Gearing Up for Open Enrollment Season

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It’s hard to believe the second half of the summer is in full swing.  And of course, just as the sunny season ends it’s once again time to gear up for one of the busiest times of the year for the HR team, specifically benefits, as we prepare for open enrollment season.  Although it is not mandated that your health insurance renew on January 1, over 50% of companies do align their benefits with the calendar year to streamline processes for their organization.

Each year companies strive to optimize employee engagement while adhering to arduous timelines to ensure a successful open enrollment.  But even with the best laid plans “hiccups” will happen.  Aligning your organization with a competent, supportive benefits broker/consultant will help to minimize these “hiccups” and optimize overcoming them when they occur.  And now more than ever it is imperative to make sure that your open enrollment process is inclusive of all employee populations.  In today’s world, employers must recognize that not every employee is at a desk job and able to participate in education programs.  Being flexible with your open enrollment strategy is key.

Below we have provided some tips to help ensure the most successful open enrollment process possible for your organization and its employees:

1. Build an Open Enrollment Timeline – Believe it or not 4-6 months lead time for open enrollment will make sure you are the most prepared.  Figure out a schedule that works best for you and your team.

Some things to think about to incorporate within this timeframe include:  review your insurance renewals (you want to make sure to build in a cushion for your broker to negotiate your rates), select final plans (are you adding in any new supplemental benefits like Telehealth, financial wellness tools, etc.), update data on your HRIS or ben admin portal if necessary, schedule benefits meetings to educate your employees (should be at least 2 months prior to election due date via multiple platforms), build out a multi-media communications campaign (strategize a series of messages on multiple channels to “drip” to your employees), design your annual open enrollment materials (a good broker will do this for you), hold benefits meetings, open your enrollment portal, elections deadline, post-enrollment education, plan effective date.

2. Leverage Technology – Technology can be your best friend when it comes to open enrollment.  Having the right benefits administration portal will simplify the enrollment process by streamlining employee elections, carrier feeds and education.  Additionally, there are tools to help employees (and therefore the HR team) understand their benefits and make informed decisions about their elections, such as Alex by Jellyvision, an interactive employee communication software.

3. Multi-Channel Communication – In today’s modern world there are so many technology platforms to be utilized to communicate that it is imperative your enrollment materials are responsive to your employees.  Make sure to exploit all of your available channels whether it be email reminders, slack updates, live meetings or webinars.  Also, if you have the option, make the enrollment process accessible via computer and mobile platforms.  Visual content will help raise awareness and call attention to your message.

4. Personalize your Employee Message – As we mentioned earlier, not every employee is in the same role (ie – not necessarily at a desk job) or demographic.  Younger, Gen Z’s may prefer to engage with open enrollment on their mobile app focusing on college loan repayment while Gen X’ers may prefer to enroll through their computer and learn more about retirement strategies your company has.  Whatever the case is,  knowing your audience and addressing them personally will drive engagement.

5. Incorporate Employee Support Resources – Having a support structure built in to open enrollment will make sure your employees have a place to turn for their questions to help keep the process moving.  It also provides back-up for when the “hiccups” occur, and they will.  Whether you have a dedicated company email, point person and/or benefits broker with support for you and your employees, planning prior will prevent problems and expedite solutions when they occur.

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