Open enrollment is one of the most important and frustrating times of the year both for HR professionals and employees. It can be especially stressful for HR teams. Why? Because employees count on these benefits to take care of themselves and their families, but it can be challenging to get them engaged in the process. Honestly, that’s understandable. Sometimes the enrollment processes are complicated and require some significant decisions on the part of employees. Given that in many companies, the staff is already facing stress and time crunches from their regular work, it can feel impossible to get them to pay attention, understand their options, and get their paperwork turned in on time. Here are some tips that may make the process a little smoother in your organization.
Of all the things that happen in the lives of your organization's employees, benefits open enrollment may not be the most exciting. However, that doesn't mean you can't raise some level of excitement around the process. Excitement is contagious. Building some enthusiasm may catch on and make the entire process easier and more interesting for everyone. Generating excitement requires HR professionals to put on their marketing hats. Remember that what you are offering is valuable to your staff. All you need in return is a little of their time and attention. Leverage this and develop a plan to build excitement as you move toward the open enrollment period. Start early and not just by sending notices of the upcoming deadlines but by demonstrating value, featuring benefits, and demonstrating the ease of the process. Consider every step of your plan and think of creative ways to build interest. Maybe instead of just endless emails and paper packets, invite leaders to address staff members to demonstrate their excitement and relay a sense of importance when thinking of the future.
Once you have done everything you can to get employees engaged in the process, it is essential to keep the process moving. For many HR managers, open enrollment feels like a time of hounding people for late paperwork. Why not get ahead of it and find ways to get people to turn in their documents as early as possible. Even employees who are masters of making deadlines in their daily work can have trouble getting those open enrollment forms in on time. Perhaps, it might be time to add a little gamification to the process. Game theory is now being used in many sectors to get people inspired to accomplish tasks and meet deadlines. A simple contest to reward timely completion can reap clear benefits. What about small prizes for those who turn everything in on the first day? Or consider an ongoing raffle that people enter only when their forms are submitted. Even small simple prizes, such as gift cards, will engage the competitive spirit of your staff.
One of the biggest obstacles to getting employees to submit their open enrollment paperwork is a lack of understanding of the options. In many cases, the choices can feel more and more confusing, and staff members can feel paralyzed by the decisions they have to make. The best way to combat this is by offering as much training and information as possible without making them feel even more overwhelmed. Often, the best way to approach this is by providing information in multiple formats. Some organizations have developed e-learning modules to allow employees to learn about the option on their own time and in a form they may be more comfortable with. Webinars are also an excellent alternative option giving staff access to the information and a chance to ask questions. For others, in-person meetings are more effective. Especially for organizations with multiple locations, it may be worth it to send a senior leader to each site to offer instruction and Q&A. Just be sure they are prepared with all of the pertinent information.
Benefits open enrollment will always be a cause for some amount of stress for HR professionals. However, with a little creative thinking and planning, you can reduce the frustration both for you and your employees.