A bad benefits renewal period can cause turbulence, employee angst and unnecessary expenses for a company.
But such a scenario is preventable by following some basic steps to ensure that a business has an effective benefits renewal process, one that works for both the company and the employees.
Steve Hall, Market President of Alltrust Insurance, said there are several steps a company can and should take to ensure a successful renewal cycle.
“The employer spends a ridiculous amount of money on health insurance,” said Hall, who also is a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist through the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “Being proactive in getting over hurdles through a lot of good communication is essential to making complicated renewals work well.”
He maps out a five-step process for accomplishing this.
1) Plan before and after. Schedule a pre-renewal meeting several months ahead of the expected renewal. This diminishes time pressure that frequently arises otherwise. This should be a constructive, thoughtful conversation looking at what changes are needed and what options are on the market now. And then after renewal has taken place, companies should consider a post-renewal meeting to review how it went and strategize how to move forward between that point and the next renewal date. “This basically becomes an ongoing process of communications,” Hall said.
2) Communicate early and often. Once the company and its insurance team know the direction that the benefits are going, the company or its representatives should begin communications with employees. Healthcare reform is creating a lot of stress for people worrying about what their benefits will be. More upfront communications with employees alleviates much of that pressure and creates happier and more productive employees.
3) Organize the employee meeting. Sitting down ahead of time and planning out the renewal meeting that will take place with employees can iron out many kinks that might otherwise arise. Communicate the plan changes to the employees and develop a meeting method that works for the employer and employee.
4) Prepare enrollment meeting answers. During the enrollment meetings, companies or their representatives should have information on hand about what benefits plan each employee is currently enrolled in. This allows on-the-spot comparisons for the employees and primes them to ask questions at that time. The questions can be answered immediately when the benefits experts are on site, which reduces employee worry and increases company efficiencies. Online access to employee benefit plans is particularly helpful. “We can be prepared to answer the questions and the company can be more effective,” Hall said.
5) Keep up the communications. Even after enrollment, it is important for companies to communicate with employees leading up to when the new plans go into effect. There are many cracks things can slip through without ongoing rapport with employees. “We send out an email that employers can cut and paste into internal communications explaining when to refill prescriptions or set doctors appointments,” Hall said.
Firms such as Alltrust can create efficiencies in helping a company's human resources staff manage the complicated benefits renewal process. This allows the HR professionals to focus on the daily needs of the company — a sometimes invisible benefit to the process.
These steps limit upheaval, allowing a company to focus on its core product or service.
“Whether a company has 10 or 1,000 employees, some of these items can be overlooked and it can become a fire drill at renewal time,” Hall said. “That is hard on everyone and can end up costing a company money.”