It’s that time of year when everyone gets to enjoy the beauty of the Autumn leaves, the carving of pumpkins, the sipping of hot tea and cider, and, of course, the massive undertaking that is open enrollment. This year, in particular, has some unique considerations and potential advantages, which employers may use to their benefit.
Open Enrollment in a Post-Pandemic World
It’s common knowledge that the pandemic forced employers to change many of their business aspects to fully-digital options. Since employees couldn’t meet in-person to complete the open enrollment process, employers who hadn’t already converted the process to a fully digital option were forced to create a solution for those months during the lockdown.
But, now that almost all employers are fully or transitioning back to in-person, what should the open enrollment process look like at this point in time?
Many employers and employees have fully embraced a completely digital model for open enrollment; however, some might want to go back to an in-person process. No one will argue that face-to-face informational meetings may be a great tool to convey the changes to policies and processes, so why not take advantage of this chance to go back to what many would consider being “the good ole days?”
Fortunately, when considering face-to-face vs. digital, open enrollment need not be an either-or prospect. Stephen Miller, CEBS, cites many considerations in his article, “Open Enrollment Planning for Post-Pandemic Workplaces Gets Underway.” Miller describes how countless employers have chosen to go the route of a hybrid model. All those things everyone loved about the pre-pandemic circumstances – keep them! The pieces that worked really well when everyone was fully digital – keep those too! Employers may host an all-staff in-person meeting to review the major changes to create clearer channels of communication and then let the computer collate everyone’s digital responses automatically to alleviate the need for massive amounts of administrative data entry. Employers are challenged to find what combination works best for their organization.
Benefits of Digital Decision-Support Tools
For employers who have decided to go fully or partially digital with their open enrollment, there are many tools now available today that make the process, not only faster but also help employees make decisions that better fit their individual (and family) needs.
“Small businesses, in particular, have benefited from the growth of digital enrollment tools, states Lin Grensing-Pophal, SHRM-SCP and author of, “How to Raise Engagement with Benefits During Open Enrollment.” Grensing-Pophal goes on to cite Wesley Mace, COO at Kelly Benefits, who adds that “small businesses have ‘markedly increased employee engagement in the enrollment process.”
In addition, there are many tools that only exist digitally, such as “an online calculator that lets employees compare various health plans, taking into consideration premium levels and past or anticipated health care expenses,” cites Chad Wilkins, executive vice president of Webster Bank, adding, “We find that when [employees] use decision-support tools and a health care plan calculator, 20 to 30 percent of people will make a different decision on their health plan, and possibly save thousands of dollars based on those decisions.”
In this largely post-pandemic environment, employers have some options that haven’t been available in a while when it comes to open enrollment. Employers may choose to use some of the advantages of face-to-face communication again, which may bring a personal touch to the open enrollment process and foster employee engagement. In addition, many employers invested in digital tools to meet the unique set of needs that came from remote working conditions – and many of those tools are still just as useful today as they were one or two years ago. Using them in a complete or partial digital open enrollment process may save time and money for employers and employees alike.
We, at New Focus HR, are readily available to help you find a balance for this year’s open enrollment as you implement your organization’s strategy. For additional information regarding how to make the open enrollment process smooth and successful at your organization, please contact us at www.newfocushr.com.
Updated by: Jason Love, CLSSGB