Tis the season . . . open enrollment season that is!

By Susan Saldibar

If you Google something like “employee insurance needs” or “open enrollment, what do your employees need” you won’t get very far. You’ll see plenty of articles that educate the employees on questions to ask employers. But, sadly, not the other way around.

Enrollment season can be an uncomfortable time for employers because, on one hand, you know that your staff may have issues with your current insurance plans and yet you want to move forward with as little disruption as possible.  

But, according to Michael Johnson, VP of Research at ServiceTrac, a Senior Housing Forum partner, the start of a new year is the perfect time to air things out with employees and get to the bottom of any nagging issues. The insurance open enrollment period is an ideal time to get things started.

The Problem With Procrastination and Avoidance

“When we look at something like budgets, everyone knows that they need to deliver an accurate budget at the end of the year,” says Michael. “Yet when it comes to employee health insurance and how well it’s being received and utilized, there may not be that same sense of urgency. There is a tendency to hunker down and hope to make as few changes as possible.”

That means a missed opportunity to add value to your employees and the organization, according to Michael. After all, health insurance is a huge part of employee benefits and avoiding a thorough annual vetting could actually cause damage to an organization, often in the form of:

  • Spending money on “benefits” that no one is using

  • Having unbalanced coverage that leaves key areas inadequately covered

  • Perpetuating cumbersome procedures and restrictions

  • Alienating employees who will begin to look outside for better options

This last point is even more critical as senior living communities jockey for position to attract and keep talented teams in place.

How to Turn Open Enrollment Around to Your Advantage.

“Senior living communities need as much support as possible in their efforts to keep their valuable employees engaged and working effectively,” says Michael. “Regularly inviting employee input, especially on matters as important as health insurance, can have a positive impact across the board.”

Here’s what Michael suggests:

  • Devise a survey strategy that schedules regular input from employees

  • Use a platform that is flexible and easy to administer

  • Make sure the process protects the privacy of all employees

  • Use a mix of formats, including “open ended questions” to encourage spontaneous, free-form responses

  • Ask for permission to share responses

The important thing is to make sure that you set aside enough time to properly analyze the results of your surveys and, even more importantly, that you share the results with the team.

Too often, especially during hectic times of the year such as open enrollment, organizations scrap the employee survey process altogether.  That, Michael tells us, is a mistake. “It sends the message to employees that ‘we really don’t want to hear anything negative,’” he says. And the result is one we are all familiar with: a hastily put together meeting with a presentation, hand outs and about 20 minutes for Q&A.

Good Policy, Good Marketing

No one understands the inter-relatedness of surveys to employee satisfaction better than the people at ServiceTrac, the originators of some of the most sophisticated survey platforms in the industry. By the way, they have even created a special open enrollment survey that can be deployed quickly with a fast analysis of the findings.

But regardless of which survey platform is used, the bottom line, according to Michael, is a stronger organization. “When a senior living community consistently encourages employee input and uses it to improve their organization, those employees are not only happier and more dedicated; they will also tell their friends and colleagues,” says Michael. “And, in the end, that’s not only good policy; that’s good marketing.”