For many employers, it’s time to start thinking about when and how exactly to roll out open enrollment for this year. Open enrollment is a vital annual process that may significantly impact an employee’s well-being and satisfaction. This article will provide employers with insights and strategies to create and implement a successful open enrollment process.
The Importance of a Purposeful Open Enrollment
Open enrollment isn’t just another task to check off a to-do list; it’s a crucial opportunity to show employees that their benefit needs are being considered and that the organization is committed to their overall satisfaction with the benefits being offered. By being purposeful throughout the open enrollment process, employers have the opportunity to strengthen an organization’s culture and boost employee morale.
Moreover, ensuring employees have access to a well-structured benefits package may lead to a more motivated and engaged workforce and keep an organization competitive in the job market in order to attract and retain top talent.
Steps for Effective Open Enrollment
Creating a successful and positive open enrollment experience for employees need not be an overly complicated process. With just a handful of steps, employers may turn this annual task into something that builds up employees and the organization as a whole.
Step 1: Pre-Planning
- Review the organization’s current benefit offerings to make sure that they still meet an employee’s needs and the organization’s budgetary requirements.
- Analyze employee feedback, if available, and changing industry benefit trends to make sure that the organization is competitive in the marketplace.
- Set clear goals for the upcoming enrollment period, as they relate to both employees and the organization. An employer needs to ask themselves, “What it is that they want to accomplish through the open enrollment process?”
Step 2: Communication is Key
- Create a comprehensive employee communication plan well in advance.
- Use various channels (emails, meetings/webinars, and even snail-mail) to reach all employees and their dependents. Remember, dependents may play a large role in the benefits that an employee elects.
- Provide clear, easy-to-understand materials, such as a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) for medical plans, Summary Plan Documents (SPDs) for all other insurance-related plans, brochures from benefit providers, and a reference sheet of prepared answers to frequently asked questions.
- Set deadline dates as to when the open enrollment process will open and when it will end and communicate those frequently throughout the process.
- Note: This is often a step employers may struggle to do with excellence, but it is arguably the most critical step in making the experience positive for all involved and limiting potential liability throughout this process.
Step 3: Technology Integration
- The best use of technology may vary widely depending on the size, structure, and needs of an organization, but it may include investing in user-friendly benefit enrollment software, or offering virtual benefit consultations for employees who need guidance.
Step 4: Training and Support
- Train HR employees and management staff on the new benefit offerings.
- HR, or other designated employees, may offer individualized assistance to employees during the open enrollment process.
- Encourage employees to ask questions and seek clarification, as needed.
Step 5: Evaluation and Feedback
- Monitor the open enrollment process in real-time and send friendly reminders to those who have yet to complete the process within the appropriate timeline.
- Collect employee feedback to identify areas for improvement and create a plan to implement necessary adjustments for future open enrollments.
General Pitfalls to Avoid and Suggestions for Success
General Pitfalls to Avoid:
- Lack of Communication: Inadequate communication may lead to confusion and frustration among employees. Ensure benefit information is readily available and easily accessible at any time and not just during open enrollment.
- Ignoring Employee Feedback: Failing to consider employee input may result in a benefits package that doesn’t meet their needs. Regularly seek feedback and adjust offerings accordingly, and within budget.
- Complex Enrollment Processes: Complicated, time-consuming open enrollment procedures may deter employees from participating. Streamline the process for a seamless experience.
Suggestions for Success:
- Start Early: Begin planning well in advance to allow for thorough preparation and effective communication.
- Personalization: Tailor benefits options to meet the diverse needs of the workforce.
- Education: Offer educational sessions and materials to help employees understand their benefit choices.
Open enrollment is a crucial annual process that requires careful planning and execution. By being purposeful throughout the process, employers have the opportunity to not only meet the needs of their employees but also strengthen their organization’s overall competitiveness in the marketplace.
Since an engaged and satisfied workforce is more likely to contribute positively to an organization’s success, employers may embrace open enrollment as an opportunity to show employees that their well-being matters. With the right approach, this annual process will be a win-win situation for both employers and employees alike.
For additional information regarding open enrollment, please read our previously published article from last year’s open enrollment season titled, “Unique Opportunities for This Year’s Open Enrollment” (click here), or contact us at NewFocusHR.com.
Updated by: Jason Love, SHRM-CP, CLSSGB
- “How to Have a Successful Open Enrollment”, Kathryn Mayer, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 8/28/2023
- “Open Enrollment Planning Gets Underway”, Stephen Miller, CEBS, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 7/6/2021