Companies across the country should start preparing for open enrollment season, the period that comes once a year when employees may review, elect or change their group benefits including health, dental and vision insurance, as well as a wide range of supplemental benefits (life insurance, short and long-term disability, etc.)  In preparation for open enrollment, employers should work closely with their insurance broker or benefits consultant to determine which benefits will be made available to the employees and at what cost. Open Enrollment Is at the Door and It Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful!
A hallmark of a successful enrollment is bringing maximum value to the company and its employees while making the experience as smooth and easy as possible.  Research shows that actively involving employees in the open enrollment process through outreach and education is the best way to help them make informed decisions that will benefit their entire family.

Here are some suggestions to help employers achieve a successful open enrollment:

  1. Communication

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Effective communication during open enrollment is critical to success, and the best way to guarantee that is to analyze the ways in which the open enrollment information will be disseminated to employees.  A fundamental consideration will be to determine if all employees are tech savvy since details about benefit plans can be delivered to employees via email, company intranet, employee portals, or video presentations to name a few.  However, in many cases, employees will only respond favorably to a live meeting with the ability to ask questions.  With more companies offering a work from home option, the choice of the delivery method takes on additional importance.  Can remote employees participate in a live meeting via conferencing?  What is the best option for educating dependents about their options?  Have you considered including spouses in open enrollment meetings?  Employees will appreciate a thoughtful approach to communication.

  1. Education

It’s important to remember that employees depend upon the company to provide them with a clear picture when it comes to benefits.  Avoid overloading employees with information that is factually correct but doesn’t add value.  Put yourself in your employees’ shoes to get a better understanding of what it is that they care about most when choosing a benefits plan.  Make sure you take emotions into account when preparing your presentation and be sure to explain how a plan will work by giving concrete examples using hypothetical scenarios.  Speaking to an employee’s pocketbook will ensure that they leave the meeting feeling appreciated.  For example, explain how an emergency room benefit works in the case of a non-life-threatening medical issue.  One exceptionally successful broker likes to use his own example by telling a story about treating his son’s earache at the emergency room instead of calling his telemedicine line.  Such an approach adds a real-world dimension to an otherwise hypothetical situation.

  1. Enrollment Platform

The open enrollment process generally stands a better chance of being successful if the company sends and receives information from within their existing HRIS system.  If this is the platform that employees use regularly to check their payroll information, update their personal records and review their current benefit options, it’s a win-win for all.  Open enrollment can bring the fear of the unknown if too many changes happen at once, and a familiar interface helps alleviate that fear if it provides for an easy step-by-step process after the new year’s plans are presented.  Employees should be encouraged to complete their selections right after the open enrollment meeting while the information is still fresh, but in any case, by a clearly communicated deadline.  Periodic reminders sent from the enrollment platform are excellent tools for encouraging employees to complete their elections.

  1. Dedicated Support Team

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Companies also need to prepare by ensuring that managers are equipped with a basic understanding of each benefit plan as well as any changes that the new benefit year will bring.  Leadership plays a key role as questions arise and must be ready to support managers in communications with employees.  The IT department can also play an important role in disseminating information and helping less tech-savvy employees with possible challenges.  Day-to-day operations at the company don’t stop during open enrollment, and it can become a burdensome process if not thoughtfully approached.  A dedicated support team should have a clear and consistent way of delivering open enrollment information and be viewed as a trusted resource to all employees in the company.

  1. Experience

It’s not unusual for employers as well as employees to sigh with relief when open enrollment ends. Everyone feels like a survivor.  However, it’s important to not treat open enrollment as a completed obstacle course.  A thorough review of what went smoothly and what didn’t, ensures a better experience next year.  Pay close attention to whether communications were successful; analyze the questions employees had after the benefits presentation meeting, and objectively evaluate the support team’s performance.
A successful open enrollment adds immeasurably to employees’ appreciation of their workplace, and an organization’s commitment to providing a positive enrollment experience evidences its dedication to employee satisfaction and retention.

At CBR, we assist our partner companies with all stages of the open enrollment process, ensuring that employees are provided with the experience they deserve.  Our dedicated insurance and HR teams offer hands-on support during all aspects of the open enrollment process.  Call us today at 602-200-8500 or contact us online to get in touch with one of our highly trained professionals.