A poorly executed open enrollment can occur for many reasons and can lead to further negative consequences. In contrast, a satisfied employee experience marks a successful open enrollment.
Too often, companies bungle open enrollment. A bungled open enrollment can lead to employees questioning their value. HR teams can strain during the process, and the company could incur additional costs by incorrect payroll deductions.
Enhance employee experience and organizational efficiency for your company by overcoming common open enrollment challenges by following these steps:
1) Creating a plan
Planning ahead is hard when you are busy just keeping up. Unfortunately, open enrollment typically occurs at the end of the year when HR teams and employees are often busiest. Competing priorities like end-of-year performance reviews, planning for the upcoming year, and holidays devour time.
Yet you should work 90 days ahead to avoid additional pressure from open enrollment. If your benefits year will begin on Jan. 1, set a deadline of Sept. 1 to have a plan for open enrollment if you will start it on Dec. 1. Allow additional time for each day prior to Dec. 1 that you would start, like by putting a plan in place by Aug. 1 if open enrollment will begin on Nov. 1.
Build an engaging open enrollment strategy by reviewing previous plans. What has worked before? And what has not? Improve your processes based on feedback from employees and HR members alike.
Define your goals for the upcoming enrollment period as well. Identify specific measures of success, like reducing the amount of time HR spends answering questions or increasing enrollment for a particular benefit.
2) Choosing the benefits to offer
Benefits brokers and insurers may be just as busy as you when it comes to preparing for open enrollment. So, you may not get rates or plans to review as soon as you would like.
Executive benefits consultant Harrison Newman suggested in his tips for how to breeze through open enrollment to research rates before your renewal date to avoid delays. You should be able to estimate any increases or decreases within a few percentage points if you review claims, trend data, and industry benchmarks. Such pre-renewal work will prepare you for any plan changes and help you make well-informed decisions, Newman wrote for Employee Benefits News.
Newman also recommends keeping new benefit options simple to avoid confusing employees. Add voluntary benefits like pet insurance or student-loan payment assistance through separate enrollment periods to speed open enrollment for core benefits.
3) Preparing for enrollment
Once you have selected your benefit offerings, you must decide how to divide the costs between the company and your employees. Decision-makers need time to review and consider contribution strategies. Give them options at least 60 days before open enrollment begins.
Prepare enrollment packages for employees as soon as possible. Include forms, plan summaries, and benefit certificates from your carriers.
Update your HR software too so that it includes any relevant data or functionality such as new plans, dates, plan documents, or rates. Allow ample time to review, conduct testing, and make any updates to the employee benefit and open enrollment guides if necessary.
4) Communicating with employees
All employees need to know when and how to enroll for the benefits. But each employee looks for information in a different way. Some want face-to-face meetings, others like emails, while still more prefer texts or instant messages. Communicate the same messages through different channels so that all employees get all of the information they need.
Also, employees may not enroll if they do not understand their benefits. So you must help employees understand their choices. Two-thirds of leaders worry about communication though, which makes it the most common open enrollment challenge.
You can increase comprehension by offering decision-support tools like flexible spending account (FSA) calculators, plan comparisons, or wellness modeling, according to 88% of the organizations surveyed by The ADP Research Institute®. Eighty percent of employers say such tools increase engagement.
Keep information concise and digestible when communicating with employees during open enrollment for benefits. Easy-to-use knowledge platforms can also help.
Follow up with employees throughout the enrollment period. Monitor completed enrollments and send reminders to employees who have not finished their selections.
5) Confirming enrollments
Inaccurate or incomplete data from employees could compromise their eligibility for benefits. Review submitted forms for possible problems like missing signatures, social security numbers, required dependent verification documents, or full-time student status confirmations. Allow at least five days for review before forwarding enrollment information to vendors.
Encourage employees to review their confirmation statements as well. Let them make any adjustments or updates necessary. Once the statements are confirmed, review and compare the elections to the previous year, noting any changes that will require starting or removing future payroll deductions.
A proactive administrative review period ensures that parties are appropriately notified and that coverages are in place by their effective dates, regardless of any unexpected changes that may occur during the time allotted.
Consider requiring employees to affirm their previous year’s selections if they do not want to make changes. This could save you the time of checking with employees who have not enrolled as you go through open enrollment for next year. In a survey of workplace benefits, Aflac found that 93% of employees choose the same benefits each year rather than making changes during open enrollment periods.
6) Administering benefits
Open enrollment can overwhelm HR teams. The hours required often pile onto time spent on responsibilities like recruiting or onboarding. Teams that are already stretched thin may be stretched thinner still.
Technology improves open enrollment, increasing efficiency and employee engagement by streamlining workflows and simplifying processes. You could save up to a week’s time on open enrollment by eliminating manual tasks and completing more of the process online.
Open enrollment is crucial to the employee experience. Your employees want to feel that you value them enough to invest in good benefits. They also want to know that you care enough to make it easy to use those benefits.
A poor open enrollment will discourage employees from using their benefits — and perhaps even prompt them to seek a job elsewhere. It also could frustrate the HR team responsible, adding stress to any already stressful job.
Increase the return on your investment in benefits by improving the employee experience for your workers while helping your HR team work more efficiently. Do not let common challenges deter you.
Providence Technology Solutions has the expertise, knowledge and resources to support you and your employees with a positive open enrollment experience.
Contact us today to discuss your open enrollment needs online, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 904.719.8264.