Five Steps to a Successful Open Enrollment - No Shortcuts

Open enrollment season is just around the corner, and HR professionals at companies of all sizes should be preparing to share benefit details with their employees as part of their 2017 enrollment process. Questions and some confusion are inevitable, but there are ways to make sure open enrollment goes smoothly:

  1. Put together a cohesive package
    Work with your provider or vendor partner to create a package detailing the benefits available to eligible employees, so they have just one place to look for all the information they need. It should include summary sheets, pricing, how to use the benefits, and enrollment instructions and deadlines.

  2. Be clear
    Communication is essential to engage employees and ensure they understand the benefits and their options. Even if plans have not changed from the previous year, new employees will be accessing benefits for the first time and other employees’ family situations may have changed. Avoid the temptation to provide communication that is too technical and granular. Provide short, bite-sized pieces of information and offer ways to find more detail if an employee needs it.

  3. Test systems
    Make sure your online enrollment system works. Testing it ahead of time prevents problems later. It’s better to get input on whether the system is easy to use and navigate before open enrollment than during it.

  4. Set up meetings and align resources
    Regardless of all of the preparation and communication, employees are going to have questions. Set up times with your provider or vendor partner for employees to ask questions about the coverage and learn what options may work best for them. Provide your partners with resources and guidance they need to help you get your messages across in a clear and consistent manner.

  5. Highlight the value
    Since benefits packages are part of employees’ total compensation, it is important that they understand the value they get from it. The open enrollment process is a good opportunity to convey the organization's total benefit value -- especially the hidden dollars being contributed towards benefits like life insurance and retirement plans.

Follow those five steps and you’re likely to have a solid open enrollment. To take it to the next level, consider these:

Go mobile: Introduce mobile or add more mobile options into your enrollment communications. These can be simple text messages to communicate enrollment dates or more involved interactive, mobile-friendly videos to educate employees.

Be concise: Provide clear, simple descriptions along with links to get more detailed information. Charts and infographics are a visually appealing way to convey information without making it appear overwhelming. Provide FAQs and have other resources available to respond to employees’ questions.

Be compliant, but not boring: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is complicated and there are compliant-based communications like Medicare Part D enrollment information that must be distributed in a timely fashion. While these are important to share, they can be overwhelming so be sure they are not the focus of your communications.

Craig Johnson
by Craig Johnson

Partner, Communication, Mercer

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