6 Tips for a Flawless Open Enrollment

November 20, 2017

Make sure employees understand the process

There are many reasons that your benefits open enrollment needs to go smoothly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employer-sponsored benefits make up 30% to 37% of employee total compensation. Employees are understandably concerned about making the right selections during open enrollment and can become very frustrated if the process isn’t intuitive.

On the other side of the table, benefits represent a huge expense for employers. Organizations need to offer the right mix of benefits to enhance employee wellbeing as well as support recruiting and retention efforts.

If you’re in the middle of a frustrating open enrollment season, you are probably already thinking about how to make the process better for next year. Here are six tips to help you ensure a flawless open enrollment.

  1. Learn from past mistakes

If open enrollment has been confusing, chaotic, and painful this year, try to determine what went wrong. Make notes about parts of the process that broke down or were inefficient while your memories are still fresh. What steps or benefits caused employees to ask the most questions? Did your employee self-service solution work properly? Were your communications confusing? Did you communicate too much or too little? Take time now to meet with key stakeholders in the organization and discuss what went well and what needs improvement for next year’s open enrollment.

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to plan

If this year went really well, you can probably plan your 2018 open enrollment a couple of months ahead of your open enrollment season. You will likely reuse many parts of your current year strategy and communications plan.

On the other hand, if open enrollment did not go as planned and you encountered problems, you may want to start planning quite a bit earlier in 2018. Give yourself as much as six months to review your processes, create a better communications plan and potentially look for new vendors.

  1. Meet with your vendors and shop around

Successful organizations understand that there are many different needs among their employees and make an attempt to match those needs by offering a wide variety of a la carte voluntary benefits. When you create a marketplace of benefits that include different programs for employees in different stages of life, it allows them to feel more engaged with and in control of their benefits options. Meet with your vendors early in the planning process to find out what voluntary benefits they can offer, and shop around for the most competitive combination of options and pricing.

  1. Concentrate on health care

For U.S. employers, it is important to concentrate on negotiating the best possible healthcare options for employees. Not only is healthcare required by the government, it also represents the largest benefit expense outside of payroll for most employers.

Although your organization pays a tremendous amount to cover employees, remember that health insurance also requires a significant investment on the part of employees. In 2017, employees shouldered 43% of their total health care costs, according to Fidelity. This will be the benefit employees scrutinize the most out of the overall benefits package.

Develop an effective communication plan to educate employees about health insurance options. Craft a good explanation of high deductible plans for employees that have never tried this option.

  1. Focus on the employee experience

Most employers now use a self-service enrollment solution for open enrollment, and studies show that employees prefer this method of enrollment. It also creates a more accurate enrollment than a paper-based method. Make sure to test your enrollment system before opening it up to employees.

Even if you offer employees a self-service enrollment, it is still important that they feel supported throughout the process. Keep the lines of communication open. Offer one-on-one meetings for employees that experience difficulty or provide small group training sessions if deploying a new system.

  1. Develop a clear communication plan

You’ll need to plan communications for the entire open enrollment season. Make sure you begin sending communications well ahead of the actual open enrollment period, so employees have plenty of time to study plan options and come to HR with questions.

If your organization has a lot of employees, consider how you deliver information that is highly relevant to different groups of employees. For example, are your communications relevant to employees with families vs. single employees, or older vs. younger employees? Try to create a targeted communications plan that speaks to unique needs while keeping everyone informed.

Consider which channels you will use to communicate beyond email, intranet and/or printed materials. If possible, add private (internal) social media groups and mobile text messaging to your communication mix.

Every communication to employees before, during, and after open enrollment should highlight the value of your employer-sponsored benefits. It is essential that they realize what a large investment in their wellbeing has been made by their employer.

HCM solutions support benefits administration

Throughout the year, the HR team must administer some employee benefits, such as PTO, COBRA, FSA and HSA, plus monitor the costs from external providers such as insurance carriers. Asure’s Human Capital Management solutions organize and simplify HR benefits administration, so you can focus on strategic human capital objectives.