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How Employers Can Improve the Open Enrollment Experience

Published 6 months ago • 4 min read

How Employers Can Improve the Open Enrollment Experience

Open enrollment is the period during which employees can review, select, and make changes to their benefit plans. This includes health insurance, dental coverage, vision plans, retirement contributions, and other essential benefits. With most companies wrapping up open enrollment in November, now is a great time for HR leaders to reflect on how the process went this year — and consider how they could improve this experience in the future.

First, however, it’s important to understand why the open enrollment experience is so important. For one, many of the benefits that companies offer play a crucial role in supporting employees’ physical and mental health. A positive open enrollment experience ensures that workers can make informed decisions that align with their health and lifestyle needs.

In addition, benefit selections made during open enrollment can have direct financial implications for employees. Understanding the costs and potential out-of-pocket expenses is essential for workers to make choices that align with their budget and financial goals. A well-managed open enrollment process helps employees navigate these considerations effectively.

Lastly, a positive open enrollment experience contributes to overall employee satisfaction and engagement. When the process is clear, user-friendly, and supported by effective communication, people feel valued and supported by their employer. This, in turn, fosters a positive workplace culture and strengthens the employer-employee relationship.

However, according to a study from isolved, nearly half (47%) of workers consider the benefit election process to be stressful. And companies where people are dissatisfied could be experiencing unusually high turnover, since 45% of employees say a poor benefits enrollment experience would prompt them to look for a new job.

In fact, a large body of research finds that offering employees more support during open enrollment can have a real impact on their loyalty, not to mention their health and happiness. For example, 62% of workers say understanding how to use their benefits would give them a greater sense of overall stability, and 50% say having a better understanding of their benefits would make them more loyal to their employer.

For organizations, improving the benefit election experience should involve making the process clear, efficient, and engaging. It could also mean incorporating technologies and self-service capabilities to empower employees and give them easy access to the information they need. In many cases, these changes will also benefit HR leaders and the teams that support them.

In today’s article, I’ll discuss several strategies employers can consider to make next year’s open enrollment season less stressful and confusing — let’s take a look.

Provide Clear and Personalized Communication

Employees say that providing more communication is the #1 way employers could improve the open enrollment experience for them. For example, employers should provide comprehensive information regarding the enrollment process, important dates, and any changes to benefit offerings. Utilizing a variety of channels, such as email, company intranet, and in-person meetings, ensures that information reaches all team members, regardless of their preferred communication method.

Recognizing the diversity of their workforce, employers should also personalize their communications to cater to individual needs. Using data to tailor messages based on factors like age, life stage, and previous benefit selections creates a more relevant and engaging experience for workers. Furthermore, highlighting the alignment of specific benefits with employees' personal situations will increase the perceived value of the offerings.

Simplify Your Enrollment Processes

A user-friendly and streamlined enrollment process is crucial for enhancing the overall experience. Employers should invest in an intuitive online platform, for example isolved Benefits Administration, that guides employees through the enrollment steps with clear instructions. A well-designed platform will also help HR leaders by relieving some of their administrative burden, automating reporting, and providing easy-to-understand data insights.

By incorporating mobile-friendly interfaces, companies can also accommodate the preferences of workers who prefer accessing information on their smartphones, contributing to a more seamless and accessible experience. According to one study, nearly 3 out of 10 employees (29%) would like to elect their benefits via technology.

Encourage Employees to Start Early

It’s a good idea to encourage early enrollment, for example through incentives or discounts. By setting deadlines and offering rewards, employers can motivate workers to complete the process promptly, reducing the likelihood of last-minute complications. This approach also allows employees ample time to review their options and make informed decisions, and it can take some of the burden off of HR teams who often find themselves inundated with last-minute inquiries.

One study found that nearly one-third of employees (31%) procrastinated when selecting their benefits last year, and 37% wish they’d had more time to make the right choices. In addition, 1 out of 6 employees say they regret their benefits elections from last year. Leaders may not recognize that when workers make mistakes during open enrollment, it can have significant repercussions on their mental, physical, and financial well-being.

Offer Education and Decision Support

Empowering workers with knowledge is key to fostering informed decision-making. Employers can organize webinars, workshops, or provide informational materials that explain benefit options and changes. Decision support tools, such as calculators and online resources, can assist employees in understanding the financial implications of their choices, ultimately leading to more confident and well-informed decisions.

To address employee questions and concerns effectively, employers should always provide dedicated support during the open enrollment period. This could include a support hotline, in-person assistance sessions, or virtual Q&A sessions. Companies should also consider integrating technologies to provide real-time assistance and enhance the overall user experience. According to isolved, 54% of workers would use an HR chatbot or virtual assistant to learn about their benefits.

A Better Path Forward for Open Enrollment

The open enrollment experience is a pivotal annual event that directly impacts employees' access to essential benefits, financial well-being, job satisfaction, and the organization's ability to attract and retain talent. By implementing the strategies I’ve suggested in today’s article, employers can contribute to a more positive and efficient open enrollment experience, fostering greater satisfaction and understanding of the benefits offered, not to mention a healthier, more engaged, and more loyal workforce.

Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic!

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