Preparing for Open Enrollment – Steps to Take Now


Posted by: Altura Benefits in Insurance

Preparing for Open Enrollment

Last year’s open enrollment came during the middle of the pandemic, when many companies were still adjusting to remote work arrangements. This year’s open enrollment might be just as challenging.

The pandemic is still ongoing, and many people are still working from home. The emergence of a hybrid workforce means that HR professionals need to pay attention to workers who are in the office, workers who work from home, and workers who split their time between the office and home.

At the same time, many workers are quitting, making talent acquisition and retention efforts especially important as some employers struggle to attract workers. According to CNBC, 4 million U.S. workers quit in April, confident that they could find better pay and working conditions elsewhere.

Many workers are unhappy with their compensation, and the pandemic has made people acutely aware of just how much benefits matter. The stakes are high this open enrollment. You need to help employees enroll in benefits that will meet their needs and boost their satisfaction with their job.

Take steps now to make sure you’re ready for a successful open enrollment period.

1. Take Stock of Last Year

If you haven’t assessed your last open enrollment, now is the time to do it. Even if you conducted an initial analysis soon after open enrollment, it’s worth going over the results again.

You can draw some conclusions based on the enrollment data you have. However, you will also need to get feedback from employees. Here are some questions to consider.

  • Which communication methods and enrollment tools did employees find most helpful?
  • Were employees confused about the enrollment process or their benefit options?
  • Were employees satisfied with their benefit options?
  • Did any employees miss the enrollment deadline?
  • Were there any other problems with enrollment?
  • Were there differences in how the enrollment process went for in-office workers versus remote workers?
  • Have employees been happy with their benefits?
  • Do employees have any feedback or suggestions?

2. Determine What Changes Are Needed

Once you’ve done a review of the last open enrollment, you can determine how to improve your next open enrollment period.

  • What went wrong? Identify the problems and what solutions are needed. For example, if a significant number of employees missed the enrollment deadline, you may need to send more reminders out ahead of the deadline. If employees were confused about their options, you may need to provide education in new, easier-to-understand formats.
  • What went right? As the saying goes, you don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. In the quest to improve your enrollment process, you might end up inadvertently making the process worse if you don’t first identify what people like so you can preserve it.

3. Plan Your Strategy

A smooth open enrollment period doesn’t just happen. It has to be planned carefully, and that takes time. Don’t wait until the last minute. Fall will be here before you realize it, and if you’re not prepared, you may end up scrambling at the last minute.

Decide now what communication and benefits education tools you’ll be using during this year’s open enrollment – and if your plan is to send employees a manilla envelope stuffed with a benefits booklet the size of a novel, you might want to rethink things. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 80% of organizations say that employees don’t read benefits materials. This might be frustrating for HR professionals, but when you really think about it, it’s not surprising. Your workers are busy doing their jobs, and benefits packages tend to be dense and hard to understand.

HR professionals need a better way of providing benefits information.

  • Considering sending bite-sized pieces of information through email or text message.
  • Offer in-person meetings, either as a group or one-on-one. For remote workers, make sure you include video meetings or phone calls as an option.
  • Consider offering interactive digital tools to help employees learn about their benefits and find the best options for their needs.
  • Make sure employees know who to contact if they have any questions or problems.

In addition to the tools and communication methods you’ll use, you also need to think about the timeline.

  • Give employees enough time to enroll. If you have a short enrollment period, some employees might miss it because they happen to be sick or on vacation during that time. When scheduling your open enrollment period, also consider holidays and hectic times at work.
  • Give employees reminders before and during open enrollment period. You don’t want to overwhelm employees with reminders, but you don’t want to let them forget, either. Spread out your messages, and make sure you’re providing urgent reminders before the open enrollment period ends.

4. Select the Right Benefits

A well-run open enrollment won’t impress employees if the benefits themselves are subpar.

Although many companies offer extra perks that range from free gym membership to student loan repayment assistance, core benefits remain the most important to employees. According to Harvard Business Review, one survey found 88% of employees would give better health, dental and vision insurance either some consideration or heavy consideration when deciding between a high-paying job and a job that pays less but has better benefits. The only other benefit that got as much consideration was flexibility in hours.

Employees want robust health insurance, but different plans will appeal to different workers, depending on their circumstances. Some people will want plans with the lowest premiums possible, even if it means paying a high deductible or even skimping on coverage. Other employees will want the most robust coverage available. Employers should strive to know the needs of their employees and provide benefits that match. Offering more than one option is a good way to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.

A well-rounded benefits package will go beyond health, dental and visions insurance. Employers should also consider offering disability insurance and life insurance. Accidental death and dismemberment insurance is another product that can give employees and their families peace of mind.

For more ideas, read this article on the most desired benefits of 2021 and contact us for guidance. We’re here to help you optimize your open enrollment and employee benefit experience.