Just the mention of open enrollment season is enough to give HR departments all across America nightmares for weeks. It doesn’t have to be that way. With ample preparation (we’re talking six months), a good strategy, effective communication, and a good online benefits registration tool, your company could sail through November like it’s any other month.
Here are our Tips for a Smooth Open Enrollment Season
Tip #1: Plan [at least 6 months] Ahead
You want to give yourselves enough time to address the problems you had the previous year (or maybe all of the previous years) and to develop thoughtful, effective communication. You should also start communicating with employees well before November. Depending on the demographics of your company, some people will be more adept at navigating health plans and making decisions than others. You want to make sure you give those who need more help the time to get it.
Tip #2: Develop a Strategy
A good strategy for open enrollment has two parts: well-defined objectives and a plan to achieve them. To define your objectives, think about what’s changing (e.g. cost-sharing, the number or types of plans on offer) and what you want to achieve. Do you have a new plan you’d like to steer employees toward? Do you have a wellness initiative in which you’d like to increase participation? Do you just want to increase plan participation in general?
Once you know the goals you’re trying to achieve you can develop the communication assets and a schedule, as well as purchase any additional tools you might need (e.g. an online registration system).
Tip #3: Create the Right Type of Communication
A recent study estimated that 80% of Americans spend less than an hour researching benefit options and 90% are likely to keep the plan they had last year, even if their circumstances have changed. If your objectives require a change in that behavior, you need compelling and effective communication. And to get effective and compelling communication you need to:
- Figure out who you’re talking to. You likely have different demographics that work at your company and each type of person has a different set of needs and priorities.
- Develop messaging that speaks to your employees’ priorities. For instance, people just starting out in their careers tend to place a low priority on health insurance and are thus usually underinsured. While employees in their 50s are not only more adept at navigating the healthcare system than their younger colleagues, they tend to place a higher value on more comprehensive coverage.
- Decide on the communication assets you’ll use. These can include newsletters, videos, a digital and print enrollment guide, onsite seminars, and conference calls. You might also decide to offer one-on-one enrollment support if you have employees who need more help to make the right choices.
- Make the communication available onsite and online. This is important. The information should be ubiquitous so that no one has to hunt to find it.
Tip #4: Use an Online Benefits Enrollment Tool
HR administrators have found that online benefits enrollment can drastically improve plan participation across an organization. Why? Because allowing your employees to register online gives them a chance to do it when it’s convenient for them. Online registration is also less likely to disrupt the workday and allows employees to dedicate time to reviewing their choices to make sure they’re making the right ones.
Online enrollment season doesn’t have to send your HR department into a tizzy. As long as you plan ahead, have and execute a good strategy and purchase the tools you need, it might not be a breeze, but you can definitely get through it without too many hiccups.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.