to reduce costs. They also receive regular reminders about benefits and savings, and can review their coverage information at any time through the app, making your job of educating your employees that much easier. Perhaps the greatest benefit of HealthiestYou is their telemedicine platform. With telemedicine, employees have 24/7 access to teleconference appointments with board-certified doctors. With telemedicine, employees can receive prescriptions for common health concerns with a simple phone or video call. HealthiestYou and other apps can save your employees and your company time, money, and stress.

The last way to reduce healthcare costs across the board by empowering employees is to offer preventative benefits. If you encourage healthy employee lifestyles, you can avoid many costs from medical visits and prescription drugs. An Employee Assistance Program offers confidential third-party guidance to employees to reduce their stress, help them cope with their struggles, and hopefully keep them out of medical harm. More importantly, wellness programs can reduce “lifestyle diseases”, a major cause of medical costs in the US. Fitness competitions, standing desk options, and access to gyms or nutritionists either onsite or at a reduced cost can help keep your employees healthy and off of prescription medications.

Providing Employee Incentives

While restrictions should be avoided whenever possible, as we will explore in the next section, you can provide incentives to push employees towards prescription drug best practices. There are a few key incentives that are effective and not overly burdensome.

First, you can create additional tiers of insurance to enable employees opt-in for greater coverage. This can increase cost-sharing significantly, and offering increased care is an easy sell even if it is at a higher cost. In particular, consider creating a tier that covers specialty medications. Specialty drugs represent 38% of prescription costs but only 1-2% of total prescriptions, so focusing on them can often be the most effective way of reducing expenses.

Drug formularies offer another powerful incentive to keep the cost of prescriptions down. They are essentially lists of drugs that are eligible for increased coverage and available at lower cost to the employee. You can work with your insurance provider and pharmacy benefits manager to put together formularies that best meet the needs of your employees and your company. Formularies are effective because they do not reduce coverage so much as they encourage intelligent decisions by offering additional incentives for generics and other cost-effective drugs.

Using Restrictions as a Last Resort

Many common cost-cutting methods punish employees, shift costs from the employer to the employee, or reduce the level of care. When there are so many ways to reduce prescription drug expenses that actually benefit employees, restrictions should be avoided whenever possible as they can cause harm, or at least inconvenience, to employees and damage employee trust in your company.

Even the perception that you are cutting coverage can cause morale to plummet, driving poor performance and high turnover as employees look for a company that they believe will provide greater benefits. This is why it is important to emphasize the benefit to the employee throughout the healthcare conversation, and avoid policies that genuinely reduce coverage.

That being said, some restrictions are acceptable options to use as a last resort when you need to reduce costs significantly or the other methods have proven insufficient:

  • Prior authorization before filling a prescription
  • Mandatory mail-order for maintenance medications
  • Medical justification for name-brand prescriptions over generic alternatives, or make employees cover the difference in cost between name brand and generics
  • Step therapy: allow employees to access the drugs they need but require them to try more cost effective treatments before stepping up to more expensive drugs

Managing PBM Relationships

One of the most effective ways to cut prescription expenses is to work with a Pharmacy Benefit Management company, or a PBM. These organizations negotiate with pharmacies, drug companies, and health insurance providers to secure rebates for specific drugs and keep costs low for their clients.

Currently, 65% of companies use a PBM to reduce their healthcare costs. If you are not one of those companies, then you should look into how a PBM can save you money on prescription drugs. But if you already work with a PBM, you can increase your savings by putting your relationship under the microscope.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you should never sign a long contract with a given PBM and you should retain the right to renegotiate the contract at any time. This keeps them on their toes and ensures that they will continue to work to get you new savings. It also empowers you to take matters into your own hands to correct any abuse by the PBM.

Once you have secured the ability to monitor and correct PBM behavior, you need to actively manage your relationship. Examine your contracts regularly and renegotiate whenever possible to make sure that the needs of your company and your employees are being met in a cost effective manner. Also, do not be afraid to research current trends and price compare with other PBMs to make sure that your relationship still makes financial sense.

Key Takeaways

We have covered a lot of cost-cutting strategies in this article, so here are the key things you can do to reduce your prescription drug spend:

  • Prioritize employee education around your benefits offerings
  • Inform your employees of best practices and coverage specifics
  • Empower your employees to save themselves time and money with tools like Clever RX, Healthiest You, and lifestyle benefits
  • Encourage your employees to follow best practices with new insurance tiers and drug formularies
  • Use restrictions as a last resort, because while they can be effective you risk alienating employees
  • Partner with PBMs to reduce costs, but consistently manage your PBM relationship to maximize the benefit to your employees and your bottom line
  • Work with an employee benefits broker that helps you build and implement a strategy to control prescription drug costs

In an age of rising drug prices, and higher co-pays and deductibles, many employers are cutting coverage to manage their costs. But the reality is that you can effectively reduce costs while helping your employees receive the highest level of healthcare.

Still Suffering From Open Enrollment Burnout? How to Avoid Headaches Next Year

Still Suffering From Open Enrollment Burnout? How to Avoid Headaches Next Year

Another open enrollment period has come and gone. Hopefully this stressful time of year went smoothly for your HR department and for your employees, but chances are your team is frazzled and your employees still have questions about the plans they signed up for. No matter how well you handled open enrollment, there are probably steps you can take to make things go better next year.

Why is it so important to get open enrollment right? Well, according to Aflac surveys, 80% of employees believe that their benefits package influences their engagement in their jobs and with their companies. Moreover, a majority of employees surveyed said that they were likely to accept a job with lower compensation but better benefits. Therefore, it is vital that you make sure that employees have access to their benefits, are fully informed about the range of benefits available to them, and feel positive about every part of the benefits enrollment process.

So how can you make next year’s open enrollment period more satisfying and less painful for everyone involved? All the answers you need are in the open enrollment period you just survived. Take a hard look at the past enrollment period to figure out what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what you can do to handle open enrollment more effectively next year.

In today’s post we will examine the key components of a successful open enrollment analysis, plus share a few best practices every team could benefit from:

  • Collecting Data
  • Identifying Trends
  • Analyzing Behaviors
  • Creating Actionable Next Steps
  • Common Best Practices

Collect Data

The first step to figuring out what to do next year is finding out exactly what happened this year. Hopefully you collected useful information during open enrollment, such as employee enrollment rates or the number of emails, meetings, one-on-one sessions, and calls between employees and internal stakeholders regarding the benefits options. What’s important to do now that the enrollment period is over, though, is to find out what employees and internal stakeholders thought of the process in order to identify pain points and preferences.

Some of the most important insights into your open enrollment procedures can come from soliciting feedback from employees. The best way to do this is to send surveys out to all employees who participated in open enrollment. Here are some key things to ask employees about in the surveys:

  • Ease of enrollment
  • Accessibility of information about benefit options
  • Perceived quality of benefit options
  • Areas for improvement
  • Preferred methods for enrollment and communication

In addition to talking to employees, you should also make sure to send surveys to your internal stakeholders – namely managers and members of the HR department – to see how open enrollment went for them. Be sure to include questions about:

  • Success meeting enrollment goals
  • Processes that went well
  • Issues that arose
  • Suggested procedures for next year
  • Ways to make their job easier during open enrollment

Identify Trends

Once you have collected enough data, it is time to analyze it to draw inferences that will allow you to plan for next year. You should look for trends in survey responses that indicate either successes or challenges during the enrollment period.

Some common trends that you may encounter in employee surveys that you should take seriously include:

  • Confusion regarding benefit details
  • Dissatisfaction with benefit options
  • Frustration with the enrollment process itself

Things to look out for in your survey responses from internal stakeholders are:

  • Answering the same questions over and over
  • Not knowing who to direct employees to for further information
  • Difficulty tracking enrollment/other systems issues

Analyze Behaviors and Processes

Behind each trend is a behavior or set of behaviors that drove the end result for your employees or stakeholders. In many cases the good or bad behaviors and processes will become evident as soon as you identify the trends, others may require further interviews with troubled survey respondents to identify.

The same trends can also have different behaviors behind them that will become clear upon further investigation. Take, for instance, the example of employee dissatisfaction with benefit options. You have a serious issue when a lot of employees are not happy with the benefits offered to them, since benefits are key to employee performance and retention. In some cases, your benefits package may need to be reviewed and expanded. Most of the time, however, employees’ dissatisfaction stems from not being clearly informed of the full range of options available to them. Taking the time to explain the options and how they provide for employee needs can nip this issue in the bud.

General categories of behaviors and processes to examine in explaining each trend include:

  • Distribution of benefit option information
  • Communication structures and behaviors
  • Availability of resources for employees, managers, and the human resources team
  • Enrollment process – did employees enroll on paper or online?
  • Enrollment tracking

Create Actionable Next Steps

For each behavior that you identify in the previous step, you should create actionable next steps to improve the enrollment process next year. Think about how you can prevent the issues that came up this year, what new practices you can establish to make the process easier, and how you can preserve existing positive behaviors so that they do not get lost over time.

You shouldn’t put off implementing new best practices until next enrollment period. Make a game plan for how you can prepare for open enrollment over the course of the entire year. Set quarterly and monthly goals and keep yourself, and your team, accountable to that schedule.

Let’s continue the trend/behavior example from the previous section and look at some actionable next steps you can take to address employee dissatisfaction with benefit options. The first step you can take is to follow-up with survey respondents to find out exactly what they thought was lacking in the benefits package. If it turns out that the options actually include many of the things that they want, then you know you have a communications issue. So, create a plan for how you can address the issue over the time from now until open enrollment closes. This might include a monthly newsletter featuring benefits options, establishing one-on-one meetings with each employee to determine their needs and find the plans that meet those needs, or creating a new benefits handbook.

Common Best Practices

Each company’s challenges are unique, but there are some things that most people can do to make open enrollment as productive and pain-free as possible.

Get Employees Ready in Advance

Take the opportunity to highlight your benefits package and boost employee engagement by providing clear and positive information about benefits options. Create easy to digest reference materials, make the HR team and insurance brokers as accessible to employees as possible, and hold open meetings explaining benefits year-round. Also, make sure that your managers have the information they will need well ahead of time, because their team members will come to them with questions as soon as open enrollment starts.

Establish Effective Processes

Track as many metrics as possible in real-time during open enrollment next year, so that you can correct issues immediately and minimize post-enrollment follow-up. You should examine your benefits processes every year, but try to make your job easier next year so that you do not have to do as much data collection.

Also, set up clear communication procedures and do not deviate from them. That way employees know where and how to get more information about their benefits options and you can avoid costly mixed messages and wasted time.

Make Compliance Easy

Keep your team members happy by making ACA compliance as painless as possible. The best way to do this is to take a look at how you document coverage offers. If you don’t have a standardized, streamlined, and electronic way of tracking coverage offers, it’s time to investigate different software options. Record keeping is a pain, there is no reason to make your team’s job harder. Also, make a plan for when you are going to send employees information necessary for compliance, such as the Summary of Benefits and Coverage and the Uniform Glossary. The more formalized the process is, the less likely you are to let something slip through the cracks.

Communicate Year Round

Even if you have your open enrollment procedures down, there are probably things you could do year round to make your lives easier come enrollment time and provide employees with more information, more regularly.

The best way to do this is to send a benefits newsletter every month or quarter, or to regular email updates on benefit options and policy changes. This way, employees will have access to more information when the time comes to choose their benefits, without being overloaded with information all at once. The sad truth is that the majority of employees spend less than an hour reading about available plans and choosing their benefits. So, giving them information in more manageable pieces throughout the year can help prepare them more effectively than providing more information than they will use at the start of open enrollment.

Sending regular updates can also make your internal stakeholders’ jobs easier too. It can be hard to record all of the policy changes that occurred over the past year; newsletters give you a reason to record the changes over the course of the year rather than all at once when open enrollment is approaching. The newsletters or emails will also become valuable resources for your team to direct employees to in order to answer common questions.

Key Takeaways

In this post we have explored how to analyze your processes to make sure open enrollment gives you less of a headache next year. Some key takeaways include:

  • Track data during open enrollment and collect information from employees using surveys
  • Identify issues and successes from last year
  • Figure out the behaviors and processes behind the trends
  • Create a plan for next year to correct the bad and improve on the good

What practices has your company implemented to make open enrollment easier and more successful? Share your tips in the comments below.

The Open Enrollment Checklist You Need for Success This Enrollment Season

Open enrollment season can be a stressful time of year, but it doesn’t have to be. The team at Launchways has put together an open enrollment checklist that will help make sure your team has a smooth enrollment experience.

Planning ahead for enrollment season

  • Conduct employee surveys to determine workforce healthcare and benefits preferences. Leverage survey results to make relevant changes/additions to your benefits program.
  • Consider offering additional benefits beyond healthcare and life insurance. These might include telemedicine, a student loan assistance program, employee discount program, or a financial wellness platform.
  • Consider offering new benefits, even if they’re 100% voluntary. Many employees highly value the option to partake in voluntary benefits.
  • Work proactively with your broker on plan design changes to ensure all changes are completed well in advance of open enrollment time.
  • Consider leveraging an online benefits enrollment software. Benefits administration software allows your enrollment to go paperless and provides educational tips to help your employees pick the right plan for their family’s needs.
  • Make a list of all new changes that will enhance your benefits program and/or enrollment process. Make a plan to communicate these key highlights with your team.
  • Create an enrollment communication strategy. Determine all the communication channels you will use and what materials you need to create for open enrollment.

Ensure your employees receive all the necessary communication materials including:

• Open enrollment schedule
• Statement of current coverage
• Plan-specific changes and rates
• Plan-specific summaries
• Open enrollment guide and forms
• Deadline for open enrollment
• Contact information for key contact in case employees have questions or need additional help

Plan Design Issues

• Confirm that your plan’s out-of pocket maximum complies with the ACA’s limits for 2019
• For HDHPs (high deductible health plans), confirm that the plan’s deductible and out-of-pocket maximum comply with the 2019 limits.
• Communicate any plan design changes to employees as part of the open enrollment process.

When in doubt, ensure the following key pieces of information are being communicated to your team during open enrollment time:

• Enrollment deadlines
• Where/how to enroll
• Healthcare provider information
• Changes from the previous year

Remember that the key objective of open enrollment is to get all your employees enrolled on-time for the benefits plan that’s best for their family’s needs. A strategic communication plan can ensure employees know when and how to enroll, and can even help them pick the best benefits plan for them. Keep in mind that minimizing confusion during open enrollment time is key. This is why proactively communicating plan changes is important.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth guide on how to conduct a successful open enrollment, make sure to register for our upcoming webinar “How to Have a Successful Open Enrollment.”