A new survey suggests that many employees give their company’s yearly open enrollment process low marks. The survey, by HR software company Namely, found that more than a third of surveyed employees gave their company a “C” grade or worse when it comes to open enrollment.
According to the survey results, the biggest causes of open enrollment frustration are 1) constant changes in plans, 2) open enrollment information that is hard to understand, and 3) a rushed process.
"These survey results underline the urgency for HR departments to invest in a better open enrollment experience,” says Matthew Monahan, VP of benefits for Namely. “Employees want great benefits choices, ample time to make their selections, and a knowledgeable HR representative.”
The survey provided several interesting insights into how employees view their companies’ open enrollment period. For instance, it found that many employees do not see company HR reps as their first choice to talk to about open enrollment decisions. “Only 1 in 5 employees say they consult their HR representative. Instead, they turn to coworkers and family members to help make plan selections,” the report said.
According to Monahan, it makes sense that workers talk to those close to them when considering health insurance options. “It’s no surprise that family members top the list, since employees must select benefits that work for their whole family, and may be comparing plan options to those of a spouse,” he says. “The eagerness to consult co-workers suggest that there’s also social proof at play—employees may assume that their peers’ selections are a good fit for themselves as well.”
But he added that HR departments can build trust by improving communication about insurance options, including “town hall”-style meetings to discuss plans, and by making sure that employees know that HR personnel are available for consultation.
In addition, the survey findings suggest that employees are much more interested in good health insurance than company perks. The report says, “72 percent of employees are willing to give up perks in exchange for better health care benefits.”
The study also finds that employees lack understanding of how much their company is contributing to their insurance costs. “Employees vastly underestimate how much employers spend on health care,” the study says. “Fifty-three percent of employees think their employer spends under $5,000 on their health care benefits annually—where the average per-employee spend in 2016 was $8,669.”
Monahan suggests that companies take steps to remind workers of employer contributions in all benefit communications. “You can share that information in-person (during company-wide meetings) and in all written collateral,” he says.
Finally, Monahan says the issue of employees feeling rushed during open enrollment is something employers can easily address. He suggests providing a full month for the process. “Employees were quite clear that ample time is something they want during the open enrollment process,” he says. “Our data shows that employers typically give employees 19 days, or just shy of three weeks. Current trends are not far off, but adding in that extra week could go a long way in helping employees make the best possible decisions.”