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5 Tips to Ensure a Smooth Open Enrollment

/ October 29, 2016 October 29, 2016

Open enrollment season is upon us! Some dread the season, viewing it as an administrative headache. Others see it as an opportunity to personally engage with employees—helping them to make choices that will safeguard their health, financial, and total well-being. With the help of the Society of Human Resource Management, we have composed a list of 5 tips to help you achieve the latter and avoid the former.

  1. Understand employee plan utilization in advance- One of the best ways to control costs and choose plans that are a fit for your employees and the company budget is to closely monitor how your employees are using the plans as frequently as possible. Employers should work with their brokers and providers to stay informed throughout the year. That way, when it comes time for open enrollment again, the decisions should be quicker and easier to make with the inefficiencies & information bottlenecks eliminated.
  2. Make it Active!– To engage employees around their benefits, use an “active” enrollment strategy. This requires employees to select the benefits that they want, rather than allowing them to passively continue with their selections from the previous year. Doing do certainly involves more of an effort from both the employer and the employee; however, it allows the employees to reassess whether they’re making the right choice for not only themselves, but for their families as well.
  3. Don’t hand out collateral WITHOUT conversation or meetings–  Frequently, employers hand out a folder filled with pages and pages of information regarding open enrollment choices. However, this does nothing to actually educate employees. Instead, it creates confusion and results in lost time answering repeat questions. In order to effectively communicate, employers should actively communicate with employees, highlighting any changes in the plan from the prior year, as well as the differences between plan options and employee costs. Active communication as well as using multiple communication channels will allow employees to make better healthcare choices and in a more timely fashion.
  4. Share your strategy with employees– When discussing the cost of health care insurance, it is very easy for employees to focus on their share and forget the fact that we as employers bear some burden as well. This is why we should consider sharing our contribution strategy (i.e., “while there was a plan increase of 10%, we are covering X% of that increase”), as well as the fact that our cost of benefits is a part of our employee’s total compensation package.This highlights for our employees that we are investing significant dollars in them, over and above their salaries.It also helps demonstrate that the costs of benefits are often beyond our control, particularly now, given the significant changes in healthcare reform.
  5. Start Again ASAP!– Once enrollment ends, start planning for the next year. It shouldn’t be a “one and done” ordeal. Consider having your employees take a survey where they provide feedback on your open enrollment process, asking questions like: “What was clear?” or “What could be improved?” Your employee’s responses could shed some light into what was and was not valued, so that you can re-allocate your time and spend for next year!

While there are numerous ways to help smooth out the open enrollment process, the above five steps will help the process significantly if followed.