4 types of questions to ask employees during open enrollment season

As an HR professional, employee happiness is in your hands. And nothing makes or breaks that happiness more than open enrollment season, when employees come together to choose the benefits they’ll use for—at least—the next year. Open enrollment is your chance to connect employees with benefits that will give them happiness and peace of mind in the coming year.

To connect an employee with the right benefits, you need to ask the right questions. Here are the four types of questions you should ask your employees during this crucial time:

1.  Ask personal questions.

During open enrollment season, employees are actually less likely to discuss their options with the HR department than they are to discuss them with family or coworkers. Employees often avoid speaking up in information sessions because they are uncomfortable talking about their family, health, or financial status in public.

Unfortunately, employee happiness suffers when employees stay quiet. By engaging with each employee one-on-one using a survey, you can get them talking and, ultimately, help them find the plans that work best for them. Figure out exactly what each employee needs with personal questions like:

  • What happened in your life last year?

Under this question, list relevant life events like marriage, childbirth, sending a kid to college, and taking on caregiving activities. This question gives you a clear picture of how the employee’s needs have changed since the last enrollment season.

  • What are your expected health care needs this year?

Is the employee planning to have a child? Does their teenager need braces? Does someone in their family need long-term care? When you know the answers to these questions, you can point them toward the appropriate health care, dental, or caregiving plan.

  • Do any family members depend on you financially?

For some, life insurance is an essential benefit that protects the financial future of their families. For others, it just doesn’t make financial sense. Figure out who needs information about company life insurance plans by asking about each employee’s dependents.

  • Do you plan to save for retirement this year?

You’d probably encourage everyone to take advantage of the company retirement benefits (and rightly so), but some employees have other plans for their future. Figure out who needs more information about the company retirement plans by asking if they’re saving.

  • Which benefits are most important to you?

Don’t beat around the bush. Instead, come out and ask your employees which benefits are important to them. Ask employees to rank each benefit—health insurance, retirement, bonuses, vacation days, gym memberships, etc.—in order from most to least important. The results might surprise you.

Get a clear picture of which benefits your employees truly appreciate—and which benefits they could live without—by aggregating all the answers to this question. Use this information to sync employee and company priorities going forward.

2.  Ask employees to rate their current plans.

Does the employee love the preventative care that comes with their HMO health plan? Are they digging their low co-pays for PPO care? Find out what makes them tick and what ticks them off by asking them to rate their current plans. Use this feedback to steer them toward plans that better serve their needs.

Under this prompt, list all the company’s current plans, with boxes to indicate how satisfied the employee is with each plan. Include an N/A option for plans the employee is not enrolled in.

3.  Ask about comprehension.

Some employees dread open enrollment season. According to a study done by Namely, roughly one third of employees say that constant changes to their benefit plans frustrate them. A fifth say that the legal jargon in plans leaves their heads spinning. Many end up making their choices without fully understanding their options.

Give each employee a chance to seek clarification by asking them how well they understand each plan. List every plan your company will offer this year, with boxes to indicate whether or not the employee understands the plan. Use this information to determine which employees need extra help.

4. Ask for feedback.

So, how well did you do? Follow up with employees after open enrollment season ends with a feedback survey that asks questions like:

  • How satisfied are you with the choices you made during open enrollment?
  • Did you have enough time to make an informed decision about your benefits?
  • What would have made the information sessions more useful?
  • What could HR have done better during open enrollment?
  • What would you like to see included in your plans next year?

Take the answers to these questions into account as you begin planning for next year’s open enrollment. Namely found that 31% of employees give their employer up to a measly “C” when it comes to their handling of open enrollment. Exceed employee expectations by reaching out to them for feedback. Then, use that feedback to improve the way you handle open enrollment season.

Curious to understand employee engagement in more depth? Learn how SurveyMonkey Engage can help your team monitor and improve employee engagement over time using actionable insights.