Open Enrollment Tips for Employers: Steps to Success

This article provides open enrollment tips for employers and last-minute details you may have overlooked.  

Open enrollment can be a hectic time for even the most seasoned HR professionals, but the right mix of organization and communication can take your open enrollment from good to great. More than likely, you are already knee-deep in renewals and plan changes, cost share calculations, and of course, communications. Every year, the intent is to have a well thought out strategy, but inevitably something falls through the cracks. This article offers some open enrollment tips for employers and last-minute details to help you stay on top of things now and into the coming year.

Read time: 4 minutes

Decide on Deliverables

Your first step is to take inventory of the deliverables you are going to use this year. Even if you plan to rinse and repeat what you’ve used in the past, take time to understand the mix of media you’re using. People don’t learn in the same way, so it’s important to make sure your deliverables are available in multiple formats:

  • Print. No matter how “electronic” your company is, have at least one piece of printed material that the employee can review at home with their spouse or partner. This material can either be mailed home or distributed at work. And don’t forget traditional posters or table tents for your locations.
  • Digital. This category includes emails, videos, websites/microsites, digital signage, and PDFs of important documents like the benefit guide or highlights newsletter.
  • Verbal. Some employees prefer to get their benefit information directly from a real live person. If you can’t have in-person meetings or webinars, consider posting a pre-recorded presentation. On-site or virtual health and wellness fairs are also an excellent option for 1:1 interaction.

Create a Calendar

Once you have gathered your list of deliverables, it’s time to map out how and when they will be deployed. Download your favorite calendar template and physically map out what you are sending and when, so you’ll be able to see a visual of your entire campaign.

This step will ensure you don’t inundate your employees with tons of information all at once. As part of your planning, be sure to check with internal communications so you don’t overlap with other company emails or big initiatives that are being sent at the same time.

Use Carrier Resources

Many carriers put an emphasis on providing clear and engaging communication to their members to help them navigate open enrollment. Take advantage of these materials when you can. Even if you don’t want to send out their PDFs, you are free to use their content for your own materials.

If you’re implementing a new carrier or benefit, find out if they plan to send any communications to your employees. Note the date on your master calendar so you can give your employees a heads-up that items from this new carrier will be headed their way.

Wrap Things Up Post Enrollment

After the open enrollment season ends, a few more steps will make things easier for your employees.

  • Send out an email or newsletter. This communication can include important reminders for employees before the plan year starts, such as information on their new ID cards, how to download carrier apps, the FSA claims/runout period, and more.
  • Create a survey. The post-enrollment period is a great time to survey your employees to gauge how they interacted with your open enrollment communications. What were their preferred methods of receiving information? Was it the right amount? Did they get their questions answered? You can check out some sample survey questions from another blog post here.
  • Respond to feedback. Save both positive and negative comments you receive regarding open enrollment. Respond and take appropriate action as needed. If employees take the time to give you their two cents, it’s important that they know they have been heard.
Save any feedback received throughout open enrollment to review when planning for the following year.

Plan for Next Year

The typical question we hear from many teams after open enrollment ends is, “What are we going to do next year?”

Now’s the time to take a step back for a debrief with your team. You’ll want to determine what went well and what you might want to change—and refer to any of that saved employee feedback.

During the debrief, take detailed notes to share with everyone and to keep for future reference. While this step may seem like a no-brainer, you’d be amazed how many teams we’ve seen over the years who do not go through this important process. As a result, when the next year rolls around, the points learned from the debrief have been completely forgotten.

We encourage you to take a step further by scheduling an initial open enrollment planning call for next June. The earlier you think about your strategy, the better. “I regret planning for Open Enrollment so far in advance,” said no benefits professional ever.

We hope you’ll use these tips and reminders to have a more successful open enrollment this fall. If you want further ideas or a second opinion on communication materials, contact me directly for guidance—you can find my contact information here.

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