It's not just employees who are overwhelmed by the complexity of benefits programs. Employers are, too. But the use of some tech tools can reduce confusion and simplify the enrollment process for everyone.
Last winter, the Guardian's Annual Workplace Benefits Study reported that six out of 10 employers reported feeling "overwhelmed with the increased complexity of managing their benefits programs." Despite communication and education being seen as a top priority for employers when it comes to benefits programs, they were still listed as a top "pain point" in the study.
An earlier survey from The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that nearly half of employees didn't understand their benefits packages. Given that employers are feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of benefits programs, it should come as no surprise that their employees find that they're in the dark.
With open enrollment season upon us, HR professionals are looking for ways to effectively communicate information on their benefits options. After all, good benefits are essential for attracting and retaining employees. They are also crucial in boosting company morale, employee wellness and employee engagement. In today's competitive job market, job seekers have the upper hand as organizations are focusing more attention on offering benefits that differentiate themselves from the competition.
While the pressure is on HR to make sure that they're effectively communicating benefits information during open enrollment season, that pressure is seldom accompanied by an increase in resources. This creates a demand for HR to operate more efficiently. By turning to technology, HR professionals can increase efficiency in communications and HR operations.
Consider expanding your communications portfolio
Open enrollment generally means that there will be an all-hands meeting with stand-and-deliver presentations and lots of handouts. With increased value of live Q&A sessions, such forums present an efficient way for HR to inform a large audience about what is in the benefits package.
While answering questions in a large staff meeting can solve problems for many employees, some employees may have personal questions they would prefer to ask privately. Answering these questions one-on-one can be time-consuming and tedious, but bringing these questions online can save time for both the employee and the employer.
Add chat to the mix. In addition to offering in-person one-on-ones, chat can be a very effective communication vehicle for fielding personal questions, especially if you have remote employees. Chat is an increasingly familiar and comfortable communication method, especially for millennials who now represent a large percentage of the workforce. Chat sessions can be saved so that the employee can review them at a later date. There will always be situations in which employees may be reluctant to reveal highly personal details in chat mode and will prefer to speak face-to-face, but offering a chat function can free up time to dedicate to more personal conversations.
Go paperless. Employees will dutifully collect all the paper handouts you offer about benefits, but, unfortunately, most will end up in the recycle bin. Instead, put the benefits information in searchable PDFs so employees can get directly to the information that matters most to them. Utilizing technology improves accessibility for everyone involved, allowing employees to easily search through plans to see which ones their physicians take part in and which prescription drugs are covered.
Seeing is believing. People absorb information in different ways. For some, their eyes glaze over at the sight of the written word, while others best absorb complex information when it is presented in video format. If we've learned nothing else from YouTube, it has been that you do not need to be a sophisticated and skilled videographer to make a compelling video. An illustrated PowerPoint presentation that is light on boring bullets and heavy on strong narration can also get the point across.
Go social with social media. While you may not want to let the entire world know what you are up to, people are used to communicating and sharing on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. There are functions on all of these platforms to set up private pages, open only to employees. For example, take a look at Workplace by Facebook – a familiar platform, which can be made exclusive to your organization. You can also set up a protected Twitter feed or an internal blog to communicate benefits info.
Use technology to simplify the enrollment process
When it comes to communicating benefits information, technology can provide HR with a tremendous boost. Technology can also be used to simplify – and improve the quality of – the benefits enrollment process. An online portal greatly reduces the errors that occur when information is transcribed from paper forms. Being able to enroll (and get detailed benefits information) through an online portal also makes it easier for an employee to work on it from home, and include their partners in the decision-making process. With an online portal, HR administrators can get real-time updates on the progress that their employees are making in filling out their benefits forms, and send alerts to those who are running behind and in danger of missing key deadlines.
The complexity of today's benefits programs can be overwhelming. Taking advantage of technology for both communicating and enrolling can greatly simplify the process, taking the stress out of the open enrollment process for HR and employees alike.