The average American accesses over 30 apps on our smartphone each month. We use them to do everything from learn a new language to look up movie times.
But has your company considered the powerful role apps can play to engage employees in their benefits? Don’t be afraid of an apps-based open enrollment. It may be just the thing to target tech-savvy, time-crunched employees.
Enrollment at Their Fingertips
Did you know Americans spend more time interacting with smartphone apps than watching TV? Sure, some of that time might be spent playing Fortnite or Minecraft, but there are more productive uses of app time.
There’s a strong chance the third-party software you use for open enrollment has an app. Instead of selecting and monitoring benefits from their computers, employees chose them from their smartphones. This may be the secret to reach today’s busy, on-the-go workers. If a large portion of your workforce isn’t deskbound, an open enrollment app makes benefits selection easy.
Apps are key to educate employees about their benefits. Trion’s iBenefits app puts control right in employees’ hands. They can securely view their plan information whenever they want and contact carriers with a simple click.
Meet employees where they are (on their smartphones) and they will value you as an employer. Take the time to communicate the ease of use of these enrollment apps. They help employees stay engaged in their benefits.
Employee procrastination can be a challenge to meeting deadlines. Why not give employees the nudge they need? Some third-party apps send push notifications to remind staff about important open enrollment dates.
Do it Yourself Apps
If you want more control over the features of an open enrollment app, or if you are feeling adventurous, you can create your own app. Proprietary app development is more expensive and time-consuming than using off-the-shelf employee benefits apps. Yet, it offers some convincing pros.
Customized apps offer greater security and easier integration with your existing software. If your employees’ make benefits choices through your company intranet, then a complimentary app may work best. With a DIY app, you control the features and maximize how you engage employees in their benefits.
For the highest quality results, hire a professional app developer. Search for developers with knowledge of employee benefits and experience creating similar apps. The upfront expense of someone with app-building expertise ensures all the kinks are ironed out upon launch.
Communicate About Carrier Apps
After open enrollment, continue the conversation around apps. Do your employees know most carriers offer an app? They can access ID cards, find doctors and schedule appointments, check HSA or FSA balances, and more. Apps aren’t limited to medical carriers. Employees can check and adjust 401(K) balances, get supplemental life insurance quotes, and book conversations with EAP counselors from the palm of their hands.
Your role as their employer is to teach them about these options. Create educational pieces, like short, instructional videos that walk through the apps’ functions. Or, combine in-person and digital education and host a meeting that showcases how to download and access the offerings. Teach employees how they can stay engaged in their benefits with apps throughout the year.
You always need to consider the communications preferences of all your workers. An open enrollment that’s only apps-based would not work. Add apps to the mix of communications options, like online guides and printed booklets and face-to-face meetings. You know your staff best. Tailor your open enrollment communications approach to meet their needs.
It may be too late to introduce apps for this year’s open enrollment. However, it’s not too early to think ahead to next year. What do you want the future of enrollment to look like?
It’s October. Haunted hayrides scare eager customers, pumpkin patches are filled with jack-o-lanterns waiting to be carved, and stores are stocked with sugary treats. Yes, October means Halloween is right around the corner!
It’s also time for your company to introduce open enrollment season. As a conscientious human resources professional, you put a lot of diligence into crafting your benefits offerings. Your company’s carefully written benefits guide might answer the questions: Is this an active or passive enrollment? Are there new insurance carriers? Will medical premiums increase next year?
Yet, the real question is: Which Halloween candy best represents your company’s benefits?
This candy is old-school chocolate goodness. No fancy add-ins; it has tasted the same for generations. A Hershey® bar represents basic employee benefits.
Maybe your company offers only one medical plan option. Maybe your company does not contribute money for workers’ health savings accounts if they elect a high deductible health plan. Maybe the long-term disability offering is 100% employee-paid instead of funded by the company. Maybe telecommuting is not an option for workers at your organization.
Hershey® style benefits take care of workers’ baseline needs. These employee benefits are all about simplicity. Smaller or newer companies may start out with simple benefits as they get off the ground. With Hershey® bar offerings, the key is in the presentation. Benefits communications should be dynamic and engaging. With streamlined benefits, your company can offer non-monetary perks, like casual dress or summer half-day Fridays, to show employees they are valued.
This candy has it all: Nougat, caramel, peanuts, and chocolate. A Snickers® bar represents the full suite of employee benefits.
Medical, dental and vision insurance at various price points? Check. Basic and supplemental life and long-term and short-term disability insurance? Of course. Accident coverage to help pay for trips to the emergency room? Definitely. Health care, dependent care and transportation flexible spending accounts? Certainly. Employee assistance program to offer work-life guidance? Sure. Company match for the 401(K) savings plan? Affirmative. Parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child? Absolutely.
Keeping pace with the competition matters in recruitment and retention. Snickers® style benefits offer something for the widest employee demographic. Not every worker will enroll in each benefit. Offering possibilities creates and maintains a satisfied workforce.
This candy’s chocolate and coconut combination is not for everyone’s sweet tooth. But it does have its loyal followers.
A Mounds® bar represents out-of-the-box employee benefits. Your company offers employees the chance to buy supplemental long-term care insurance. That benefit is attractive to the sandwich generation. Between caring for aging parents and raising children, they need to think about their own future. Your company has a student loan repayment program. Such a benefit is golden for recruiting and retaining Millennial and upcoming Gen Z employees. Members of the Class of 2016 graduated college with an average debt of $37,172, according to Student Loan Hero. Your company takes care of its workers’ furry friends by offering voluntary pet insurance. Vet bills can add up, so this coverage gives employees peace of mind. The organization could have a pet-friendly office, so instead of finding a pet daycare, employees work alongside dogs and cats.
Not every corporation offers benefits like these and they make yours stand out. Mounds® style benefits appeal to fringe groups of employees. Your company offers standard benefits too, but uncommon offerings make workers feel appreciated.
Hershey®, Snickers® or Mounds®? No matter the flavor of your employee benefit offerings, they should sweeten the deal to hire and keep the brightest workers.
In annual open enrollment communications, many organizations must explain why employee contributions have risen and coverage has changed. In our work with our clients, we see firsthand the tensions of benefits professionals. They try to offer the highest quality benefits while preventing higher costs from passing on to employees. This challenge of getting value for the money is echoed in many areas of employees’ lives outside the workplace. There is a widening gap between income and expenses that everyone is trying to address.
Fortunately, companies and employees alike are embracing Voluntary Benefits in greater numbers. Voluntary Benefits allow employers to offer a more robust benefits package to their employees. In effect, they help them “mind the gap.” They give employees the positive feeling of customization. Employees pick and choose the specific benefits that meet their needs. Coverage options range from life insurance to pet insurance to dental and vision plans; identity theft protection; even legal services and financial counseling. Voluntary Benefits are employee-paid but employees conveniently pay premiums through payroll deduction.
If your organization offers Voluntary Benefits, you should put extra effort into communicating their value to employees. You can raise awareness and increase participation in these valuable parts of your benefits offerings.
Help Employees Mind the Gap
If your employees don’t closely track their household finances, they might not understand certain life events could impact their budget. It’s important to emphasize the overall increase in the costs of services for everything from an x-ray to an hour of legal counsel. When presented with the total, employees may see a need for additional protection.
Explain How Each Benefit Works
Take a look at the average company’s benefits communications and you’ll see its medical plan(s) front and center. Once employees wade through information on deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, fatigue might set in when they reach the Voluntary Benefits section. It’s important to connect Voluntary Benefits, like critical illness or accident coverage, to your company’s medical plans. The location of such messages in your benefits booklets can remove some of the effort to create the connection for employees.
You should also consider creating additional, separate communications emphasize your Voluntary Benefits offerings. This will give you the opportunity to explain how each benefit works in more detail. This is a great opportunity to reinforce how each Voluntary Benefit fits into your company’s overall benefits philosophy. You want to use positive associations to help employees view Voluntary Benefits as possible solutions to the income/expense gap.
One of the strengths of Voluntary Benefits is that they provide great value when compared to the cost that comes out of an employee’s paycheck. Give employees scenarios in which the benefits could potentially help cushion the impact caused by a life event. Call attention to the coverage amounts so that employees understand what would be available in each situation. If you are able to paint a clear picture, you increase the chances the scales will tip in favor of employees enrolling in the benefit.
As summer draws to a close, I’m gearing up for open enrollment season. Communications consultants and HR staff face the brunt of challenges during the season.
As a designer, I manage much of the production, print fulfillment and mailings. Designers don’t develop tactics, answer employee questions, or oversee a large campaign. We have our own challenges to face. Let’s take a look at what goes into creating client campaigns throughout the season.
Our communications team talks to our consultants to discuss which clients are returning. We review how those clients received last years’ tactics. We ask what we can do to improve those tactics or propose fresh ideas to install for their new campaign.
Have any of our clients had any major changes to their business? Mergers, growth, down-sizing? Do any of the clients’ materials need a refresh? We could discuss with them the possibility it’s time to consider a major campaign update. As clients update brand guidelines and add new benefits, does their content look like a hodge-podge of updates? Also, we take stock of what new clients have knocked at our door. Out of all the proposals we made over the winter and spring, which client looks promising? What is the possibility of new clients that we never even took into account?
As we get deeper into August, we begin to get a better view. We fill in spreadsheets with more detail and assign staff to clients. Clients start to confirm their open enrollment dates. We talk to our printers and ask for revised quote, trying to get better prices and securing press space. By now, all last year’s files have been cleaned up and are ready to go. We hold weekly meetings to bring new team members up-to-speed and discuss the tactics and concerns of our clients.
We begin to research new clients to interpret their brand guidelines and capture their aesthetic . Working with clients’ design, marketing, branding and HR staff , we create templates for their new content.
For current clients requesting a re-design, we put the finishing touches on their revised look. The team is familiar with clients’ previous challenges, letting us to prepare the changes that will come to their plans.
Most importantly, we rest and take time off, while things are still calm.
Once Labor Day passes, the pace has begun to change, rapidly. More and more emails go between consultant and client. Things are begging to go into layout. Drafts pass back and forth. Printers and quantities are confirmed. Postage estimates start to come through. Finally, by the middle of the month, you realize open enrollment is here.
The first few campaigns make their way to press and mailing invoices need to be paid ASAP. Small, inevitable delays in production cause jobs to be sent to press a day late. But, our always savvy printers have already taken delays into account and fulfill requests by the mail date!
When I first came onboard, open enrollment was described to me as a wave. Just before it comes to shore, there is a drawback, then a small surge, then before you know it you are riding the crest of the wave. Before you know it, the wave has dissipated and you are back in the calm again. It’s really the best analogy I’ve ever heard for the period.
By now we are riding the crest of the wave. If you have done your homework and worked your best to prepare, it’s a blast. While everything is down to the wire, the rush of rapid turnaround does not leave any time for indecisiveness. We make decisions quickly and hammer out projects with speed and efficiency. It’s not unheard of to have daily deadline. Hundreds of emails that need your attention and response flood your inbox. The headset of your phone is permanently attached to our ears as we call printers with last minute changes and updates on any delays.
As October closes, things begin to wind down. We still ride the wave, but it’s lost much of its energy. Final jobs make their way out the door. We see print samples and mailing seeds. Our focus moves from communications to the implementation of employee benefits by the end of the year. Campaigns draw to a close and by Thanksgiving, things are ‘normal.’
Of course, with all our prep, our open enrollment season will be text book perfect! I’m prepared, are you?
Gratitude: That’s what I’m feeling right now. We come to the office every single day in the hopes of working with great people, doing meaningful work, and making a difference. And I’m delighted to say, in 2016, we did it! Thanks, in great part, to all of you.
Which is why, as we bring this year’s Open Enrollment and holiday season to its festive close, I want to give a big THANK YOU to those who’ve touched our practice, helping us do what we do. Thank you for entrusting us with your business, your time, your challenges, your opinions, your faith, your support, your ideas, and your collaborative genius. Thanks for sharing with us all the things that make you uniquely YOU. We look forward to doing it all over again next year!
Until then, have a very happy holiday season. Enjoy. Sleep in. Eat a lot. Give presents. Read a book. Hug your friends, shop the sales, and get your fill of holiday movies. Do your thing. And we’ll see you in 2017!!!