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Time for Open Enrollment

Originally posted by Susan M. Heathfield October 15, 2013 on http://humanresources.about.com

Open enrollment season is upon us, and as employers, we have an obligation to educate our employees about their benefits. Not just a “nice to,” to help employees make good choices for their families, this education also lets employees know what their employer is spending for their benefits above and beyond their base salary. This helps employees understand and appreciate their complete compensation package.

How confused are employees about their benefits?According to Forbes, “How confusing is it? Three-quarters of Americans admit to making mistakes during open enrollment, according to a 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report. Just 40% of employees feel well-informed about the benefits their companies offer, and less than half (46%) feel their HR departments are extremely or very knowledgeable about those benefits, Aflac found.”

This is why I have written about how educating employees is critical for their understanding and so they make good choices about coverage for themselves and their family. But, benefits are definitely misunderstood. In one recent study, employees estimated that benefits added 30% to their employer’s costs to employ them. In fact, the figure was 43%.

I recommend an annual evening benefits review event, so spouses can attend, that emphasizes the cost of the benefits and how employees can best take advantage of the benefits they have for themselves and their families. You want to promote employee appreciation of their benefits.

What better time to offer such an event as during open enrollment when employees are making changes? Employers are already making insurance representatives available to talk to employees – or they should be – as employers are not benefits experts and should trust professionals that they have vetted. Why not extend an educational opportunity?

To provide the basics about open enrollment and to emphasize some must do areas for employers, I email interviewed Erich Sternberg, president of AlwaysCare Benefits of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Take a look at our interview for a concise overview of open enrollment. Additionally, Erich supplies a list of steps he recommends every employee take during open enrollment.

Additional information about open enrollment is available from About.com’s Michael Bihari, MD.