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For the past four months, HR practitioners have been busy adapting various parts of the HR life cycle to efficiently work within the evolving coronavirus landscape. Now is the time to determine how your communication and execution strategies might evolve for your organization’s open enrollment this season.

Virtual Meeting Platforms

If your organization wasn’t already comfortable with virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, you’re probably feeling like a pro these days. While these platforms will absolutely allow you to carry out a virtual meeting and share important information verbally and visually, you may want to consider the size of your organization and how effective this strategy may be for hosting a virtual open enrollment. Hosting meetings for larger groups may not be as effective.

Existing HRIS System

If you regularly employ some type of HRIS solution (ADP Workforce Now, Paylocity, etc.) and maintain your benefits eligibility and elections within that system, you might benefit from taking a look at under-utilized or unused self-service options, tools and other resources that may already be sitting in your HRIS system. For example, look at your file resource libraries, electronic enrollment forms, and customizable workflows. The tools within some of these systems have the potential to add helpful context for your employees as they progress through each of their benefits plan election choices.

Engage Your Broker

Your broker potentially has numerous ready-made tools and solutions at their fingertips, as well as existing relationships with benefits communication vendors (typically costs extra).  Brokers routinely engage with many organizations over a wide spectrum of industries which means they are regularly presented with a broad array of communication challenges.  It’s likely that your broker has already helped an organization conduct some type of virtual open enrollment recently. With benefits communication vendors, you have the potential to create fresh, fun and engaging products that are often tailored to your workforce and easily sharable in today’s social media environment.

Leverage Existing Internal Resources

If additional expenses are not really within your organization’s budget this year, what might you make use of internally or repurpose as additional support for your organization’s virtual open enrollment? Perhaps with assistance from your marketing area, you can create a multimedia presentation, present it over Zoom/Teams and choose to record the session which you can then share out with your entire workforce.

Does your organization currently make use of any system in which it conducts trainings to staff? Is it possible to build out a few simple ‘training sessions’ that could be repurposed to educate and communicate about your organization’s benefits programs for the upcoming plan year? Doing so has the potential to save you time and ensure consistency with the information being shared.

Active vs. Passive Enrollment

If your organization is making very little changes to benefits offerings this year, you may choose to designate this year’s open enrollment as passive. This allows your employees’ elections to roll forward automatically into the new plan year. Keep in mind that if your organization offers certain benefits plans (such as flexible spending accounts), you can’t roll all types of elections forward automatically as they do require active re-enrollment each plan year. Your broker can easily help you make that determination.

Executing Open Enrollment

Give some thought to how your employees will actually conduct a benefits enrollment session this year. If you have one of the HRIS systems described earlier, this is a great option for your workforce as they already have the tools in place (computer, smartphones, tablets, internet access, etc.). If you’re still making use of paper enrollment forms, that’s likely to create a new challenge in a virtual environment. When costs, access to newer technologies, or lack of time prevents you from being able to implement some of these ideas discussed here, perhaps investigate whether someone within your organization or your benefits broker can take your paper enrollment form and convert it into a writable PDF that can be completed electronically.

Helpful Tips

Make sure you plan appropriately from a timing perspective this year if you’re implementing a new communications strategy or enrollment mechanism. You will need additional time to build out options, conduct thorough testing and respond to employee questions as a result of the change.  Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to check with carriers to ensure there are no changes to the deliverable dates where you must turn over your open enrollment files to the carriers for processing. Building your timeline backward from this point and including appropriate cushions of time to account for unforeseen delays will smoothen your process.

With thoughtful and careful planning, there’s no reason why your open enrollment season shouldn’t be a success.  With luck, you just might end up significantly enhancing the enrollment process and wowing your workforce!

Lisa McKeown
Managing Director, Total Rewards

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