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Top 3 Misconceptions About Open Enrollment

How employers handle benefits open enrollment is becoming increasingly critical to the success of any business. In the current competitive job market, benefits have more weight than ever as tools to attract and retain top talent. If employees are unhappy, they’ll look elsewhere for the benefits they want. But this also means that if they like their benefits, they’ll probably stay — 75 percent of employees say that a good benefits program is more likely to keep them at a company. This is why it’s critical not to fall prey to misconceptions about what benefits to offer and how to communicate with your employees about open enrollment.

So what can organizations do to ensure that employees understand and appreciate their options during open enrollment? Here are three of the most common ways employers get it wrong — and how to move past these mistakes.

1. Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Status Quo

The misconception: Most employees reevaluate their benefits choices every year.

The reality: When bringing new health plan offerings to the table, employers often fail to grasp the inertia that drives the decision-making process for most employees. Without prodding, many employees tend to simply keep their same benefits or ignore some benefits entirely, even if new options are available or their needs have changed.

How to address it: Emphasize the possible cost savings associated with different plans, as other means of motivation are less likely to inspire employees to look into which benefits best fit their needs. If you’re keeping old plans as part of the overall offering to employees, make it clear that these are legacy plans and there may be newer options to review. Find different ways to communicate options to workers so they understand the importance of an annual review of their benefits plan.

2. More Benefits Options Are Not Always Better

The misconception: Providing a wider array of options to choose from will lead employees to make better choices for their needs.

The reality: There are some indications that a la carte voluntary benefit options are effective at appealing to employee audiences — but only up to a point. Employees can zero in on the options relevant to them across offerings, ranging from cancer care to legal services and pet sitting. But providing too many options within employer open enrollment requirements and core health plans can lead to analysis paralysis — and employees may simply end up staying with their current benefits rather than wading into all those other options.

How to address it: Consider your benefits offerings carefully, making sure not to overwhelm workers with choices. Strongly differentiate plan options so that employees can quickly and easily see the choices and establish their preferences.

3. More Content Does Not Always Lead to More Informed Decisions

The misconception: When offered more information, employees will use all of it to make their benefits decisions.

The reality:
Some people won’t even consider reading a book if it looks too thick. Initial open enrollment communication to employees that comes in the form of unbroken stretches of legalese will drive employees away in droves. Sure, a 10-page FAQ may be comprehensive, but a single page listing the top five FAQs is going to be more widely read.

How to address it:
Lead with clean-looking and highly scannable content, balancing out the text with images. Make sure the most essential information is at the beginning — don’t feel the need to lead up to a big conclusion where key data will get buried. Consider how much information employees in certain situations will really need — some people just know that they’re going to sign up for the high-deductible plan, and they don’t need much more than a brief summary in order to move on. Instead of writing at length on every aspect of every plan, provide links that connect employees who want to know more with detailed resources. This scaled approach allows initial contact with content in ways that invite readers to receive more information but doesn’t insist upon it.

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There are more pitfalls in the time leading up to and during open enrollment than are listed here, but consider these tips a road map for avoiding the worst of the misconceptions that unwary employers fall victim to.

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