It’s that time of year again – open enrollment season. Many organizations use November 1-30 as their annual opportunity for employees to select, make changes to, or terminate their insurance and benefits coverages. The success of your open enrollment season will be determined by your team’s level of readiness to share information and answer key questions. These quick tips will increase the quality of your open enrollment program, and it will increase satisfaction rates as employees experience a smooth process.

Offer a pre-open enrollment benefits review:

How many of your employees complain about being over-insured or under-insured? From deductibles and copays, navigating insurance options can be a daunting experience for employees. Providing employees with open enrollment materials beforehand gives them time to read the fine print, such as costs incurred when using out of network physicians, and to do take home pay calculations based on premiums.

Quick tip: Don’t just email them a set of links to review the documents or plop down an encyclopedia of benefits on their desks. Instead, create a benefits pre-season timeline to guide employees through their documents. You may decide to focus on one topic per week to pace their learning. During this time, employees can review the benefits they elected the previous year and the options for this year. Encouraging them to take time to assess how they utilized benefits could help them save money. Additional time also helps them formulate questions they may have about the options which you’ll be able to answer before and during open enrollment.

Examine and communicate changes in expenses:

Your employees will expect you to know more about their options than they will. Be sure you know new limit increases for the Flexible Spending Account (FSA), commuter benefits and retirement contributions. If there are limit increases, they should be communicated to employees ahead of open enrollment so that employees can make elections accordingly. As with reviewing benefits, employees should also review their previous years’ expenses.

Quick tip: Provide a cheat sheet with the questions similar to the following:

  1. Did you use all your FSA funds or do you have a substantial amount left?
  2. Do you anticipate having any health procedures in the new benefit year?
  3. Will you take advantage of the commuter benefits? If so, how much will it cost in comparison to driving?
  4. What are your retirement goals and how much do you need to contribute to reach them?

Thinking through their expenses will help the employee decide to make elections to best meet their and their family’s needs during open enrollment.

Organize and communicate benefits by type:

Employers should organize the open enrollment materials in a way that is clear, concise and easy for employees to view and understand, especially when introducing a new vendor or new offering. Organize all the open enrollment materials and forms by benefit whether paper or electronic.

Quick tip: Share a quick tutorial with staff on how to add all benefit websites and portals as favorites to their web browsers. This will help them keep up with the many resources and can serve as an additional place for you to post open enrollment updates.

Fine-tune the customer experience

What went well during last year’s open enrollment? If you wanted to run for the hills because of system breakdown, now is the time to streamline an approach. It all starts with customer expectations. Review open enrollment survey responses and your notes from last year, paying particular attention to what engaged employees and what could have been improved. Tweak each area of the process. If you didn’t conduct an interview, now is the time to add that to your process.

Quick tip: Compile and rank survey responses based on pain-points your customers described and include the solution to those challenges in your pre-open enrollment communication. Doing so demonstrates listening, which can reduce pre-mature questions staff may have and increase program engagement.

Boost engagement through technology

Leverage technology by using the HRIS for electronic enrollment or tutorial videos on the enrollment process.

Quick tips: Need tutorial video ideas? Start with popular questions asked, such as how to add and remove dependents or change premiums. Most vendors offer how-to videos. Linking to their library of resources would also help employees who would appreciate a deeper dive.

Keep wellness front of mind

Sometimes the thought of the open enrollment can seem more overwhelming than the process itself. Most likely, your employees want to take advantage of wellness options. Helping them see the benefits of choosing and using their insurance will keep them on the road to healthy lifestyles throughout the year and can increase satisfaction levels as well.

Quick tip: Create a one-pager on the benefits of using medical benefits when well. Encourage them to schedule annual exams and to participate in information sessions. Be sure to add any perks your organization offers to your tip sheet such as gym and health-vendor discounts.

Finally: Don’t forget yourself. You’ll need to elect your own benefits this month, too. The work you do up-front will allow you extra time to make the best choices for your family. Keep these six steps in mind and your approach open enrollment season will be a success!

Tamika S. Hood, MPS, PHR, SHRM-CP
Associate HR Business Partner
Nonprofit HR
Lisa McKeown
Total Rewards Practice Leader
Nonprofit HR