Best Practices for a Successful Open Enrollment



October brings pumpkin spice lattes, colorful fall leaves, and sweater weather. In the HR universe, October brings Open Enrollment, and it’s an important time of the year!

There is a lot that goes into gearing up for open enrollment, like compiling employee censuses, reviewing employee benefit survey results, launching a benefit market analysis, and making decisions on what new benefits to add. It can be a daunting and exciting time of the year for HR professionals and companies alike. With that said, from an HR professional who has lived through many open enrollment seasons, here are some best practices to help your organization have a successful open enrollment:

Find effective ways to communicate complicated material for your organization.

Let’s be honest, employee benefits are a complex subject. From health care reform to retirement planning, it’s difficult to communicate employee benefits in a way that employees can understand it and digest the material to make the best decision for themselves and their families. So, what’s the key to communicating employee benefit material? Be concise and consistent with your messaging. Take the time to think through your messaging and have a review panel ready to review your communications. As HR professionals, we’re sometimes closest to the subject that it doesn’t always make the most sense to our intended audience.

Keep employees engaged and ensure the information reaches their families.

The question I would always ask myself is, how do we ensure employees receive the information, and how can we ensure they stay engaged with it? Then we add the layer of making sure the information reaches the employee’s home. Arranging your messaging in a way that is simple to digest is a key strategy to your benefits communication plan. Be sure to highlight the enhancements of this year’s open enrollment season with clear deadlines. Send communications to the employee’s home to ensure a broader reach.

Employees will have questions. Be thoughtful about your answers to these questions.

One common theme when it comes to open enrollment is answering questions. Some are very basic and some are a little complex. Having a reach back strategy can be key to having a less stressful open enrollment. Host a town hall session and webinars focused on open enrollment with Q&A time built in.

Personalize, personalize, and personalize some more.

With so many benefit carriers, it’s important to have a strategy of how to personalize the information. It’s what will foster that connection between employee benefit material and employees. If you are a small company, this can be a challenge. However, if you have a good benefits broker, it can be a game-changer.

Bring in technology to add some simplicity.

I’ve led open enrollment initiatives without technology and I know how difficult this is for employees (and for an HR department). The forms in itself are not employee-friendly. This is why it’s critical to consider incorporating a web-based benefit election system, where employees can make their elections, and where a data feed can be sent directly to carriers. This will help eliminate any room for error in the transfer of information.

To bring it all together, I can honestly say that no one Open Enrollment season is ever the same. With a workforce that is as diverse as it is changing, it’s essential to offer competitive employee benefits that attract, engage, and retain top talent. More importantly, the key to making an open enrollment season successful for employees will take some creative planning, well-crafted communications, and a lot of simplicity to a cumbersome process!




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