ment period. The newsletter contains information on the
open enrollment period, plan changes, reminders and
rate information, and is posted on our website, emailed
to associates and mailed to associates’ homes.
At the same time the benefits newsletter is issued,
we unveil our benefits website for the next plan year.
This is an Internet site, allowing access from anywhere.
It contains all information related to our plans, includ-
ing plan summaries, rates, summary plan descriptions,
links to provider directories and vendor contact infor-
mation, allowing associates and their partners to review
the plans in detail.
Since we cannot hold benefits meetings at all of our
locations, we utilize “Dial and Learn” sessions — a com-
bination of a visual piece (PowerPoint presentation),
audio (presented by a member of our corporate benefits
department) and question-and-answer time. These ses-
sions provide an overview of the benefits offered and
any changes that are occurring, and offer the chance to
Lastly, open enrollment reminders are continuously
supplied through intranet postings, emails, postings on
our HRIS system and a postcard mailed to associates’
PROVIDE A PERSONAL BENEFITS COUNSELOR
The best thing we did
was contract with Jel-
lyvision to offer a per-
sonalized benefits enrollment
experience for our employees
this past open enrollment.
We were introducing major
changes in the form of a new higher-
deductible medical option and tying
healthy behaviors into the employees’ costs. We ana-
lyzed our 2009 enrollment and observed that many
employees were enrolled in a copay option that was
costing them more than the benefits they were receiv-
ing. Jellyvision’s “David, Your Benefits Counselor” tool
enabled employees to model their expected medical
expenses versus their contributions and more accurately
select the option that met their needs. We were able to
shift 10% of our population out of the copay options as
a result. We plan to use “David” for 2011 as well.
GLORIA W. DANA, AVP,
HR services, Norfolk Southern
Corporation, Norfolk, Va.
MAKE INFO ACCESSIBLE WITH QUICK HITS
Itron is a technology provider
to the global energy and util-
ity industries. Going into open
enrollment in 2010, our manufacturing locations were
running flat out 24/7 trying to get orders out the door.
Pulling employees from the manufacturing floor for an
director of benefits, Itron,
Inc., Liberty Lake, Wash.
hour was going to be too disruptive to the business, so
alternative methods were necessary. Our software, en-
gineering and professional services staff was equally
stretched on a variety of projects and installations.
We felt that print and email messaging wasn’t going
to be sufficient. We had introduced a spousal surcharge,
which naturally resulted in plenty of questions, and we
had premium changes, plus a couple of vendor changes
and a new wellness program component to communi-
cate. On top of that, we also did an electronic beneficiary
designation campaign and had to communicate the
pertinent health care reform-related changes.
We relied on our local HR business partners to talk
up the changes at a local level, often using opportunities
like 10-minute “Tool Box Talks” to update employees on
the key changes and to assist with the online enrollment
process, which for most employees who only use the sys-
tem once a year can be daunting. We also used for the first
time a slide deck with recorded voice-over that talked to
the points on the slides that was then played on monitors
in our break and lunch rooms and posted on our intranet.
The presentation was just 15 minutes and hit the high-
lights of what employees needed to think about.
We supplemented this with our traditional methods
of open enrollment communication, namely a com-
prehensive printed benefits guide supplemented with
weekly Benefit FYI emails to reinforce the key points.
We saved thousands on travel costs by not doing
face-to-face presentations. More importantly, we man-
aged not to disrupt the business operations too much,
although employees still had to find time to make their
online benefit elections.
START EARLY WITH PASSWORD REMINDERS
Our open enrollment
very early (September)
with reminding associ-
ates to be sure to have their user name
and passwords for the enrollment site
with the third-party administrator
we have used over the last six years.
Postcards are sent to all associates’
homes to remind them and their fami-
lies of needed information and that enroll-
ment will begin soon.
associate VP and manager,
employee benefits, Davidson
Companies, Great Falls, Mont.
ONE-ON-ONE CHATS INCREASE TRUST AND
Getting the word out via webi-
nars, sophisticated open en-
rollment systems and email
is great, but our inboxes are
starting to get saturated with
too many links and informa-
tion that “we’ll get to later.”
How many employees have
human resources manager,
Paddock Publications, Inc.,
Arlington Heights, Ill.
claimed to have never received that companywide e-
mail that you sent? Emails tend to cause employees’ eyes
to glaze over, particularly when they just want to work
on what they know.
If your company is small enough or you have enough
onsite HR reps to do the old-fashioned walk around to
talk up open enrollment and changes to your benefit
plans for the coming year, nothing compares to it.
The first year I visited all of our locations and visited
each cubicle, I saw an increase in our flexible spending
accounts of over 20%. This is because employees would
bring up questions and situations when I talked to them
one on one, and that would open the door to discuss why
they weren’t using an FSA.
My mouth always drops when I hear about compa-
nies that just hand out a packet of information to em-
ployees and expect them to translate it on their own.
Employees will make wrong decisions, and those deci-
sions can negatively affect the business as well.
If employees understand what is being offered to
them, job satisfaction increases. If they have a person
to go to with questions, instead of an 800 number, the
HR department gains the trust of the employee. We
can be more than just the face of layoffs and policy en-
forcement. An in-person chat that shows that you are
concerned with their health and financial well-being
illustrates the positive side of HR.
TURN EMPLOYEES ON TO VENDOR WEBSITES
While health and wel-
fare carriers and 401(k)
vendors have devel-
oped great websites to
access information about plan provisions, coverage lev-
els, wellness benefits and plan assets, a relatively small
proportion of employees regularly visit those sites.
With this in mind, we decided to do an educational
“Web Day” associated with annual open enrollment.
To provide information on the “webs” of our various
vendors, we invited their representatives in to do dem-
onstrations and actually get employees up and running
on their respective websites. Concurrently, open enroll-
ment information was available for plan participants.
The event itself had a “Spiderman” theme with our
a announcement posters “catching various Web ad-
dresses” in a virtual web. With the Web-related theme,
we recycled some Halloween decorations and also gave
away Spiderman t-shirts as door prizes to those who at-
tended presentations and tried websites. The cost was
really minimal compared to the turnout we had.
director of compensation
and benefits, North America, Sun-
rise Medical, Longmont, Colo.
USE ENROLLMENT COORDINATORS AS POINT
The City of Austin takes a
hands-on approach in educat-
ing and assisting its more than
11,000 full-time employees
employee benefits division
manager, City of Austin,
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