3 Tips for A Successful Open Enrollment Season

Sep 07, 2017
| Anissa Kurtz
open enrollment tips

It’s hard to believe, but we are already in September. While all months are critical for businesses, the autumn months (September, October, November) are especially important for many employers and their employees. This is because annual benefits open enrollment occurs in the fall of each year.

For most employers, open enrollment is an extremely hectic time of year. This is especially true for companies that don’t have a clear plan in place for how to approach the employee open enrollment process. It can also be stressful for employees, even more so if there are benefit plan changes or updates.

As an employer, how you approach open enrollment is crucial to having a successful process. This includes how you communicate with employees to ensure they understand the benefits being offered and address their concerns.

For organizations of all sizes, there are a few ways to improve the open enrollment experience and ensure that the process goes smoothly. Let’s look at three tips to make your open enrollment season a success this year.

1) Have an Open Enrollment Strategy

Any substantial business initiative will have a clear and concise strategy behind it. Companies shouldn’t treat open enrollment any different. Having a strategy in place will help employers stay on track, be organized, and ensure that nothing is overlooked.

When creating your strategy, there are a few important things to remember and include:
  • Do you have a specific goal or goals for open enrollment? It could be to increase participation or improve employee engagement. Many employers are starting wellness programs offering incentives for successful completion of activities and programs that improve their overall health and wellbeing.
  • How will you achieve your goal(s)? Know what successful completion of your goal(s) looks like and work your way backward to develop a project plan or roadmap for how you will get there.  Make sure you know what tasks need to be completed to make it to the finish line.
  • Obtain support from your senior leaders. No company-wide strategy can succeed without support from the top. Partner with senior leaders in the development and execution of the strategy. Their buy-in will demonstrate a commitment to the strategic direction.

2) Clear Communication Is Critical

A big part of your open enrollment strategy is communication. Employers need to communicate with their employees to ensure that all information is provided and questions are addressed promptly.  Providing all necessary information, including any upcoming changes and important dates, should be among the first communications sent to employees. Frequent reminders should also be sent. Develop a communication plan with targeted distribution dates and deadlines. Consider the following:
  • Who’s Your Audience? – Don’t forget that open enrollment doesn’t just affect employees, family members are also impacted. Be sure to keep this in mind when coming up with a communication plan.
  • What’s Your Messaging? – How do you plan on reaching out and informing employees of important information and dates? In addition, some employees may require different communications depending on plan changes or updates.
  • Is Anything Changing? – This is a big one, as it can cause some concerns for employees. Fully understanding what changes are coming will help you craft communications and plan ahead to ensure employees aren’t stressed.
  • Are There Any Corporate Objectives? – If your company wants to increase the participation in a certain program, such as a wellness plan, understanding how to communicate this and how to track success is important.

3) Educating Employees Is a Must

Open enrollment can be a stressful event for employees, especially those who aren’t as savvy about benefits as others. This becomes even more critical if there are plan or coverage changes. Once you’ve communicated what’s happening, educating employees on their benefit options is a must for all employers.

Employers of all sizes should hold benefit enrollment and information meetings to discuss the benefit options available. Employees are going to have questions, especially if there are any benefits changes, additions, or reductions, so extra time for Q&As or even one-on-one sessions goes a long way. Ensuring that employees have the ability and knowledge to make the elections that are right for them and their families should be a goal for all employers.

When employees are educated about their benefit options, and how they impact their family, they will be more likely to choose the right benefit packages. This helps to create a smooth open enrollment process.

Make Open Enrollment a Success for Employees and the Company

With Labor Day now behind us, open enrollment season is here. By planning carefully, staying on top of all HR regulation and law updates, educating employees, and communicating to them clearly, employers set themselves up for a successful process. Also, don’t forget that it’s never too early to start thinking and planning for next year’s open enrollment. What you learn this year will help improve things in the future.

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