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TIPS ON PREPARING FOR OPEN ENROLLMENT

September 28, 2017 | By Jeremy Bornstein

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It's probably safe to say that open enrollment is one of the most stressful times for the Human Resources team.  Many companies start getting ready for the new benefits season the minute the last season has ended...and then again, some companies find themselves with only a few months (or even weeks) to plan.

overwhelmed

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Either way, the top challenge for open enrollment is in communicating to employees just what their choices are. Many employees take a passive role here, simply rolling over their benefits packages year after year. But according to the Midwest Business Group on Health, nearly 75% of employees regret their decisions later in the year, with 42% stating that they lost money because of those choices.

How can a company define, clarify, and simplify the open enrollment process to employees so that they can choose the benefits that best suit their needs?

Here are our top tips for helping your most important asset—your people—get the most out of company benefits.

1. MAKE COMMUNICATION TO EMPLOYEES CLEAR AND EASY TO COMPREHEND

  • Start by sending an email announcement that the benefits period is coming soon. Then, use multiple communications channels to make sure you reach everyone.
  • Pull your marketing department in to design and write benefits definitions and descriptions. After all, their job is to create concise and compelling materials—something the HR department may not have as a primary skill set.
maarketing design

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  • Consider organizing content to your employees by life stage. A newly married employee or a new parent will have different interests and needs than one who is within a few years of retirement.

2. GET PERSONAL

  • Offer brown-bag sessions, and lots of them, to answer questions.
  • Make sure your employees know that they can always come to you for one-on-one sessions.
  • Hang out in different departments at various times of day so that your employees know you’re available to them.
webinar

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  • Offer webinars for eligible remote and part-time employees, with archived copies for anyone who wants to review the material. And be available by phone, Skype, or videoconferencing for them, so that they have similar access to you as the people in your office.

3. MAKE FORMS EASILY ACCESSIBLE

  • You of course have all necessary forms on your company intranet—don’t you?
  • Whenever possible, provide forms that can be filled out online—from work or home or from the cafe down the street. Your IT department can set this up for you so that information remains private and secure.
  • If a form must be hard copy, provide PDFs along with online forms, and place all forms (replenished daily) in an easy-to-find place in each department.
checklist

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  • Provide a checklist so that employees don’t inadvertently skip an important form.
  • Remind staff of the enrollment deadline in every place you can think of—table tents, postcards taped to the inside of bathroom doors, on banners near the elevator banks—really, everywhere one or more are gathered.
people at whiteboard

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4. EXPLAIN CHANGES

  • If your benefit plans have changed, let employees know about their new options—and the sooner the better. This is also helpful for new employees, as well as for those who are juggling possible competing plans offered by their spouses’ companies.
  • Remember that it takes time for employees to sift through, and understand, their options. Make sure that managers fully support their team members and give them the time they may need to take to adequately review and choose.
  • Nip legalese in the bud. While it’s important that your offerings be compliant, too much legal jargon will make your employees glaze over and push their materials (and their decisions) aside.
  • New program types—think on-site offerings, tele-health, and wellness programs—are great for your staff. Make sure they know about these voluntary benefits—and since they usually can be accessed at any time, communicate reminders throughout the year, not only during open enrollment.

5. TEST YOUR SYSTEMS

IT help

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  • In addition to the usual IT department checks for stability and load testing (to make sure the system doesn’t crash under heavy use), consider bringing in some employees or do more formal usability testing with an outside vendor to make sure your staff will understand the navigation and how to use the system.
  • If there are rough spots, this is the time to straighten them out. This will save time and employee frustration later on.

6. IF YOU’RE IN THE WEEDS…

  • Consider hiring an outside vendor to handle open enrollment if you're understaffed.

7. WHEN IT’S OVER…

  • Take a break, and then do a post-mortem, while the process is still fresh. Send out a survey to your team and your employees to find out what they liked and what needs improvement.
  • And then start thinking about next year.

Want to power up your HR department's communication strategy year-round? Check out our blog, 4 Tips for Real Engagement.

 

Sources:

https://www.mbgh.org/ctk/newitem31/openenrollment

https://www.benefitfocus.com/blogs/benefitfocus

https://www.forbes.com/sites/adp/2016/10/17/4-tips-to-help-employers-prepare-for-open-enrollment/#53e345d39107

http://www.winstonbenefits.com/The-Employee-Benefits-Blog/bid/201012/6-Ways-to-Prepare-for-Open-Enrollment-Season

http://www.holmesmurphy.com/2017/09/enrollment-employee-engagement-worries-try-7-tips/?utm_content=buffer6bcc6&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/open-enrollment-tips.aspx

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