Employee Benefits

Football, Fall, and Open Enrollment

Morgan Young
Morgan Young
Employee Benefits

This is my favorite time of year! The college football season is underway, the weather is starting to turn slightly cooler, and open enrollment meetings are right around the corner. I bet it’s not too hard for you to guess which one of these things is not like the others.

For those of us in the trenches, why do we dread open enrollment season? Much like fantasy draft picks, don’t we spend most of the year strategizing about our plans? We have numerous conversations about the budget, and hours of work go into making sure you have the best possible benefits in place for your employees. You’ve worked hard — it’s time to be proud of what you are offering. It’s also time to change how we present these benefits to employees.

Here are some thoughts on how to make your open enrollment more user friendly this year:

  • IMO, don’t use any acronyms. Period! Today most Americans can’t even define terms like “deductible,” “copay,” “premium,” and “coinsurance.” Why is that? We don’t do ourselves any favors during open enrollment either by getting up in front of employees and using terms they’ve never heard before. Instead, use examples that people understand in their day-to-day life. For example: When explaining a high deductible health plan, compare that to someone’s personal savings account — when there’s money in the account, it is theirs to either use, invest, or save for a rainy day. Or equate a medical deductible to your car insurance deductible — the first $1,500 is on you. Make it relatable.
  • I was talking to someone recently about giving scenarios and examples…I was in a meeting recently where the carrier rep droned on for 20 minutes about the high-level benefits — not stopping once to do a pulse check and see if what they were saying resonated with the crowd. Spoiler alert…it didn’t! Give your employees real-life examples so they can easily see how the benefits will work in certain situations. One of my customers did three separate examples — a single younger employee, a mother with two children, and a family of six. They walked through office visits, prescriptions, wellness visits, surgeries, and speech therapy to show how each would pay under the plan(s). It was rewarding to watch employees begin to understand how their benefits could work for them and their unique situations. Many of them made different plan elections than they would have without the examples!
  • I didn’t want to mention this, but don’t avoid the tough topics! I was presenting at an open enrollment meeting earlier this month, and an employee asked why I didn’t address their mental health benefits. It was an eye-opening miss. I try to be a champion of mental health and helping individuals find the assistance they need and here I was avoiding it in my presentation. Hit the hard topics! We won’t begin to change the stigma on mental health if we don’t even reference it in open enrollment.
  • Put on your party hat and make it fun! OK, I get it…open enrollment and fun don’t seem like they should go in the same sentence. But, think about a time when you had to learn about a complex and difficult topic. Did you want to hear someone talk at you for 55 minutes or did you want to have an opportunity to ask questions, to answer an online quiz/knowledge check (check out Kahoot), and to laugh? A $5 gift card goes a long way to getting folks to interact and listen.

Try lightening up your presentation with some pictures. It’s a requirement at Holmes Murphy that we have at least one dog picture in our presentations. You can keep the information informative and educational while still providing a little comic relief.

We generally get one or two times a year to explain benefits to our employees. Take the time this year to make it memorable. So perhaps when someone needs to use their benefits, they recall the only fun open enrollment meeting they’ve been to!

Best of luck to you in my favorite season of the year and Gig ‘Em Aggies!

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