HR communications experts, GuideSpark, say ¾ of CHROs spend “a lot of time” doing nothing other than responding to employee questions during open enrollment. That’s because open enrollment is such an important time of year for your employees. Robust and well-communicated benefits plans have been shown over and over again to have a direct impact on employee satisfaction and engagement. In fact, in their 2017 WorkForces Report, insurance company Aflac discovered that 80% of employees who are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits are also extremely or very content with their careers. But… they also found that 15% of employees would rather file their taxes than go through open enrollment.
Learn to Hack Open Enrollment
Manual processes will no longer cut it. When your HR, payroll, and benefits functions are integrated, instead of spending time on paperwork and collecting and inputting employee information multiple times in multiple databases, your HR team only has to enter employee information once, into a single user interface. This integration can save money and time, as well as help ensure that data entry mistakes are reduced. Here’s how to hack open enrollment:
1. Find the Right Technology for Your Business
With technology-based open enrollment, every step of the process is automated. That means zero paper-based processes and improved enrollment and administrative efficiency. Using a system that has online open enrollment also helps reduce the cost of employee benefits services by:
- Eliminating the expense of paper enrollment packets
- Reducing enrollment cycle time
- Enabling your employees to use self-service to use decision report tools to select the benefits programs that are right for them, as well as report life event changes.
- Automatically applying the appropriate deductions to your payroll system
- Generating detailed reports so you can easily monitor the cost of your benefits plans
2. Review Last Year’s OE results
All of these tips are important, but this one is arguably the one HR should spend a considerable amount of time on. If you don’t know how your enrollment went last year, it’ll be impossible to fix anything that’s broken. Be sure you:
- Track email open rates
- Measure your employee response rate. At the end of open enrollment, compare those who enrolled with those who were sent the communications in tip 4
- Monitor click-through rates and enrollment on a weekly basis during open enrollment
- Track your marketing activities. Compare spikes in enrollments following emails, webinars, direct mail pieces, etc. so you know which methodology is effective and where you can better allocate your budget
3. Plan ahead
It’s important to be prepared, so two to four months before open enrollment begins you should:
- Obtain renewal numbers and rates from your carriers for the coming plan year
- Analyze costs and decide to switch carriers or not
- Audit your marketing materials (brochures, postcards, emails, videos, etc.) for updates and put them into the production process
- Schedule required meetings, webinars, benefits fairs, etc.
When you take the time to plan ahead, your enrollment period will be far less stressful, which can benefit everyone, especially your HR team.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate (and then communicate some more)
Communication about company benefits plans should take place year ‘round, not just during open enrollment. While open enrollment is the primary benefits communication event, it’s not the only one. Keep up awareness. HR has many opportunities to communicate the value of your benefits offerings to your employees, so be sure to communicate early, creatively and frequently. Benefits communications can be complicated, very confusing, and frankly… pretty boring. When you create a compelling benefits marketing program, you can help ensure your employees fully understand their options.
Be sure to consider the way your employees prefer to receive communications, as well. Believe it or not, not everyone uses email, and postcards might be accidentally tossed in the recycling bin. And, your Gen X and Millennial employees might rather receive text messages about open enrollment that direct them to a mobile enrollment site. Consider these additional ways to communicate:
- Paycheck inserts
- Company intranet
- Posters and banners
- Kick-off events with sign-up stations
- Incentive programs
5. Prepare your team
During this time of uncertainty for many of your employees, HR should be at the ready to respond to any number of open enrollment questions. Make sure they are not only well-educated about every aspect of your benefits programs, but also able to answer questions about which programs might work for different scenarios. Decision support tools within your benefits solution will enable employees to determine which plans work best for their situations, taking an enormous Q&A load off your HR staff.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says there are four main questions your employees want to know:
- Why do I need the coverage?
- Which features fit my needs?
- What value does the program provide?
- How much is this going to cost me per paycheck?
Being prepared with answers to these questions will give your HR team a leg up when the inevitable questions hit their inboxes.
By following these five tips, and automating your HR systems, you can make open enrollment easier and more successful all the way around, and next year the process will be a breeze. If you’re struggling to make the case to invest in HR technology to automate open enrollment, or if you’re skeptical about changing from a paper-based process, read The Pitfalls of Manual Open Enrollment. We’ll outline why breaking free from inefficient, manual processes is a win-win for your employees and your bottom line.
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