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6 Ways to Make Employees’ Open Enrollment a Positive Experience

Open enrollment period can be stressful as many employees sort through benefit options. Learn how to improve the process and make it easier for everyone.
open enrollment

Making the open enrollment period for benefits appealing to employees can be a challenge. Benefits are often complicated, as they involve everything from selecting what's right for an individual to the actual enrollment process itself. But the more participation there is in a company's employee benefits enrollment plan, the more effective it can be, both in terms of satisfying current employees and attracting new ones.

An effective human capital management strategy takes into account opportunities to improve the employee experience while balancing that impact against budget and resource constraints. The good news is that companies don't necessarily have to offer more benefits to effectively meet employee needs.

How to refine and improve your company's current benefit enrollment period

Now is a good time to review your open enrollment process for employee benefits; find out what's working well and where there's room for improvement.

For example, are there areas where employees are consistently confused or need more information? Identifying gaps and opportunities for improvement year to year is the best way to continuously upgrade your process.

And more doesn't necessarily mean better.

"Just because your health insurance carrier offers 20 different plans doesn't mean you have to offer that many to your employees," says Susan Draper, Paychex HR consultant.

When you have a sense of what your employees want, she adds, "pick two or three plans that meet the majority of their needs. This makes it easier for employees to compare and for you to administer." You may, for example, consider offering one co-pay plan and one that has a small deductible.

Here are some other ways to strategically manage the open enrollment period for benefits and improve the enrollment experience. These strategies can help improve employee satisfaction and provide an important opportunity to educate workers about the value of the benefits you offer them. A well-managed process also reduces stress on your HR team and helps ensure that you meet your vendors' deadlines.

1. Start open enrollment communication early

Your staff may become frustrated if the enrollment season springs up abruptly, with little time to think about packages, selections, and so on. As soon as possible, contact vendors to determine when new information will become available and how that information can be relayed to your employees. Remember: It's never too early to start the informational process concerning employee benefits open enrollment.

This includes orientation for new employees. As part of the onboarding process, says Lynette Latrell Davis, Paychex HR generalist, "set aside time for new hires to review the employee handbook and educate them on how to access relevant information online. This can accelerate the enrollment process and get new employees quickly up to speed on their benefits options."

Also, look into conducting company-wide surveys well ahead of enrollment season to gauge the level of employee satisfaction with current plan options and to seek input on what they'd like to see changed in the year ahead.

2. Allow as much lead time as possible

The open enrollment process for employees often includes coordinating with spouses and running different calculations to determine which plans and options are best for a family. So, it's important to provide as much lead time as possible between when you first share information about benefits and the deadline for enrollment. Employees need time to:

  • Review information
  • Ask questions
  • Think about their benefits enrollment

Additionally, consider sending regular reminders to employees during that interval to keep the upcoming deadline on the radar.

3. Send out information on the benefit enrollment period through multiple channels

Many employees don't understand the full range of benefits available to them, or don't feel they have enough information to make smart decisions. For this reason, strive to offer information in different formats and through multiple channels about employee benefits and any plan changes. The better the open enrollment communication, the smoother the enrollment experience can be.

Consider making benefits information available to employees through:

  • An employee benefits website
  • Enrollment emails
  • Enrollment newsletters
  • Home mailings
  • On-site presentations

Sharing information in different formats also helps explain key details to employees who learn in different ways. For example, some vendors now provide comprehensive plan overview videos or benefits comparison charts that make it easier for employees to digest a large amount of detailed information.

Keep in mind that applicable businesses must adhere to Affordable Care Act regulations covering the distribution of electronic summaries of benefits and coverage, their availability, and when these and related materials must be provided.

4. Offer a self-service option

Many workers prefer a self-service option for employee benefits enrollment. Self-service makes it possible to enroll in benefits programs without undue stress. The functionality also enables employees whose benefits enrollment is straightforward or involves minimal or routine changes to quickly make those adjustments online. It can save both your employees and your HR team valuable time during busy work periods.

5. Provide HR support for all open enrollment options

While many employees want the flexibility of self-service, it's also important for employees with questions to have available HR support. Employees are more likely to embrace self-service when they know they have access to a person who can answer questions. The following strategies can help companies achieve this balance:

  • Invite providers to make presentations where employees can ask questions directly.
  • Offer set office hours or internal meetings with trained HR reps to discuss benefits plans.
  • Provide an email address or phone number where employees can find answers to individual questions.

6. Hand out printed materials and other resources

Producing easy-to-read printed pieces can be a very helpful way to improve open enrollment communication, particularly if you offer information that shows side-by-side comparisons of:

  • Premiums, projected employee contributions, and/or deductibles
  • Lists of in-network and out-of-network medical facilities and consulting physicians
  • Changes in plan offerings from the past year and the one coming up

Try to anticipate the kinds of questions employees will ask, and include detailed frequently asked questions with this printed piece (a PDF version on your company's intranet can help too).

Manage open enrollment easier with Paychex employee benefit services

If you’re looking for a more streamlined way to manage your benefits offerings, help is available.



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