With so many employees now working remotely, it can be difficult to communicate with them about benefits during the open enrollment period, and even more difficult to communicate benefits offerings to new employees.
“The pandemic has really changed companies’ approach to benefits, and it’s more important than ever to have a structured onboarding process for benefits enrollment and the open enrollment period,” says Michele Hanzak, Employee Benefits Team Leader at Zito Insurance Agency a Division of Risk Strategies. “To communicate the plan to all employees, you need to plan ahead, especially if enrollment will be handled virtually.”
Smart Business spoke with Hanzak about how employers can assist new employees with initial benefits enrollments and how to handle the open enrollment process when you can’t meet in person.
How has the enrollment process changed in the era of COVID-19?
In the past, enrollment was done on site with the broker and an insurance carrier representative available to present information and answer questions. Now, those meetings are done virtually, if at all.
Some employers are opting out of formal meetings to instead provide memos of benefits changes and other information for HR to distribute. This has created new challenges for HR to get paperwork into the hands of employees, answer questions for both new and existing employees and review available offerings. As a result, it is critical for employers to reach out to their benefits provider for assistance.
What steps can employers take to help the process move more smoothly?
Set aside a day to review available benefits, and involve your benefits adviser. Also, provide all benefits-related documents to employees ahead of time — at least 30 days — to give them adequate time to review, discuss with family and formulate questions.
With face-to-face interactions, there have always been a lot of questions, but that hasn’t been the case with virtual meetings. HR managers, when scheduling these virtual meetings, should make sure that employees understand this is their time to ask questions and delve into the offered benefits. And make it mandatory for employees to attend these virtual sessions to ensure they understand their benefits.
Post all benefits documents on your company’s intranet — benefit summaries, payroll contribution information, enrollment forms — so employees can review materials when they have questions and they know who to contact for additional information. In addition, including videos online allows employees to review benefits programs and access information at any time without having to request assistance from HR.
Using an electronic enrollment administration system allows employees to complete multiple forms at one time, entering their personal details just once. These programs help reduce the errors that can occur when employees are completing multiple forms, then submitting them to carriers, which are retyping the information. Digital enrollment allows you to improve accuracy, efficiency and uniformity. This decreases the chance for claim denials due to data entry errors.
How can a benefits adviser help employers guide employees through the enrollment process?
Advisers have access to tools with an enormous amount of information regarding benefits, HR and compliance. They can customize documents to your company’s unique situation and assist with enrollment meetings.
Rely on your benefits adviser to walk employees through benefits available to them. Your HR person wears so many hats and can’t be expected to be an expert in benefits, too. An adviser is available throughout the year to help employees not only understand the benefits available to them but also how to use those benefits to help be a better consumer and use the plan more effectively. That can help lower claims costs and yearly plan increases, keeping costs down for both the employer and employee. ●
INSIGHTS Business Insurance is brought to you by Zito Insurance Agency a Division of Risk Strategies