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With many employers completing their benefits open enrollment at the end of the year, it may feel good to step away and work on something else. However, addressing the challenges that came up during your last open enrollment and getting ahead of them now can ensure a smoother and more efficient process in the future.
Enrollment can be stressful for both HR departments and employees due to tight deadlines for the employee to make decisions. With tight deadlines, employers are under pressure to communicate in advance and effectively. Efficiency and clarity are key here. Only with clear, correct information and enough time to digest it will employees and their families gain a better understanding of the varying components of coverage they may need to manage their own healthcare.
Inefficiencies in the benefits enrollment process can create frustration and costly rework for HR, employees, and even benefit vendors like health insurance carriers. HR and benefits professionals reconcile premium invoices from benefits carriers and ensure employee enrollments and payroll data are accurate. This effort is often done manually which can lead to billing errors discovered too late because of manual spreadsheet-based auditing or reconciliation processes.
These errors can make their way through payroll to employee paycheck deductions, alarming employees and requiring more manual work on the part of HR to fix the issue. Manual auditing and reconciliation can introduce other costs as well. HR may miss or not remove employees who are no longer on benefits plans and continue to be billed for them. In fact, a SHRM article titled “Automation Can Help Reduce Cost of Benefits” cited Nucleus Research’s data that there is a 25% error rate on some open enrollment applications. The article also shared from Aberdeen Research that up to 15% of invoices from benefit carriers contain serious errors.
With the increase in remote workers, this makes the HR team’s job even tougher. Remote workers are much harder to engage. This fragmented information flow is compounded if their employer is less tech-forward and lacks appropriate communications channels to disseminate information effectively across their workforce. Trimmed-down HR staff burdened with manual processes or workarounds from inefficient technology may be challenged to answer employee questions. Out of necessity, they are forced to deliver broadcast messages to urge participation which adds to employee frustration.
Employees may not know the value of their benefits or how to access the specific components they may need to reference after the open enrollment period ends, such as second opinion programs, the Employee Assistance Program, and mental health resources. Targeted communications throughout the year, and a technology platform that makes finding information easy, can help employees take full advantage of their benefits.
Rather than a smooth, seamless experience, the wrong technology or lack of HR and employee understanding of how to use it can lead to a reactive, uncoordinated benefits enrollment process. HR staff has to find workarounds, such as uploading benefits changes directly to insurance carrier portals, or manually updating information in HR, Payroll or Benefits.
Open enrollment technology may be just a small part of an overall HRIS system within a technology-based Human Capital Management (HCM) strategy. As a result, it may have limited capabilities and not be “best of breed” for delivering exceptional user benefit enrollment experiences while also being easy for HR teams to learn and use.
To deliver an efficient and effective employee benefits enrollment experience, employers need to fully deploy helpful technology and communications throughout the year, not just during event-based milestones. Only with the right technology and clear information, will employees get the most out of the benefits package. As well, HR departments can move away from manual information collection that introduces errors and administrative waste.
With more than 10,000 clients managed across our National Employee Benefits Practice, Risk Strategies delivers the high-quality, cost-effective, and compliant benefits programs and solutions employers need and employees value. For more information, please contact us at email@example.com.