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7 Common Open Enrollment Mistakes

enrolling in benefits

Enrolling in benefits is far from a pleasant task. For employees, it can often feel like there is too little time and too many choices. For employers, it can feel like they have to wrangle cats.

If Open Enrollment has felt too overwhelming, perhaps you’re doing it the hard way. Find out what you can do to turn a corner when enrolling in benefits.

1. Bad communication

Bad communication comes across in multiple ways.

In a culture which increasingly relies on digestible electronically-based information feeds, paper materials are becoming obsolete. Even emails are decreasing in their effectiveness. The all-too-familiar format of words in chunky paragraphs on a screen are predicted to come in second place to nimbler forms of communication like videos and self-guided benefits tutorials.

According to Lisa Beyer, associate director for Willis Towers Watson Communications Practice, “The workforce is changing, and organizations that don’t embrace digital communications run the risk of looking archaic and out of touch among younger generations who are more tech-savvy.”

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, use communication best practices and follow a communication strategy.

2. Unequal share of voice during enrollment meetings

Health benefits commonly have a greater share of voice than pre-tax benefits during enrollment meetings. But most employees are already aware of benefits like health care, dental and vision.

It is imperative to present a comprehensive health care picture where pre-tax benefits come alongside existing insurance plans as another savings tool.

Get employees started with Why Should I Enroll documents.

3. Poor timing for spouses with benefits

It can be difficult for companies to take employees’ spouses’ benefits into account. While the timing of benefits cannot necessarily be controlled, employers can offer specific instructions on how the benefits offered might pair (or are not allowed to pair) with a spouses’ offerings. Additionally, communicating major changes early can help close timing gaps between spousal enrollment periods.

4. Not enough guidance on election amounts

There is a high level of pressure to make sure all I’s are dotted and T‘s are crossed before Open Enrollment ends. This is true for both employees and employers.

For employees, one of the largest stressors is choosing the appropriate amount to elect for Flexible Spending Accounts. However, time for employees to sit down and “do the math” is limited.

When enrolling in benefits, circumvent this common mistake by providing time at enrollment meetings to do the math. Start by providing example profiles of people with an FSA. Then take the last 5 minutes of the meeting to let employees calculate their own expenses.

Get the ball rolling with this free online FSA Calculator.

5. Two weeks (or less) and changes are locked in for a year

Benefits are unique because there are only two weeks to make the decisions that will last for the remainder of the upcoming year.

With other large purchase decisions, such as cars or homes, we have no such time limit. Yet with healthcare, only two weeks out of the 52 in the year are given to this decision.

While you can’t change the fact that Open Enrollment is only two weeks, you can use the other 50 weeks wisely.

Educate employees year-round with blogs and tools like the eligible expense lookup tool. This keeps the benefit front of mind and helps employees learn what they used, what they didn’t use, and what they might want to change in the coming year.

6. Offering too many options

Research has revealed that presenting fewer options to employees help them. This is known as the Paradox of Choice. By reducing options, employees have to expend less mental energy.

The result?

They make better decisions that they are less likely to regret later.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, by decreasing options, you can increase adoption.

7. Excessive use of jargon

Jargon is a pet peeve for most of us when others use it. But many of us have been guilty at some point in time of lapsing into benefits jargon. It’s easy to do when we experience such a high level of exposure to it on a regular basis.

But employees need to hear the English version. Especially newcomers to the workforce. Check out how you can bridge the generation gap and improve communication.

Turning a corner

Which common benefit mistakes are you guilty of committing? If you can identify it, you can begin to overcome that one and turn a corner for the next Open Enrollment season.