HR.com: New Year, New You: Mastering New Hire Onboarding for 2017
The new hire onboarding process is a heavy lift for HR teams and has many moving parts. A lot weighs on this process – statistics show that 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with the company for at least three years after a great onboarding experience.
Companies with a standardized onboarding process experience 54 percent greater new hire productivity and 50 percent greater retention. For employers, it’s critical to make a great first impression on new hires and ensure their transitions are as seamless as possible. That puts even more pressure on HR teams to master one of the most daunting tasks associated with new hire onboarding: benefits enrollment.
Too often, a company’s new hire process for benefits consists of a brief overview of an employee’s options and a stack of paper for the employee to sift through before making an important, year-long decision. The rapidly changing health care landscape, in particular, requires individuals to take a more active role in coverage choices – and employees are feeling the heat.
Unfortunately, many employees don’t have the information they need to make good decisions and aren’t likely to seek it out on their own. An Aflac study revealed that nearly 80 percent of Americans spend less than an hour researching benefit options, and more than 55 percent spend less than 30 minutes.
Many employees feel lost when picking plans due to lack of education– and choosing the wrong plan can have year-long repercussions for employees and employers alike. The same survey also found that more than half (54 percent) of employees estimate they waste up to $750 each year because of mistakes they made with their insurance benefits.
Worse, a 2015 article in Forbes, citing Mass Mutual’s 2015 Employee Benefits Security Survey, reported that the struggle to manage their finances and employer-provided benefits are distracting employees at work. Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president of MassMutual Retirement Services and Worksite Insurance, was quoted as saying, “What is good for the worker is good for the employer in this case. A worker with their financial house in order is a happier and more engaged employee that can focus on their work.”
The new year is the perfect time for employers to refresh their new hire onboarding processes. Not only will it streamline procedures and help new employees get the support they need to make the right choices to meet their families’ needs, but will also keep them focused and productive at work.
Here are four tips to help employers refresh their approach to new hire onboarding in 2017:
- Take the Time to Educate. Make no mistake – employee benefits are complicated. Even the most sophisticated, experienced and well-educated employee can be overwhelmed by the choices available, the jargon and the calculations needed to determine which coverage is truly the most cost-effective. Taking time upfront to explain options to new hires beforethey select a plan can help reduce unnecessary costs for both employer and employee and provide some peace of mind. After all, we can’t expect employees to act like consumers until they understand what they’re buying and what they’re really paying. Salient CRGT, Inc., a provider of Agile software development, data analytics, mobility, cyber security and infrastructure solutions, realized this when trying to engage employees on their benefits options.
“It’s up to employees to understand and customize what they need, but they don’t often invest the time to do so,” said Kay Curling, chief HR officer at Salient. “If employees are choosing their plans without the help of an educator, they typically look at price first. Too often, they’ll look at one with the lowest premium, which likely means the plan with the highest deductible and out of pocket costs. If they haven’t taken the time to fully analyze what is best for their personal needs, they may end up selecting a plan or product that is not a good fit.”
- Personalize the Conversations. Health care is not “one-size-fits-all” because every employee’s circumstance is different. No amount of software can address every possible scenario; one-to-one conversations create more interactive, inviting environments where employees can ask more questions and better understand their options. This will become especially crucial as millennials emerge in the workplace – according to MetLife’s 2016 U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 68 percent of millennials prefer one-on-one benefits counseling.
“Most new employees are given summaries of benefits during the interview process, they might ask one to two questions, which are rarely detailed, and then they have 31 days to choose,” said Curling. “But we have a complex benefits environment and no person can navigate without help. Nothing can replace the interaction between the knowledgeable benefits educator and an informed consumer. This conversation helps our employees make educated decisions about their benefits.”
- Ensure Consistent Messages. It’s important for the company to have a consistent message to avoid confusion or miscommunication amongst the enrollees. Whether you have a benefits staff of three, 30 or 300, every member of the team needs to be on the same page to ensure that new hires are receiving the same information across the board. When communication is consistent, both HR and employees save time as the process is more effective and efficient.
Additionally, employers should develop communication plans and comprehensive, current materials that provide employees with up-to-date information about the benefits available to them. It’s helpful to break down which coverage plans or combinations are often appropriate for different stages of life, and also provide tips about telemedicine options, wellness programs and other programs that can help reduce or offset out of-pocket costs.
- Boost frequency of communication. Maintaining an ongoing dialogue and checking in with employees throughout the year helps everyone stay on the same page and updated with the most current company benefits information.
“With personalized, one-to-one education, our employees feel well-equipped to handle certain health emergency situations and know what to expect based on their plans,” said Curling. “We’ve learned that our employees are making smarter health and benefit decisions, ultimately saving themselves and our organization time and money.”
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(Bart Yancey is the chief executive officer at DirectPath.)