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Take the time to make the most of open enrollment, expert says.

Is your credit union making the most of open enrollment?

According to CUNA Mutual Group Employee Benefits Brokerage Sales/Retention Manager Brad Pricer, credit unions are missing out on a great opportunity by setting their open enrollment season on automatic pilot.

"Lots of times credit unions and other businesses as well see open enrollment as something to just get through quickly," said Pricer. "It is a great opportunity for credit unions to communicate and educate employees regarding the benefit plans they provide."

He added that surveys show there is a strong link between an employee's understanding of benefits and satisfaction with the benefits provided. In addition, there is a strong link between employees' satisfaction with their benefits, their loyalty to an employer and the ability for the employer to retain employees.

"The open enrollment period can help credit unions take their communication with employees to the next level and increase their understanding of the process and the full scope of benefits their credit union offers," said Pricer. "For example, credit unions in general tend to offer plans that are richer, and they pick up more of the cost of health plans than others and that stems from their overall philosophy. It's important to show employees the value of such benefits in addition to their salaries."

He said it can be as simple as showing staffers a compensation-benefits statement that reflects salary and what the credit union picks up in terms of costs for benefits offered.

"Sometimes when employees are selecting their options, they only see the amount they have to pay and don't appreciate what the credit union is providing to offer those plans and make them affordable for employees," said Pricer. "That conversation can help them better understand the real value of their benefits and can increase employee satisfaction and loyalty."

Given that the information to be delivered during open enrollment can be pretty dry, Pricer said there are ways to better engage employees ranging from incentives like offering a candy bar for the first five questions asked or prizes such as a CU logo T-shirt based on how well staffers understand benefits, to splitting the medical coverage portion out into its own session.

"In general not as much attention is paid to voluntary products because employees are so concerned with the health plan coverage that credit unions might want to consider having a second off-cycle enrollment that focuses on voluntary products and services," said Pricer. "Employees can take the time to determine which products and services can really benefit them."

For those credit unions that don't have a dedicated HR department, Pricer said to consider partnering with local experts. For example, inviting a representative from your insurance carrier to help answer staffers questions about the medical plans offered.
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Author:Di Giovanni, Myriam
Publication:Credit Union Times
Date:Nov 18, 2009
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