If you’ve got open enrollment questions, you’ve come to the right place. The open enrollment period can be stressful, confusing, and overwhelming for many employees. For HR professionals, missed deadlines can be equally as stressful. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways that companies can do to boost participation during the open enrollment period.
We’ll be answering open enrollment questions on promoting and improving your communication strategy to:
- Reduce the number of employees who miss the deadline
- Increase engagement on messaging related to open enrollment
- Empower employees with more knowledge about the process
Let’s start with the basics.
Is My Company Required to Offer Open Enrollment?
The short answer? Most likely. But it depends on the size of your organization and how many employees you have.
Under the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), an “applicable large employer” has to offer open enrollment on an annual basis or face penalties. An “applicable large employer” is any company or organization that has at least 50 full time employees.
The IRS will recognize applicable large employers to have given coverage when employees and dependents have had the opportunity to accept, decline, or change their benefits at least once a year. (Note: “Dependents” in this case includes children under the age of 26, not spouses.)
What about existing employees who don’t make changes to their coverage and have their elections roll over from one year to the next? This still counts as offering coverage as long as there is an open enrollment period during which employees can make changes if they want to.
It is the company’s responsibility to:
- Explain the open enrollment process to employees
- Disclose any changes made to an employee’s plan
- Make sure employees understand what their coverage will look like if they make no changes to their plan
How Do You Promote Open Enrollment?
The open enrollment period can be a stressful time for both employees and HR managers. Confusing jargon often makes it difficult for employees to fully understand their options and participate in open enrollment. For HR professionals, missed deadlines can create extra administrative work.
By promoting open enrollment, companies can:
- Give employees the tools they need to make informed decisions about their coverage
- Increase the number of employees who enroll on time
Let’s look at 3 specific strategies for promoting open enrollment.
1. Create An Open Enrollment Communication Strategy
Having a communication strategy in place for promoting open enrollment creates a roadmap for HR that goes beyond just informing employees about the basics.
Some questions to consider when coming up with an enrollment communication strategy include:
- What kind of communication channels are best for the company’s workforce?
- How often employees need/want to be reminded about open enrollment?
- What information would inform employees and fill the gaps in their knowledge?
- Whether additional resources like guides, webinars, and one-on-one consultations would be beneficial?
After the open enrollment period is over, HR can look at what worked and what didn’t to iterate and improve the strategy for the following year.
2. Create an Open Enrollment Checklist for HR
Turning a communication strategy into a checklist makes it easier to visualize the timeline of promoting open enrollment. Plus, it helps to make sure that every element of a detailed plan is accounted for.
A sample open enrollment checklist for HR could include:
- Assess your current plan and offerings
- Identify eligible employees
- Review employee feedback from last year’s open enrollment period
- Evaluate your current offering and consider added benefits recommended by employees
- Get information on coverage changes
- Set your open enrollment launch and end dates
- Identify your open enrollment execution team
- Identify goals and KPIs to define a successful open enrollment program
- Create a game plan to track every eligible employee’s enrollment status
- Create an open enrollment communication timeline
- Identify the communication channels that will be leveraged to reach all employees
- Pro tip: if you have a frontline-majority workforce, make sure open enrollment communication distribution is done through their mobile employee collaboration platform
- Draft your open enrollment communications, and ensure they include:
- Open enrollment schedule
- Coverage information, including changes
- Link to find all open enrollment materials
- Contact information for questions
- Collect or create open enrollment collateral, such as booklets, one-pagers, and videos
- Establish a dedicated open enrollment communication hub to address employee questions and assistance needs
Preparation is key to implementing a successful open enrollment communication strategy.
3. Choose Communication Channels that Work for All Employees
Pre-pandemic, a 2020 report found that the most common channels for communicating open enrollment were email and internal websites. But those channels may not be the most accessible, convenient, or effective for all employees.
Non-desk employees who might not have a company email address and don’t work in front of a computer would benefit from a different approach. A mobile collaboration platform like Beekeeper helps organizations promote open enrollment by:
- Sending reminders and updates in real-time
- Instantly translating messages and posts into the employee’s preferred language
- Allowing employees to ask questions and give feedback
- Leveraging confirmation campaigns so HR leaders can easily keep track of who has read important information and updates, and follow up with employees who haven’t
Ultimately, having a successful open enrollment season involves choosing the right tools for reaching your entire workforce.
How Can I Improve My Open Enrollment?
There are several ways companies can optimize their open enrollment seasons.
They can start by setting goals around the following KPIs:
- How many employees meet the deadline
- The level of engagement for open enrollment communication
- The amount of positive feedback from employees
Let’s look at three ways to improve all three of these metrics.
1. Demystify the Process
One of the reasons employees don’t participate in open enrollment is that they don’t fully understand the process. Understanding all the different components of a healthcare benefits plan can be overwhelming.
It’s up to the company to demystify the open enrollment process and give employees the confidence they need to make informed decisions.
Before and during the open enrollment period, companies can offer resources like:
- In-depth guides on the most common questions about open enrollment
- Live Q&A sessions with HR representatives
- Explainer videos that walk employees through the process of enrollment from start to finish
2. Analyze Employee Feedback
By looking at what went right and what could be improved during the open enrollment period, HR managers can create a more effective process for the following year. Collecting, analyzing, and acting on employee feedback starts with asking questions like:
- Do you feel like you received enough information to participate in open enrollment?
- Was receiving information about open enrollment convenient?
- Were there any questions about open enrollment that were left unanswered?
- What prompted you to take action and participate in open enrollment?
Mobile communication apps like Beekeeper have employee survey features that allow employees to give their feedback in real time.
Pro Tip: Simple, targeted surveys at regular intervals can help companies gage the success of their open enrollment strategy and make changes immediately.
3. Pay Special Attention to Non-Responders
Making sure that all employees have access to information about open enrollment is an important part of a company’s communication strategy. But what about employees who don’t open their messages?
With a frontline success system like Beekeeper, HR leaders can easily keep track of who opens and engages with their messages. This allows HR managers to quickly see who has confirmed reading a message and follow up with those who haven’t.
Targeting non-responders can clear up any barriers that are preventing them from fully participating in open enrollment communication. This could be a language barrier, feeling overwhelmed by unfamiliar jargon, or misconceptions about the process.
Pro Tip: Encouraging reluctant employees to start opening and engaging with open enrollment communication makes it more likely they will participate on time.
How Do You Make Open Enrollment Fun?
Let’s face it: No one hears the phrase “updating healthcare information” and immediately thinks of “fun.” But it doesn’t have to be boring or intimidating either.
Here are 10 open enrollment ideas for making the process a little more enjoyable for employees:
- Celebrate the first day of open enrollment with a happy hour, virtual or in-person. Employees can talk with HR representatives who can give them more information and walk them through the process.
- Reward employees who enroll on the first day. This could include recognizing them via a company app, allowing extra time off, or giving them a gift card.
- Give bonus rewards to teams who enroll on the first day. If all employees on a team complete the process, why not treat everyone to a company-sponsored lunch?
- Create health-related quizzes through an employee app. Testing an employee’s knowledge about how to stay healthy at work can be a good entry point into introducing information about open enrollment.
- Choose a theme like sports, the outdoors, music, or movies. That theme could influence the language of your communication plan as well as any rewards being given.
- Keep it light-hearted with plenty of puns, gifs, and memes. And remember: no one is immune to cute animals.
- Encourage accountability partners by rewarding employees who reach out to a colleague and keep them updated on their open enrollment progress.
- Start a scavenger hunt where employees have to find and answer benefits-related questions to receive a special prize.
- Gamify the process by giving points or mini prizes every time an employee engages with a benefits-related message.
- Celebrate the last week of open enrollment with a fun, relaxed activity where employees get their last chance to sign up. Those who leave enrollment to the last minute might already be stressed about it, so gentle encouragement may be more effective than urgent messaging.
Making open enrollment more fun is one way to make the process easier. Let’s look at one more powerful strategy for simplifying open enrollment.
How Do I Make Open Enrollment Easier?
With the strategies and tips outlined above, it can seem like open enrollment is a complex process, both for HR departments and employees. While it can involve a lot of moving parts to be successful, one way to alleviate the pressure is to keep communication bite-sized.
Benefits jargon, deadlines, and the pressure to make hard choices can lead straight to information overload and overwhelm. Breaking information down into bite-sized pieces can make it easier for employees to understand – and act on – open enrollment tasks.
Some employees may prefer to learn about open enrollment, consider their choices, and enroll all in one go. Others might benefit from a slow drip of information that occurs over an extended period of time.
Using a mobile communication app like Beekeeper is a great way to create and distribute bite-sized pieces of content like:
- Introductory notes welcoming employees to the start of open enrollment
- Invitations to a webinar with a benefits expert
- Reminders about open enrollment deadlines
- Short videos explaining healthcare benefits terms
Any one of these may not paint the full picture of open enrollment. But over time, employees can get more familiar with the process, ultimately making participation easier.