It's the busy time of year for all benefits managers and HR experts - like tax season for accountants. As part of that, we wanted to review the goals and considerations of open enrollment and take a new approach to the classic employer problem - balancing increasing benefits costs with value.
Before we jump into ways we can approach open enrollment, let's cover the basics.
What Does Open Enrollment Include?
Open enrollment benefits are always changing, but a few key elements are always at the top of the list for employees including:
- Health Plans
- Retirement Plans (401k)
On top of those, you will see other auxiliary benefits (FSA, HSA, commuter, etc.), life insurance and disability coverage, just to name a few. Your corporate vacation policy (paid vacation, number of days or the new great trend of unlimited vacation) might be under review as well. This is not only a time for employees to designate their yearly health plan options, but also the right time for employers to review the goals of their offerings. Furthermore, how can we steer away from just clicking "yes" in a box and really decide what works best for your company and employees?
What are the Goals of Open Enrollment?
All of us are here for one simple reason - to support strategic business goals and therefore promote company growth. Benefits are a key ingredient in this process. Why? You might have your own reasons, but these sure have some influence:
- Ensure your employees are working at the highest level and maximizing their productivity. This might seems disconnected from your open enrollment goals but when you consider each year $225 billion is lost due to worker illness and injury, it sure connects the dots.
- Make or keep your company relevant in a very competitive job market and therefore ensuring that your benefits offering is in line other companies in your industry. You don't want to lose out to the competition so in that way, benefits are becoming a requirement to play.
If you can do that, at a low cost, it seems like a win-win for employers and employees. Easier said than done, as health plan costs increased. Likely the reason 29% of employees are enrolled in High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs).
While the processes in place are designed to meet the same goals, and we are in no way suggesting a change here, with cost getting more expensive, employers are being forced into a corner which results in decreased benefits or increased costs. This situation is not ideal for anyone, so let us suggest another perspective.
Year-to-Year Mentality of Open Enrollment
Comparing benefits value vs. benefits costs is becoming increasingly difficult, especially as you review the same key attributions year-over-year. By only looking at a 12-month time frame, you are stuck in a depreciating loop. Short-term costs are increasing while the value remains the same, who can make sense of a poor ROI like that?
Changing your benefits ROI to a longer time period, even if employment tenure stays the same, can help provide new angles and perspective for open enrollment. Will your healthcare options help provide value for your employers in 5 years? Will your 401(k)? Some of these have more obvious answers (or limitations), but looking at healthcare, providing value over the long term might help change your offerings, employee education, and their ultimate open enrollment selections.
Long-Term Considerations and Open Enrollment
Common practice is to start with health plans when you review open enrollment options. They are the cornerstone of your benefits offerings and are likely the highest cost, as an employer. The problem is these benefits only last for one year. Their costs continue to increase and they provide no long-term safety net for your employers.
Starting backward with other health benefits, like an HSA, will provide a new perspective and allow you to find new ways, low-cost ways, to increase the benefits value of open enrollment. Re-thinking open enrollment can help you create benefits value that will build long-term savings for your employers a little or no cost to you.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.