How to Improve Open Enrollment for Employee Benefits at Your Company

HR teams often struggle to achieve their goals for employee benefits enrollment. Learn how to improve the process at your company.

The swelter of summer might still be hovering over your city or town, but the change of season is coming. The leaves will turn, the air will crisp and HR professionals everywhere will start to obsess over their company’s benefits’ enrollment.

Whether this is your first or 21st open enrollment season, we’re here to help make your job easier and to improve the process of choosing insurance and other benefits for the employees you serve. With these five tips, as well as our open enrollment survival guide, you can help ensure your team is better organized, employees are better educated and you leverage available resources so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

1. Set HR team goals for employee enrollment

Setting clear, achievable targets for your HR team’s enrollment process, such as 75% engagement rate and 50% enrollment helps to focus your team. To determine what targets are achievable, look at what your engagement and enrollment numbers were from last year. Look at what worked and what didn’t, what changes you can make to this year’s process to improve those numbers.

Each benefit might have different rates of engagement and enrollment so work with upper management to determine realistic goals for each benefit offering. Is there a particular benefit the company wants to encourage for cost or overall wellness reasons? If so, this should inform your ideal benchmarks for this program.

2. Give employees all the information they need (and start early)

People process information at different rates. Some employees might be well-versed in your company’s benefits package and the insurance landscape in general, so they’re able to make good decisions, faster, with a one-page information sheet. Others might need to read a one-pager, see a webinar, ask questions at a live event and then finally get into the weeds of the plan details before they’re comfortable pulling the trigger.

To ensure you meet your goals, you need to give each type of person in your employ ample time to make the right decisions for them and their families. That means starting open enrollment communication even two months before benefits selection begins. Even if you don’t have the actual premium numbers, you can disseminate general information about how the different plans work, their pros and cons, etc. so employees can start thinking about how they might integrate these benefits into their lives.

3. Make open enrollment meetings engaging and personalized

To boost enrollment in particular programs, you need to first boost engagement. To boost engagement, you need to customize communications so they speak to the different demographics that make up your employee base. To do this, you’ll need to leverage three tools: your internal employment data, so-called “influencers” (i.e. well-connected) employees, and the readymade materials your marketing department, vendors and benefits brokers can provide.

Before you can customize your materials and presentations to your audience, you have to know who that audience is and what they need. You can use your internal employment data to do that. Look for age, gender, where they are in their career trajectories, whether or not they have families, and any other information you have available to create general personas of each employee “type”.

For example, if you have a large young employee population that’s at the beginning of their careers, they might be interested in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and Health Savings Account (HSA) combination. This demographic probably doesn't use the health system often, outside of preventative care, and the idea of saving and investing for the future might be attractive. Or, if you have an employee population that’s in the thick of starting families, highlighting fertility benefits might be an important discussion to have.

Then, identify employees who you would classify as influential within company culture. These are the people to whom others gravitate either socially or for professional advice. They might not be the highest performers, but they’re definitely the most well-liked. Get these influencers’ feedback on the company’s benefits offerings as a whole and the process of signing up. Ask for their unvarnished opinion on what changes you could make, then try to incorporate the requests as you’re able to.

Once you’re clear on “who” you’re talking to, and what you want to communicate, task your marketing department with producing some or all of the materials. They likely have graphics, verbiage and templates ready to produce engaging and informative communications. Plus, developing messaging around a concept is what they do best, so by enlisting their help, you give them a chance to shine and relieve you of some of the load.

Another source of valuable readymade materials are the brokers, vendors and insurance companies with which you’re partnering. They might have informational videos, one-pagers and other education pieces you can leverage so you don’t have to recreate the wheel.

4. Offer online enrollment tools that are easy for employees to use

It is the digital age and more and more employees expect to be able to find information whenever they need or want it. That means making it digital. Creating webpages with basic information, FAQ’s and even retirement benefit or HSA calculators can help people get the information they need as well as reduce the manpower needed to educate your employee base.

You can record videos that show employees, who might not be technically savvy, how to use the benefits portal to sign up for their chosen plans. You can offer testimonials from employees who have used the programs before, attesting to their benefit. And you can put all the information your employees need to be successful in one place so communication is simplified and less gets lost in translation.

5. Create lots of opportunities to engage and enroll over time

During open enrollment, you want benefits to stay at the forefront of employees’ minds but you don’t want to inundate them with information so they tune out. Keep communications as brief as possible, varied, entertaining and personalized, and relevant. Don’t communicate everything at once. Host events that focus on different benefits so that employees interested in them can attend and the conversation stays focused. It might also be a good idea to reserve communications about popular perks for when you’re trying to get employees’ attention for an upcoming deadline.

One company-wide enrollment event isn’t enough to give every employee the opportunity to engage with the process. Keep at it, meet employees where they are when they’re ready, and you’ll be more likely to achieve enrollment goals.

Make employee insurance and benefits easy with Lively

Lively is your HSA and FSA partner during open enrollment season and beyond. Our open enrollment survival guide helps to simplify your process with checklists and we help you ease employee communications with email and presentation templates and readymade handouts. Plus we offer world class customer support. If you’re interested in offering a benefit that helps with recruiting, engagement and enrollment efforts, reach out today. We’re here to help.

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.

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