5 Simple Ways to Improve Open Enrollment
by Caroline Boyland June 28, 2022
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If you work in HR or benefits, it can sometimes seem like the success of your whole year depends on the few weeks that make up the Open Enrollment season. Employee’s decisions during Open Enrollment can dictate their health and financial outcomes for the following 365 days—with these outcomes at stake, it can feel like a great deal of pressure to manage. Fortunately, there are a few easy steps to ensure your open enrollment season goes as smoothly as possible.
By following these 5 simple tips, you can take some of the stress out of the open enrollment season and ensure that your employees have everything they need to make the best decisions for the health and finances of themselves and their families.
1. Identify any gaps from last year, and use these to plan for this year
While no one loves to miss goals or make mistakes, these do provide a key benefit—they help guide where to plan for success moving forward. Start planning for open enrollment by analyzing what open enrollment looked like last year. Did your communication and education plans meet the needs of your workforce? Were there goals you missed? Did you give yourself enough time to properly execute pre and post enrollment to-dos?
Open enrollment season can get crazy busy—reflecting on last year will help you guide your team to success this year.
In addition to reflection, starting with the following steps can help ensure success in pre enrollment efforts:
- Research new benefits options. See if there are any changes that need to be made to your current offerings and start thinking about how you can communicate these changes and their impacts to employees.
- From here, create a communication plan. Decide who will be responsible for communicating with employees, on what dates, and through what channels. Nailing down your comms plan and assigning task managers early will ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
- Prepare materials that will be need to be included in these communications. That way, when the emails or messages need to go out, your team won’t be scrambling to find the necessary corresponding assets. This could include anything from an email template, to handouts explaining the benefits available, enrollment forms, or benefits summaries.
- Lastly, it’s important to ensure that you have enough staff involved. You want to have enough people on hand to answer questions, help employees with enrollment, and resolve any issues that may come up. Confirm that everyone on your open enrollment task-force knows what they're responsible for and that they're making themselves available to employees during the necessary days.
2. Anticipate employee needs, and communicate well ahead of time
During open enrollment, employees have to manage a lot of complex information in a short space of time, and make decisions that impact themselves and their families. No pressure, right?
The whole process can be overwhelming, and it can be tough to ensure they have enough time and mental space to make the best choices, especially when they have to manage it on top of their everyday responsibilities.
You can make it easier on them—and yourself—by anticipating some of their needs in advance and starting early. This could include:
- Communication early. Most people need time to process information and make decisions, so send out materials early and give employees a date by which they need to have made their choices. This can help employees best manage their own time, and factor blocks into their busy schedules to review enrollment materials and information.
- Make information available for families. Benefits are often a family decision, so consider offering educational materials or even sessions to help employees communicate the options to their families. This can clear up any questions surrounding whether the employees should stay on their own insurance, go on a spouse’s insurance, and how the plans will impact dependents.
- Offer materials in advance. Especially for new hires, or when there are significant changes, provide information early on so that employees can start to familiarize themselves with the options and cover some of their more basic questions ahead of open enrollment. This will also help ensure that employee questions to HR are spread out, and you’re not getting flooded with questions the day open enrollment begins.
3. Focus on education, education, and more education
When it comes to benefits, there can be a lot of confusing jargon that can be hard even for HR professionals to wrap their heads around. One of the best ways to support your employees is to offer educational materials that explain the basics in simple language. This could include anything from an overview of the benefits available to more specific guides on how to make the most of each of them.
A decision support tool can also come in handy here, as it can educate employees on their different options and guide them to make the best choices for their particular circumstances. Employees appreciate being able to make informed decisions, and by offering this kind of guidance to make them feel empowered, you can help take some of the pressure off them. A tool like Nayya can:
- Learn about the employee’s unique health and financial needs
- Use that information to suggest the right benefits plans for their needs and goals
- Present real-life scenarios to show employees what it would look like if they had certain benefits plans during situations that may arise throughout the year
This gives employees the confidence and education needed to choose the best benefits for themselves and their families. Decision support tools can take the guesswork out of the enrollment process.
Learn more about Nayya’s decision support technology, here.
4. Offer in-person support
While it's important to provide employees with materials and resources in advance, questions will inevitably come up during open enrollment. That's why it's essential to have a team of people on hand who can offer support and answer any questions that may arise. You can think about a few different ways to provide support, these could look like:
- Email or phone helplines
- In-person help desks
- Specific office hours with HR reps
- In-person or online training sessions
- One-on-one meetings
You know your employees best, so choose the option or combination of options that will work best for them. Ideally, try including several forms of in-person touch points to cater to employees with different preferences or needs. The main thing is to ensure they feel like they have someone to turn to if they need help so they don't feel like they're struggling on their own. As well as ensuring you have enough staff on hand, it's vital to confirm that they're all well equipped to answer questions and guide employees through the process—your team should have all the information they need at their fingertips, from a summary of the benefits on offer to more specific details on each one, enrollment forms, and FAQs.
5. Gather feedback throughout the year
The open enrollment season should not be the first time you start hearing about employee needs or concerns. Make sure that you foster an atmosphere of trust and open communication so that employees feel safe coming to you with any concerns or doubts. This will also work wonders to eliminate the influx of questions that come up during open enrollment.
There are different forms in which to make sure you receive feedback, and this could include:
- Regular check-ins with employees
- Informal conversations and catch-ups
- Formal surveys or focus groups
- Anonymous suggestions box
Whichever options you choose, make sure that it's something that your employees are comfortable with and that they know how to access it. And once you have received feedback, take action on it where possible.If there are common concerns that come up, look for ways to address them, whether that's by providing more information or resources or by making changes to the benefits package itself.
If you want to make your open enrollment season a raging success, make it easy by setting yourself up to win. By following the tips above, you can ensure that the process is stress-free, that your employees are supported throughout, and that you can provide them with everything they need to make the best choices for their circumstances.
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