7 Steps to Increase Open Enrollment Success


Posted by: Altura Benefits in Insurance

open enrollment success

Open enrollment is your chance to boost employee engagement and maximize the ROI of your employee benefits. You need everything to go smoothly, which requires solid planning. Unfortunately, many employers are falling short. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), worker satisfaction with health benefits dropped from 60% to 55% between 2021 and 2022. The following essential steps can help you increase your open enrollment success.

1. Determine which benefits your employees want.

You might think you’re offering a great employee benefits package, but if your options don’t meet your workers’ needs, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

For example, some workers might want an inexpensive health plan with a Health Savings Account, but others may want a robust health plan, even if this means paying higher premiums. Likewise, different voluntary benefits will appeal to different groups of workers. Even if your benefits package seemed adequate in the past, you may find you need to update your offerings to meet changing expectations regarding mental health and telehealth.

To figure out what your employees want, conduct some research:

  • Look at your current participation rates. If few workers are participating in certain benefit options, the problem may be they don’t understand the benefits. For this reason, cutting benefits may not always be the best solution. However, knowing what your employees are currently using and what they’re ignoring may point you in the right direction.
  • Consider your worker demographics. The Workplace Wellness Survey from EBRI found that an employee’s age has a big impact on his or her attitudes toward benefits. For example, workers in the middle age bracket (35 to 49) were more worried about physical health compared to older and younger workers, whereas older workers were the least likely to be concerned about emotional and mental well-being. Financial well-being concerns 28% of younger workers, 37% of middle-aged workers, and 36% of older workers. EBRI also found that, although financial worries are common across all age groups, younger workers tend to worry more about student loans and bills, whereas older workers tend to worry about saving for retirement.
  • Conduct surveys. The simplest way to find out what your employees want is to ask them. A survey is an effective way of eliciting feedback on the types of benefits your workers value the most. Since some benefits touch on sensitive issues – such as financial problems and mental health – consider conducting an anonymous survey.

2. Work with a benefits broker.

Since the stakes are high, it pays to have an expert on your side.

Although captive agents only have access to insurance options from a single carrier, independent benefits brokers can work with multiple carriers. A benefits broker can help you examine all your options, helping you provide the best benefits package possible while keeping your costs under control. Benefits brokers can also help with education, compliance, and coverage negotiation. This support can be invaluable when you’re selecting your health plan options, but it can also be useful when you’re putting together dental, vision, life, and disability insurance and other voluntary benefits to round out your employee benefit package.

3. Select your employee benefits offerings.

Once you’ve figured out what your employees want and you have a broker on your side, it’s time to figure out what you can provide. Although you might be unable to deliver everything your employees could wish for, you want to make sure your offerings are competitive enough to support recruitment and retention. To do this, you need to know what other employers are offering.

The annual KFF Employer Benefits Survey provides good insights into the plan availability, benefit options, and cost sharing arrangements that small and large employers in the U.S. are offering. You can see highlights from the 2022 survey here.

4. Assemble your tools.

The days of handing employees a huge benefits package and leaving them to figure it out are over.

Employee benefit options can be overwhelming. Many workers don’t know enough to make informed decisions. As a result, they may rush through the selection process and pick options that won’t meet their needs. In fact, EBRI found 72% of adults spend less than an hour choosing their health plans during open enrollment.

The good news is new digital enrollment tools can take the pain out of the enrollment process. With modern open enrollment portals, employees can log in whenever it’s convenient for them, learn about their benefits with user-friendly tools, and enroll online. The right online enrollment tools can alleviate open enrollment headaches for both HR professionals and employees, so this is an area that deserves your attention.

Altura clients have access to Employee Navigator, an all-in-one benefit administration tool that helps employers manage new hire enrollment, compare and select plans, review employee eligibility, monitor enrollment status and deadlines, manage contribution levels, store plan documents, and build customized reports.

5. Create your timeline.

This is not something you should play by ear. You need to head into open enrollment with a strong game plan. Otherwise, you risk missing deadlines and letting critical tasks fall through the cracks.

When will open enrollment start and how long will it last? Since new benefits typically go into effect on January 1, open enrollment needs to occur during the fall – November is a popular month. Open enrollment periods may last for two to four weeks.

When planning your open enrollment period, don’t forget to take other events into account. For example, Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November – you probably don’t want your open enrollment deadline to fall around this major holiday. You should also consider any dates that are specific to your company, such as major deadlines for big projects that will keep your employees busy.

6. Engage your employees.

You’ve put a lot of effort into creating an appealing employee benefits package; now you need to help your employees understand and appreciate their options to ensure they make good selections. Remember, the selections they make now will impact their finances, health, and satisfaction for the entire year to come. This is time for all hands on deck.

  • Get employees excited ahead of open enrollment. For example, if you’re offering new benefits, spread the word.
  • Schedule reminders and events throughout open enrollment. Give your employees opportunities to ask any questions they might have about their benefits.
  • Include ALL of your eligible enrollees. It’s easy to focus on the people in your office, but don’t forget about remote workers, people on COBRA, and workers who are on leave.

7. Review the process.

At the end of your open enrollment process, it’s time to review the process. This will help you spot mistakes and determine what you could have done better.

  • Have you received all the selections? If any enrollments are missing, make sure this is not due to a technical glitch or human error on your part. The sooner you catch any mistakes, the easier it will be to fix them. Go over everything carefully.
  • What was the enrollment rate? Low enrollment rates could indicate a lack of understanding or interest – either way, this is something that deserves your attention.
  • Were employees satisfied with the enrollment process? Consider sending out a survey while the process is fresh in everyone’s minds. You might receive feedback that can help you make improvements next year.

Do you need help creating a successful open enrollment?

Altura Benefits can help you achieve open enrollment success. In addition to helping you put together an employee benefits package that meets the needs of your workers, we offer compliance and HR support. Learn more.